* Sees no growth in overall mobile gaming market
* Sees growth in preloaded games, emerging markets, platforms
* N-Gage service takeup strongest in Europe
* Touch screen version of N-Gage service due in 2009
(Adds details, quotes)
By Tarmo Virki
HELSINKI, Oct 29 The global economic slowdown
will hurt the mobile gaming market this year and next after it
already suffered an unexpected slump last year, the head of
gaming at Nokia said on Wednesday.
"This year is as tough or even tougher. There are hiccups in
Western Europe, North America," Jaakko Kaidesoja, head of
Nokia's gaming operations told Reuters in an interview.
According to research firm Informa the mobile gaming market
did not grow in 2007 after years of double-digit growth.
Kaidesoja said wider economic problems would likely hurt the
market also in 2009.
"We expect challenging times to continue. The overall gaming
market is likely not growing," he said, but he said some parts
of the market -- like pre-loaded games, emerging markets, N-Gage
and iPhone -- would grow.
After its first, much-maligned foray into mobile gaming in
2003 Nokia, the world's top cellphone maker, relaunched N-Gage
as a gaming service six months ago. So far it has grown slowly
as users themselves have to install the service on their phones.
Kaidesoja said pre-installing the software in phones before
they are sold and having a local billing system in place, beyond
credit card payments, were the keys to reach wider takeup of the
The service has been so far the most popular in Britain,
Italy, Germany, Australia and Spain, as local billing systems
through operators have been available in those countries.
"We expect Asia to pick up next year," Kaidesoja said.
In China, Nokia expects to sign a local billing deal by the
end of this year, while in India it has decided to build up a
retail presence to reach customers -- it aims for N-Gage games
to reach 15,000-20,000 retail stores in the first quarter.
Nokia said players have created 400,000 personal profiles on
the N-Gage Arena since the relaunch, and said there were more
than 20 million N-Gage capable phones in use, but did not say
how many people have bought N-Gage games.
Kaidesoja said the firm will decide within a month whether
to expand N-Gage support to a relatively old model, the N73. The
phone has limited computing power, but Nokia has sold 20 million
of them, making it the world's most sold smartphone.
He said the firm was also working on touch screen support
for N-Gage, and plans to roll out such software next year.
Kaidesoja said there would be close to 30 N-gage titles on
offer by the end of the year, almost half of the amount planned
when the service was launched six months ago.
Electronic Arts ERTS.O said on Wednesday it will launch
hit titles EA Sports FIFA 09, Spore Origins and Monopoly Here &
Now for N-Gage in time for Christmas sales, while Gameloft
GLFT.PA will bring its Real Football 2009.
Nokia's own mobile fishing game, "Creatures of the Deep", is
currently the top selling title for the platform.
(Editing by Paul Bolding)