Moving to plug a hole in its ambitious expansion into online multiplayer games, Nokia has agreed to acquire back-end server technology from Sega.
Under a deal announced yesterday, Nokia will acquire for an undisclosed amount Sega.com whose primary asset is the multiplayer gaming software, Sega Network Application Package (SNAP), the mobile phone manufacturer said.
"Development of online multiplayer games requires server technology, which has been missing at Nokia," senior vice-president of mobile entertainment and media business at Nokia, Ilkka Raiskinen, said. "This announcement will change this."
Nokia plans to incorporate SNAP technology into its N-Gage wireless gaming device, scheduled to begin shipping worldwide on October 7, as well as several other terminals, according to Raiskinen.
The Finnish company and Sega.com had been collaborating on this front for the past six months, he said.
In February, Nokia announced plans to launch its new N-Gage device, which is both a games console and cell phone. The device offers both Bluetooth short-range wireless networking capability, which allows gamers to play with others in the same room, and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) connectivity to enable multiplayer online gaming over a wide area network, Raiskinen said.
With SNAP technology, Nokia expected to bring online games to market faster because its software engineers woud now have direct access to back-end network technology, thus speeding up product development and testing cycles, he said.
"By owning Sega.com we will also have control of the future roadmap of SNAP technology, allowing us to better align the back-end technology with the games running over the N-Gage game deck," director of games publishing at Nokia, Pasi Polonen, said.
Calling the acquisition a "perfect fit", Sega.com CEO, Gerard Wiener, said the deal would allow Nokia to take the gaming industry, in general, and SNAP technology, in particular, to "a whole other level."
He referred to the technology as a key building block for developing community games.
Nokia would license SNAP technology to third parties, including other console vendors, publishers and network operators, Raiskinen said. The Finnish company declined to comment on whether Sega.com, which is located in San Francisco, was profitable.
Another Nokia spokeswoman, Kenya Rodgers, earlier said Sega.com's 51 employees would all get offers to join Nokia, while the company's San Francisco office would become part of Nokia mobile phones' entertainment and media unit.
The network entertainment unit of Japan's Sega group, Sega.com built the first Internet-enabled games console, Wiener said.