Ovi Gaming Features

You can only transfer N-Gage games to another phone once

Published by Tzer2 at 2:31 UTC, November 10th 2008

Earlier in the year All About N-Gage published an editorial calling on Nokia to allow transfers of N-Gage games from one handset to another. They responded by saying that transfers would be possible by contacting their customer service department, but it now turns out that this policy wasn't all it seemed. You can indeed transfer an N-Gage game from one phone to another, but there's a catch: it only works once.


BBC News: Nokia responds to gamers' anger

Back in May, the N-Gage platform made it into the news, but not in the way Nokia intended.


You can only transfer N-Gage games once

The story so far...

Games on the next gen N-Gage platform are sold entirely as downloads. You download the demo version of a game free of charge, and if you like it you can buy the full version by selecting the "purchase" link within the game itself and paying either through credit card or your phone bill. After you've paid, the full game is activated automatically by an activation code, and a copy of the code is sent to your e-mail address for later reference (the code can be used for re-activation of games if you delete them). The activation code is locked to one particular phone using that handset's unique IMEI number, so if you try to use the code to unlock the game on any other phone it will not work.

In an editorial we ran earlier in 2008 we highlighted the little-reported fact that N-Gage game activation codes couldn't be transferred between phones. It seemed that if you had to change phones for almost any reason, Nokia expected you to either re-buy all your N-Gage games or lose them forever (transfers would only be allowed on faulty phones replaced by Nokia under the terms of their guarantee).

This came as a surprise to many N-Gage users, and they were understandably a bit upset. AAN wasn't alone in criticising the policy, many other technology bloggers and authors also posted articles expressing their bafflement, with perhaps the most amusing headline being "Scrooge McNokia". Mainstream sites such as BBC News rapidly picked up on this, and within a few days the new N-Gage platform was making headlines around the world... but for all the wrong reasons.

Nokia's eventual reaction was a "clarification" stating that people would indeed be able to transfer games by contacting their local customer service number. A more convenient solution was to come later, but Nokia didn't say what this would be or when it would arrive.

So, it seemed that all was well with the world. Customers had expressed their concern, Nokia had acted upon those concerns.

Unfortunately Nokia's action wasn't quite what most people assumed it to be. You can now transfer games through their customer services, but only once.


N-Gage application games sectionN-Gage application showroom section

The N-Gage application, where games are stored and purchased on compatible phones


We've said this before but we'll say it again: Nokia Music and Nokia Maps allow unlimited transfers, so why doesn't N-Gage?

Over the past year Nokia has moved into the internet content business, and as well as phones they now also sell games (through N-Gage), music tracks (through Nokia Music Store) and route guidance data (through Nokia Maps). Both Nokia Music and Nokia Maps allow unlimited transfers of content, so you can move what you've bought from one phone to another as often as you like.

But this isn't possible with N-Gage games. Even after the introduction of transfers, these transfers can only be used once. If you buy an N-Gage game you can use it on your current phone and transfer it to your next phone, but on subsequent phones it disappears forever and you have to re-buy it if you want to keep it.


Why transfer limits are a bad idea

We went over this in our original editorial, but just to refresh people's memories here are some reasons why N-Gage games shouldn't have transfer limits:

 - Nokia's biggest fans tend to buy new Nokia devices frequently, up to several times a year. Transfer limits would wipe out the game collections of such fans pretty quickly, and make Nokia fans feel punished for their enthusiasm.

 - N-Gage's biggest fans tend to buy lots of games, spending tens or even hundreds of euros building up their collection. Transfer limits would put N-Gage fans off buying a new Nokia phone more than once, and make N-Gage fans feel punished for their enthusiasm.

 - People forced to re-buy a game may feel justified in turning to piracy. In such people's eyes, using pirated games could be seen as legitimate and fair because they have already paid for a product, and simply want to carry on using it.

