Nokia Invites Some Customers to Test N-Gage Games

Nokia began offering its N-Gage gaming service to N81 users and rebranded its Twango photo- and video-sharing site.

Nokia last week invited some phone users to start playing with its delayed new N-Gage gaming service and rebranded its video- and photo-sharing service.

The world's largest handset maker has begun branching out to offer services as a way to bolster profits. The services could help produce a new revenue stream in a mobile-phone market that is quickly shifting volume sales to developing markets, where people tend to spend less on mobile phones.

Nokia invited users of its N81 phones to download a pre-release version of the N-Gage application and start buying and using games on their phones. A handful of games and applications are now available to them, said Camilla Pagliaroli, a Nokia spokeswoman.

Nokia hopes that the users will offer feedback so that the company can refine the software and begin offering it for more devices. The company expects to add more games in the coming weeks and will add support for more devices as the software evolves, Pagliaroli said.

N-Gage originally included a stand-alone handheld gaming device developed by Nokia. But the company discontinued the device, promising to launch a new N-Gage platform late last year that would work on regular Nokia phones. That launch had been delayed until now.

This week Nokia also rebranded Twango, the photo- and video-sharing site aimed at mobile users, to be called Share on Ovi. The service is based on one developed by Twango, a company Nokia acquired in July last year.

Share on Ovi becomes the first Ovi-branded service, said Pagliaroli. The service is still in beta but anyone can use it, she said.

Ovi is a Nokia site designed to be a central spot where phone users can visit to access a variety of mobile services. The site already includes Nokia's music download service, available in the U.K.; Nokia's mapping offerings; and N-Gage. Nokia also plans to launch a service there that lets users synch their mobile calendar and contacts information online.

The mobile market is closely watching Nokia's Ovi offerings because the services may compete with those offered by the phone maker's operator customers. They'll also compete with those offered by big names in the computer-based Internet world, such as Google and Yahoo. Those companies are increasingly expanding their services for access by mobile customers.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service

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