John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · Wednesday 25 February 2004
N-Gage Deathwatch, Part II
Back in November I kicked off the N-Gage deathwatch by panning Nokia's attempt to transmogrify a Playstation into a hand-held device. Recent news is tracking the collapse. At the end of January GameStop pulled the N-Gage from 450 of its non-urban stores and on Monday Jorma Ollila admitted to a Financial Times reporter that quote "The sales are in the lower quartile of the bracket we had as our goal."

GameStop and the N-Gage were a doomed couple from the start. GameStop's middle class clientele and all-America Walmart-style demographic simply does not jive with the urban trendsetter wannabe N-Gage. GameStop's typical customer is a 13-year-old boy who thinks spending $19 on a 2-year-old copy of Max Payne is a big expenditure. Faced with the proposal that they slap down $300 for a handful of games that are virtually illegible on the taco boy's 2" screen their response was predictable.

GameStop is keeping mum and the rumored claim is that they are just moving the inventory to their better-selling (ie more urban/upscale) stores. It's hard to tally this claim with reality however. Usually a chain either carries a line or it doesn't. Shuffling the product around to a subset of stores sounds suspiciously like they are remaindering the product. At a minimum Nokia now has a warehouse full of 450 used demo displays it doesn't know what to do with.

For its part Nokia claims to have sold, ahem, excuse me, "placed in the retail channel" about 600,000 units. Since Nokia was targeting (at one point) 2 million units sold, Ollila's "lower quartile" comment might be interpreted as meaning less than 500,000 units sold. Even this number may be high. ChartTrack (UK sales tracker for electronics retailers) is showing N-Gage's numbers as microscopic and dropping. In any case Nokia is promising to support the N-Gage at least through 2005.

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