The name of the game

The name of the game
The great thing about videogames is the chance to do everything over--to hit the reset button and make right all the wrong moves and poor choices you made the first time around. Real life offers few second chances, but this week Nokia will hit reset on its failed N-Gage initiative, formally reviving the N-Gage brand as a multiplayer gaming platform for its Series 60 smartphone series. Where the previous N-Gage phone/game system was infamous for its frustrating user interface and primitive gameplay, the new N-Gage platform arrives with titles developed by the likes of Electronic Arts, I-play and Capcom. Nokia also learned from its ergonomic miscues--according to The New York Times, the company sought the aid of Silicon Valley design firm Ideo and studied the habits and preferences of gamers to determine what consumers truly expect from the mobile gaming experience. (The original N-Gage, of course, was designed by the good people at Taco Bell, which may explain its many failures.)

Based on the New York Times profile, N-Gage seems like a gaming platform developed for maximum user appeal. The article reports that among the conclusions drawn from Nokia and Ideo's consumer studies is that gamers want to compete against their friends, so the new N-Gage enables players to see which game titles are downloaded to their friends' phones and whether or not they're online. Nokia also determined that gamers are sick of purchasing games that disappoint, so N-Gage allows users to sample before buying. Ideo even convinced Nokia to eliminate many of the N-Gage's legacy features and simplify access to those that remained, creating shortcuts on the main screen. 

So if the new N-Gage is as different from its predecessor as it appears, why did Nokia retain the brand in the first place? It doesn't make sense. Imagine if Ford was to revive the Edsel, or if Coca-Cola released another New Coke--if the name carries universally negative connotations, it doesn't matter how good the new product might be. For all that Nokia learned from the gamer population, they failed to grasp one of the most elemental lessons of all: Hitting reset means making a totally fresh start. -Jason

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