Many companies have tried to take on Nintendo in the handheld video game market over the last few decades, and only a few have been even remotely successful. One of the less successful but perhaps best remembered examples was the N-Gage, which first released 15 years ago.
Manufactured by Nokia, the N-Gage was an attempt to break into the handheld market by combining two devices (handheld gaming systems and cell phones) into one. The system was able to feature multiplayer gaming capabilities via the internet or Bluetooth (something that other handheld gaming devices weren’t doing), and also included an mp3 player. However, with a hefty price tag of about $300 at launch, it wasn’t a popular choice; the Game Boy Advance, which had already been out for two years at that point, was continuing to outsell the N-Gage at about a 100-to-1 pace.
Despite having some objectively popular titles available for the system – including Call of Duty, FIFA Football, Rayman 3, Spider-Man 2, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Tomb Raider, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and many others – the N-Gage never picked up any kind of steam in any market around the world, which was due likely because of the odd layout of the system itself. Because of how the system also functioned as a phone, the actual layout of the N-Gage’s buttons made it often difficult to play games effectively.
The shape of the system also contributed to the somewhat disparaging nickname of “Taco Phone.”
It’s hard to definitively say how many N-Gage consoles were sold, but estimates place sales of the system (combined with its equally short-lived successor, the N-Gage QD, which made the system look slightly less like a taco) at about 2 million. Less than 60 games were released for the system during its availability on the market, and the N-Gage is now remembered more as an oddball curiosity that came out of the Y2K era of technology innovation.