As director of technology, strategy and games publishing, Dr. Mark Ollila is one of the key driving forces behind Nokia's next-gen gaming initiative. He has plenty of experience in the industry, having co-founded Telcogames in 2003 and worked extensively on licensing and strategic projects.
At Nokia, Ollila faces a brand new challenge - relaunching N-Gage as a connected gaming platform for multiple devices. He was at last month's Nordic Game conference to deliver a speech on how N-Gage has evolved, and MobileIndustry.biz sat down with him to find out more.
In part one of our interview, published below, Ollila weighs in on the debate over the importance of content versus distribution, and explains why Nokia hopes to target both the hardcore and casual markets.
Visit MobileIndustry.biz next week for part two and Ollila's take on whether mobile gaming really can overtake PC and consoles.
MobileIndustry.biz: What topics did your Nordic Game speech focus on?
Mark Ollila: I was talking about compelling mobile games. Fundamentally part of that is delivering that experience to the end user. The mobile games industry has, in the past, not really been delivering solutions which our consumers have been happy with.
Nokia, over the past two years, has been trying to understand how to bring that experience to the customer. That means an end-to-end experience where they can discover, share, buy and even try the content before they buy it.
We're often hearing that there are two problems - distribution and game quality...
Well, I have this saying: content is king, or queen, but distribution is King Kong. You can have the best content in the world but if you can't get to to the user with an easy mechanism, then that content is worthless. Distribution and that seamless, end-to-end process is so important.
Also even if that content which is being delivered is branded, it's not what the customer was expecting. That's something which is fundamentally important to Nokia - we wanted to always ensure that, with our N-Gage experience, we had very rich, powerful, graphical multimedia experiences on our games.
And we did; we just had problems with distribution. Now, with our strategy going forward our whole N-gage platform is an end-to-end platform across multiple devices. It's not about one device, it's about multiple devices.
It's about high quality games, rich in graphics, rich in experience, community, the whole aspect, being able to recommend games to friends, being able to invite games into the community... In the end also the simple fact that you are able to try the game before you buy it. That's so powerful.
So would you accept that the model that Nokia used before with the N-gage, a phone that was also a games console, just didn't work?
Before, we were a telephone company moving into games publishing for the first time. We were experimenting with what we knew and we've been learning quite a lot there.
We learned how to build up the arena community. We actually sold 3 million devices and out of that we had a community of around 700,000 users, which is quite large for that small amount of devices.
What we did learn was that people don't necessarily want, or need a dedicated gaming device, but they still want to play games. They are still the first or second most demanded feature on a mobile handset.
So we thought, 'Okay, we've had a great experience in providing quality games with the N-Gage. How can we actually make that across multiple devices?'
That's this end to end consumer experience that we're delivering right now across these multimedia computers, these N-series devices. The consumer decides what device they want, what fun factor they want, and they get a very good gaming experience.
What about the games themselves? Do you subscribe to the philosophy that mobile games should be simple, one-thumb affairs, or do you believe that there is a demand for 3D graphics and complex gameplay?
From a Nokia perspective, we've got two components. We've got third-party publishing where we're bringing in people like EA and Glu, Gameloft - they're bringing their franchises to our handsets. Some of those are hardcore in nature, some of then are casual in nature.
With our first-party publishing, which I'm heading, we're looking at games which target both hardcore and casual markets. But the direction that I want to push in is going towards made for mobile, innovative, social gaming, looking at pervasiveness, looking at the aspect of rewarding players.
These devices are very powerful for those hardcore gamers but we also realise that we need to take into account the form factors. Games can be one button, but they need to be enjoyable, they need to be fun.
What kind of games are likely to be most popular with N-Gage gamers?
We haven't launched the platform yet, we'll be launching in the second half of next year. We've spent a lot of time looking at what we did with the N-Gage and what we learned about the industry from our studies and so forth.
What we're seeing is that gamers are not playing on mobile yet - they haven't experienced it to their fullest ability. We're trying bring in all those important elements that gamers have - community, talking to each other, being able to do reviews of games and recommend them - in one simple mechanism,
I guess the types of games that people will play, well, it's what they'll enjoy; it'll be casual, it'll be hardcore, it'll be a mix of those.
Dr. Mark Ollila is director of technology, strategy and games publishing for Nokia. Interview by Ellie Gibson. To read part two of this interview, visit MobileIndustry.biz next week.