 - Users may lose their phone in a way that isn't covered by Nokia's guarantee, for example it may be stolen. Even if the user buys a replacement phone and transfers the games to it, they can no longer do any transfers after that, so they will lose their game collection on any further phones they buy. The transfer limit is, in effect, punishing people for being victims of crime.

 - Customers hate nasty surprises, and there is still no clear warning about any transfer limits when people buy the games. Nokia's lawyers will probably point to the N-Gage Terms and Conditions page, but that contains over seven thousand words (!) and the vast majority of people are extremely unlikely to read it, especially on the relatively small screen of a mobile phone. Even if by some miracle a user did read the entire document, as far as we can tell it doesn't actually mention the transfer limit anyway.

 - Nokia's trying to sell N-Gage as the mobile world's answer to Xbox Live, with a strong sense of community and a large number of online players. Blocking access to games people have already paid for will harm both of these goals, as it will erode loyalty to the platform and reduce the userbase of online games.


What about that promised transfer solution?

When we asked them about all this, Nokia said that the "one transfer only" policy is only temporary, and that a more permanent transfer method will be put in place that allows more transfers, which would combine a user's current phone's IMEI number with their N-Gage username to establish who owns a game at any particular moment.

However, Nokia won't say what this method actually is, or when it will become available. AAN had expected an announcement to be made about it at the recent Nokia Games Summit but no such announcement appeared, so it seems the one transfer policy will continue until further notice.

To be honest it's a bit difficult to see why this new transfer method is taking so long, all it really needs to do is replace one fifteen digit IMEI number in N-Gage's customer database with another IMEI. That shouldn't have ever required customer services, people should be able to do that themselves just like changing the password on an e-mail account.

If anyone from Nokia is reading this, please please announce and release the new transfer method as soon as possible, or at the very least give us a clue as to when it will become available.


Hooked On: Creatures Of The Deep running on the Nokia N95

The N-Gage-exclusive fishing game "Hooked On: Creatures Of The Deep"

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Categories: Comment, Software, Hardware
Platforms: N-Gage

Feature Discussion

Just to emphasise, Nokia do seem to be very sure that a multi-transfer solution is on the way, but so far they haven't made any public announcements about how it would work or when it would appear. They won't even say when it will be released.

In the absence of such a solution, the one transfer system is going to carry on causing all the problems listed in the editorial.
Strict DRM or otherwise hard consumer policy will just lead to people downloading these games from P2P networks. As far as I know, these games are reasonably small files to download on your broadband.

I'd guess it would be a better strategy to sell the games at least once per consumer rather than not selling them at all.

haven't we complained enough about this already? why nokia hasn't learned?
I haven't bothered with N-Gage other than the odd demo since the last time the subject of transferring games to other handsets blew up, and I won't until they sort it out.

Shame really cause some of the games are quite nice, and all Nokia really need to do is tie the games to your Nokia ID/N-Gage gamer account.

However, long term, I still think N-Gage is a dead duck anyway, completely ignored by the mainstream gaming sites like eurogamer etc, I doubt it will ever be as popular as other handhelds such as the PSP/DS.
This is the reason i don't by n-gage titles.

its quite possible to loose/damage your phone twice in a year - get a replacement.

today we DEMAND - cloud based syncing off all content and DRM licenses.

its not rocketscience.
OK, let's say this in words of few syllables. I have bought around half a dozen games from N-Gage. If Nokia don't let me keep the games I paid for, I will NOT buy any more N-Gage games. Clear enough, Nokia?
It is quite frustrating to know that they won't allow transfers for more than once.

But aren't that the same for other software companies?
I haven't tried transferring any software / game licenses myself, so I've bought two copies of for instance X-plore, QuickOffice and Profimail (One for my N95 which I gave away to my little brother and one for my current N82)

In that regard that it is indeed not that "strange" or unjustified that they do this that way.

(You can of course argue about how long you really use a phone, or what about using it one several phones etc.)

So all in all that they will allow us to transfer the licenses to another phone for that matter is great.

