Nokia's aspirations in the games industry have been hit by a major setback this week, as pirates worked out how to break the protection on N-Gage game cards, leading to the posting of the full range of software to the Internet.
The only substantial difference between N-Gage games and any other games designed to run on Symbian mobile phones (such as the high-end Nokia Series 60 phones and certain Siemens devices, to name but two) is that N-Gage titles are supplied on SD Card media with supposedly secure encryption to prevent copying of the titles.
This encryption has now been broken, and images of the games have been posted to the Internet - allowing N-Gage owners the ability to download the games to their phones for free, and even more worryingly, allowing owners of other Symbian phones the ability to play N-Gage titles on their devices.
This will come as a serious blow to Nokia, since it will not only damage the tie ratio of the N-Gage deck by encouraging piracy on the device, but will also make the device far less attractive to owners of other high-end phones.
Nokia is understandably furious at the breaking of its protection, and has vowed to "aggressively pursue" the hackers responsible - as well as working to shut down websites which post the software used to effect the crack.
"We are treating this very seriously," a Nokia spokesperson told technology news website The Register today. "As soon as we saw these claims posted on the Internet, we started to investigate."
While the company's desire to track down those responsible for breaking the N-Gage copy protection system is understandable, we'd be dubious about how much good it'll do them. A similar witch-hunt for the person responsible for breaking the DVD protection standard (which also aimed to remove copies of the resulting software, DeCSS, from the internet) proved ultimately futile, and completely failed to prevent the onset of widespread DVD piracy.
However, Nokia is also hoping to rectify the damage in other ways, it seems - telling The Register that it is committed to strengthening its copy protection system in the future, and that forthcoming N-Gage titles will take advantage of specific features of the N-Gage platform, thus rendering them unplayable on other devices.