What went wrong with Nokia's Ovi Store launch?

And more importantly, how can they put it right?

What went wrong with Nokia's Ovi Store launch?
It's frowned upon to be too personal on what is, after all, an industry news site.

So I'll keep the discussion of my personal struggle to get Ovi Store working to a minimum, other than to say it's been a week now, and I still haven't been able to buy any games or apps, despite trying on two different handsets.

It started with page load errors, moved onto an Ovi Store client that merely refreshed my phone's menu screen when clicked, then progressed to a working client that fell over once I'd signed in.

Having deleted that Ovi account in order to register a new one, I now can't sign up due to my number being associated with an existing account. Yes, the deleted one.

While I go through the correct support channels to sort that out, it should be said that colleagues on Pocket Gamer have used Ovi Store and encountered fewer problems. But judging by comments from mobile games publishers canvassed by PocketGamer.biz, they were pretty lucky.

"We've been making tons of tests on tons of handsets and networks, but nothing is working," one publisher told me just after launch day last week. "I was not able to get it to work on any Nokias here," says another.

And these are just the complaints about getting Ovi Store to work, although it should be stressed, they relate to the day or two following the launch.

Other publishers report problems uploading games onto the store for launch day - "the technique they are using is five years old!" - and there's confusion over how Symbian games will be differentiated from their Java versions, and which operators are supporting carrier billing even in those countries where Nokia says the feature will be available.

Add to that the complaints from smaller developers about the costs of getting onto the Ovi Store - although it seems their criticisms of the Java Verified stipulation may have been wide of the mark.

But, in short, it's fair to say that Ovi Store had a pretty disastrous launch, causing developer disappointment and an array of stinking launch-day reviews.

Even now, the Ovi support forums are still buzzing with people's problems accessing and/or using the store.

Things will get better, of course. By the time the N97 handset ships this month with the Ovi Store client preloaded, the user experience will (hopefully) be a lot slicker.

A few months down the line, meanwhile, the average man in the street who buys one of the dozens of Ovi Store compatible handsets won't know or care about the brickbats thrown at the store by tech bloggers when it launched.

Which is lucky, really, because it might take that long to restore the Ovi Store's reputation in an industry that has already seen initiatives like Preminet, MOSH, Snap Mobile, Download and the original N-Gage come and go.

Developers and publishers want to know how the launch could go so badly, given the resources Nokia has to throw at QA and testing.

Many question whether the store was rushed to launch in order to go live before a summer of iPhone 3.0-fuelled excitement around Apple's platform, while others suggest Nokia's decision to support 50 handsets from day one was over-ambitious.
PocketGamer.biz has encountered a mixture of pessimism and optimism among games firms when asked about Ovi Store's prospects. "If no one can get it to work, how can Nokia make a success of it?" asks one publisher in the former camp.

The optimists still have faith. "Everyone hopes from the industry that it will be a success because Nokia is a huge company, and they would have the power to make big money," says one from the glass-half-full fraternity.

For that reason, publishers aren't ditching their support for the store in a knee-jerk response.

But most are unequivocal about what Nokia has to do now: get the bloody thing working, for consumers and also for developers. And get it working fast.

If Ovi Store flops, it's not just a hammer blow for Nokia's ambitions to capitalise on the huge consumer interest in mobile applications.

It's a real problem for the hundreds of developers who were counting on the ability of the world's largest handset maker to be able to launch a successful app store.

Contributing Editor

Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)