Nokia Kills N-Gage. Again.

logosmNokia is now zero for three when it comes to mobile gaming; the company said it will shut down down its N-Gage service next year and fold it into its Ovi brand of mobile data offerings. The doomed service rose from the ashes of the game-centric phone of the same name that proved an epic failure after its 2003 launch.

The emergence of the iPhone has proven that a real market exists for mobile games, but Nokia for years has failed to grow its gaming business beyond a small crowd of users on high-end phones. There may yet be a market for a phone built specifically for gamers (as opposed to a mass-market handset with decent gaming features like the iPhone),which is why Sony Ericsson should try its hand with a PSP phone.

But the N-Gage service seemed unnecessary and confusing given the presence of Ovi, an umbrella brand that includes an app store for Nokia users. If Ovi truly gains mass market traction among smartphone users in Western markets, the existence of a separately branded service exclusively for gamers doesn’t make sense anyway.