Hooray For DRM Once Again: Those N-Gage Games Are All Locked Up UPDATED

Update: Nokia has apparently changed its mind and says it will allow users to transfer their games to their new devices. That’s nice of them, well done Nokia.

I do have to take issue with their statement, though πŸ™‚

We have noticed a number of media stories about N-Gage game transfers and wanted to clarify the issue. Due to copy protection, N-Gage games, like most mobile games, are linked to one device. As the value of content increases, a robust copy protection mechanism is essential as it makes it possible for the games industry to invest in N-Gage content.

1 – how is the value of content increasing? or are they confusing value with price?
2 – copy protection doesn’t “make it possible” for game publishers to make games. Not hardly.

(end update, original story below:)

Nokia relaunched its N-Gage brand recently with a lot of fanfare, trying to move past the poisoned image of sidetalking and tacos and recast it as a fully clued-up, super-cool 21st-century online mobile gaming service. The new games are pretty cool (FIFA on my N82 is great IMO), and the online features of the N-Gage Arena are a nice touch as well.

So all’s well, right? Wrong.

All those great N-Gage games people are buying at 10 euros a pop are locked to a single device. Buy a bunch of games, then get a new phone? Get ready to shell out again. As the All About N-Gage crew points out, Nokia’s Music Store will let you move tracks you purchase from them to a new device — but not with N-Gage games. That seems pretty seriously misguided, especially considering heavy N-Gage users (aka Its Best Customers) are probably also the most likely to upgrade their handsets frequently.

The AAN crew also point out a couple of ways Nokia could get around this, which you’d imagine should be a little straightforward since it’s, you know, an online service and all. I’d add another: just don’t bother with the DRM, since it’s really not likely to do anything for the business in the long run. Furthermore, why are we still having to deal with crap like this? Check out this comment from back in 2005 by MH reader Ian Wood, bemoaning the fact that by extending his contract and upgrading his phone, he’d have to re-purchase all the content on his old phone he wanted to keep using.

The net result of that sort of thing, and this N-Gage stupidity? People will be discouraged from buying N-Gage content, and from upgrading their phone once they buy content. How does that help Nokia’s business?

Back in 2005, I met with some people from the Open Mobile Alliance and talked about DRM, and they really tried to push the message that DRM wasn’t about copy protection, it was about “enabling” new business models. The fact remains that the only business model DRM enables is forcing legitimate customers to pay for the same content over and over again.

So, great work, Nokia. I’d been thinking of buying the full version of FIFA on my N82 because the demo was so great — but now, not a chance. So while you’re sitting around justifying stupid copy protection and DRM schemes because of how much money you’ll “lose” to piracy, why not consider how much you’re losing because of your DRM?

—–>Follow us on Twitter too: @russellbuckley and @caaarlo