N-Gage boss: 'We're not scared of the PlayStation phone'

Bullish words from Jaakko Kaidesoja

N-Gage boss: 'We're not scared of the PlayStation phone'

It's only fair to ask Nokia whether Sony's rumoured PlayStation phone is a threat to N-Gage, and Nokia games boss Jaakko Kaidesoja dealt with the issue head-on today, at an N-Gage press event in Lapland.

"I'm not scared about anybody," he said. "The real question is how do they [Sony Ericsson] do it? Can they create a link between the PSP games and a phone? Can they do the multiplayer and online stuff? We've been doing this for two years and it hasn't been easy."

In a candid briefing, Kaidesoja also addessed the issue of the N-Gage First Access being hacked to work on other handsets. You might think Nokia would be unhappy about it, but you'd be wrong.

"We knew people would crack it," says Kaidesoja. "Cracking a sisx file isn't that hard, so of course we expected it. And it's good to get feedback on the First Access application even from people with other handsets."

The UK is one of the top two or three countries in terms of people downloading the First Access application, apparently. Good work, fellow Brits!

As we reported last week, the full commercial launch of N-Gage is still set for the coming weeks. Kaidesoja says there'll be 6-8 games at launch, meaning there'll hopefully be two additional titles to the six already released for First Access.

That's if they make it through Nokia's certification process in time, though: "It may be that we launch with six titles, and then two more come the week after, and two more the week after that," he says.

The N82 and both N95 handsets will be next in line for the commercial launch, but bad news N73 owners: you're going to have to wait a while.

"We promised the N73 earlier, but we found some memory issues, as it has a lower memory spec than other devices," says Kaidesoja. "That gives some headaches, but we'll deal with that, and will release for the device during the second quarter."

Kaidesoja addressed head-on the issue of whether the launch titles from third-party publishers are ambitious enough – Tetris, Block Breaker Deluxe and World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge are hardly making the most of the platform, for all their charms.

"Whenever you have a new platform, you don't fully show its qualities," he says. "When you look at the EA stuff and Block Breaker Deluxe, it's not fully exploiting the SDK and all the capabilities it has to offer. But we are developing the SDK all the time, and during the second quarter we will see more innovative stuff."

So, will there be a dedicated N-Gage games handset? "There are no plans to release, but no plans not to release," said Kaidesoja, hedging his bets expertly.

"Broadening the device base is an obvious choice. We have tried with the N81 to have some ergonomics for gaming, and I don't think we are perfect yet. We haven't ruled it out, but we are not planning it either."

However, Nokia is working on making N-Gage games work with touchscreen handsets – Nokia will release several this year.

"We are working with the application to make it adaptable for the touchscreen environment," said Kaidesoja.

"There will need to be games that support touchscreens. They won't necessarily be there on day one [when the touchscreen handsets launch], since you have to have nine months development time, and it has to be in the SDK. But we will get there."