Geek Trivia: Which Handheld Game System Sold Less Than 5,000 Units Upon Release?

Answer: Nokia N-Gage

If you’ve never even heard of the Nokia N-Gage, you’re certainly not alone. Produced by Nokia in 2003, the N-Gage barely sold five thousand units–0.012% of the sales volume Nokia originally claimed–upon release, firmly marking it as one of the biggest commercial flops in the history of handheld gaming systems.

How did Nokia, the same company behind Nokia 1100 (the best selling cellphone in the world), produce such a poorly received product? By the late 1990s mobile gamers frequently carried both a cellphone and a handheld gaming system (such as a Nintendo GameBoy). Nokia had the foresight to see the merging of the mobile phone and mobile gaming markets, but what they delivered to meet that demand, the N-Gage, was a clumsy amalgam of the two. The N-Gage looked like a bizarre hybrid of a cellphone and Nintendo GameBoy Advance. The large taco-like case was unwieldy as a phone, had awkwardly placed speaker and mic holes, and poor button layout for gaming. In addition a high retail price ($299, more than twice the cost of a GameBoy Advance) and a lack of game development contributed to a lack of consumer interest.

Although Nokia attempted to revitalize the system by releasing an updated model, the N-Gage QD, in 2004, by that point the N-Gage name had become associated with the original model and the associated failure. Despite extensive promotion of the system, millions of units went unsold. Nokia eventually folded the N-Gage gaming platform into the design of many of their non-gaming phones; N-Gage lives on as a sort of iTunes/Play Store clone for Nokia phones.


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