However I do understand the frustration, which I, in my opinion, stands in the middle of this discussion.

When it comes to the N-gage games I did use modified versions of the N-gage games due to this policy, but also because I now have played all the games before I know which is worth buying.

(After I sent my N82 for service, they updated my fw to version 30.x.x, which makes me unable to hack my phone anymore, thus also not enable me to play those modified games).

Don't get me wrong on this one as I do like to support them for a good cause, by buying their games.
Currently speaking I even got licenses for 11 of the N-gage games.
(4 of them in which I bought during the N81 First release, using a modified version of the N-gage app)
That's licenses for about 50% of their released games. (11 of 23)

So this matter of being able to transfer the games concerns me a lot too.
Therefore I also see that it's easier to just use modified versions of the games as using legal versions, will bring much more further cost for those who switch phones regularly.

The question however that comes to my mind is, what should they set the limit to?
Personally I think that 3 to 4 times is enough if you think about using a phone for up to 2 years before switching. That means that your license will be valid for 6 to 8 years which is more than even most of the PC softwares.

(I know I tend to drag out examples to the PC's but that's how I regard the Smartphones, they are my lightweight laptops)

What I also like to see in regards to the N-gage is the ability to backup your game progress and transfer that to another phone.
(One of the main reasons why I'm disapointed that I can't hack my N82 anymore)
To wampyre: I don't think that there should be any limit to the number of transfers at all, but I'm not sure of the best way of handling this.

I imagine that the requirement would be to deactivate the game/account on one handset before activating it on another, to prevent you giving your account or game details to friends so they all get access to them simultaneously.

This leads to 2 issues:

1) People with multiple handsets have to keep transferring which handset is active. This could be particularly annoying if you have to transfer your whole account, rather than just games.

2) If your handset is destroyed, you can't deactivate from your handset. As n-gage doesn't go online to verify activation each time, allowing a transfer without deactivating the first handset is insecure and allows multiple simultaneous activations.

I'm not sure of the best way to deal with these issues (particularly the second), and I'd guess that this is what is causing Nokia to take so long to reach a solution too.
The once only transfer is a temporary stop-gap measure and they are working on a more permanent solution. Not quite sure why everyone is treating this story as if it was saying that the once only transfer is the final outcome... :(
I think what's frustating people is that they're still waiting for a solution and there's little or no formal information (would have been a logical thing to talk about at Nokia Games Summit).

Thus far N-Gage has exactly managed to deliver mnay things on time. The potential is still there, its just taking longer that would be ideal.
I agree 100%. What I don't agree with is that people make comments as if this once only transfer thing was the final, be all end all state of things. Even if frustrated doesn't mean that one should start making unfounded accusations/comments.
Originally Posted by Rafe View Post
Thus far N-Gage has exactly managed to deliver mnay things on time.
I disagree. Where's the n-gage that was promised for the 9.1 devices?
As a user of the 'old' N-Gage QD using the MMC's and the butt of some of the 'New N-Gage's 'elite ,all I can say is:Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
As a user of the 'old' N-Gage QD using the MMC's and the butt of some of the 'New N-Gage's 'elite ,all I can say is:Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's really nothing to laugh at really I still own the N-gage Classic "the Taco" and takes it out occasionally to play with the games.

Indeed there's no hassle with the exchange of licenses for games there.
(And even here I have some modified versions of the games)

What's lacking in both N-gage Classic and QD is that the storage in the internal memory is too less to have too many save games.

The good thing though is the ability to copy those save files to swap them out or back them up on the memory card or a computer.
Being the poor unfortunate trying to transfer my games to a third device I would like to share two quick experiences with you ...

Me: I have got a new phone, can I transfer the software I have paid for please.

Nokia: Hmm. Maybe .. (1 week later) .. Possibly ... (1 week later) ... Nope!

Epocware: Of course .. (20 seconds later) .. Done. Enjoy your software.

Guess who I will continue to shop with. It's not rocket science is it.

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