Leading independent publisher Electronic Arts is to throw its not insubstantial weight behind Nokia's N-Gage, in a move which lends much-needed credibility to the forthcoming platform launch.
No specific EA titles have been named for the platform as yet, but the first games from the publisher will be available in time for Christmas according to Nokia. Crucially, EA's titles will take advantage of the mobile multiplayer capabilities of the N-Gage, although it's not clear whether that covers Bluetooth local play only or GPRS networked play.
The involvement of EA is a key victory for Nokia, with the publisher joining a line-up of supporting companies which already includes Activision, THQ, Sega, Ubi Soft and Eidos. EA became recognised as a "kingmaker" in the games industry following the death of Sega's Dreamcast console, which many blamed on the lack of any software support from the company.
Regarding the UK launch of the N-Gage, Nokia is still on track for an October 7th launch, with a suggested retail price of UKP 220 to 230. The company is adamant that this is the price which is likely to be seen on the street, although it acknowledges that some retailers and operators may choose to reduce the price with bundle deals or tariff deals.
Nokia representatives at ECTS were dismissive of a story which ran recently in UK trade magazine MCV suggesting that the device would be subsidised down to UKP 99 at launch by the operators; "anything is possible with subsidies," joked UK head of corporate communications Mark Squires, but he played down the possibility of major subsidies.
This is an understandable response from Nokia; in a climate where mobile operators are increasingly unprepared to heavily subsidise handsets following massive losses from this practice a few years ago, raising consumer expectations of a low retail price for the N-Gage could be commercial suicide if it turns out that the networks are unprepared to deliver.