Liveblog: EA Mobile takes Nokia to task over N-Gage

Peter Parmenter and Chris Gibbs take the state at Nokia shindig

Liveblog: EA Mobile takes Nokia to task over N-Gage

Next up at the Nokia Games Summit is a session from EA Mobile's Peter Parmenter and Chris Gibbs, talking about the state of the industry.

"It's not all doom and gloom!" says Parmenter, pointing out how general games sales have overtaken music in the last year.

So, N-Gage. "If a guy's sitting in a bar with a Nokia N96, and their friend has an iPhone, if the guy with the N96 downloads a game from their operator portal, they'll get a Java experience. Their friend will get a hardware-accelerated iPhone experience. That can't be right."

He says EA sees N-Gage as a soft launch so far. The publisher is announcing that Spore Origins, FIFA 09, Monopoly, Tiger Woods, Need For Speed, Boom Blox, The Sims 3 and Tomb Raider Underworld. Oh, and Pandaemonium - the latter two are Eidos titles.

He mentions iPhone again. "Yes, they've created a great ecosystem for the distribution of high-quality games. There's a lot of free games, and we don't know if the market will be able to sustain that. Time will tell. However, from a customer experience perspective, everyone's in agreement that they've created something very special, and it's shaken things up."

EA believes that mobile games is "stifled by a poor retail experience". So what does N-Gage do? "The one build multiple handsets dream that we thought N-Gage was going to be is maybe not quite polished yet." Lumme.

However, he's also complimentary - EA loves the try-before-you-buy aspects. "We need to understand what makes a good demo. Maybe we're giving customers too much, or not enough. We need to address that."

Parmenter is also keen on Nokia's billing solution for N-Gage, and the DRM.

Margins. "As a publisher, we will make twice the revenue from selling an iPhone game in Italy than we will from selling an N-Gage game at the same price. We need to work together on the economics."

Cor. It's certainly not a soft-coated 'we love Nokia' presentation. And there's more: MOSH. "I won't tell you how many EA Mobile games have been downloaded from this site, it's a very large number. It's not a system we want to promote."

And more: "I think it's easier to get an audience with the Pope than it is to get a game through certification at Nokia."

Does this count as a shoeing?

Gibbs has some praise, thankfully (if you're Nokia), saying the company's support for developers is excellent. However, he returns to the myth of one build that reaches all devices.

"As new devices come along, the compatability of our code isn't necessarily happening. There are lots of quirks in the system. Screen rotation is an example that creates headaches for coders. It takes time away from what we're trying to do, which is make a really fun game. We want to focus energies on gameplay, not on tech. And we want to deliver stuff on time, right?"

Now he talks about the SDK, and how key it is for games to be able to access the features on a handset, whether accelerometers, graphics hardware and so on. "The SDK has got to be looking far enough ahead in terms of roadmap of where the phones are going, so we can leverage that functionality in the games," says Gibbs.

Now, how game-friendly is Nokia's strategy? "Think about the Tube, really large screen but no hardware acceleration, so it's not the most game-friendly device in the world. Nokia has to look at the idea of games having full support from the handset strategy that Nokia has overall."

Gibbs says showcase titles are also important, to showcase what's capable on N-Gage. "Imagine a Sim City game that can tap into all the real-world maps on your mobile and GPS, and have a very rich experience," he says. Cor. But bandwidth is an issue - "we need to have these games embedded on devices so that everybody can play them.

Maybe this could tie in with Nokia's rumoured Comes With Games initiative...

Gibbs says there need to be simplified and streamlined standards for N-Gage development – EA spent a couple of weeks discussing how to use softkeys in The Sims 2 Pets for N-Gage, apparently.

Now Arena. "It's an amazing opportuinity to harness a community, but I think it has a way to go. It feels to me that it could be the USP of the platform. Right now it's a nod towards community and it does a number of things, but it's not rich or deep enough."

"I think we should look at something like Facebook and what it's doing, giving live feeds to what your friends are doing. Anythign that accelerates the richness and growth of Arena is going to be a good thing, and from a development perspective we should be driving that too."

Kudos for Nokia for inviting EA Mobile to its party to essentially deliver a sharp kick up the bum. Assuming Nokia knew that was what EA was going to do.

"We need to work together, and not just say 'these things will get solved one day," says Gibbs. "We need to do it now!"

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.)


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