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Nokia figures claim massive N-Gage sales

Independent numbers don't...

Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia has released its first set of sales figures for the N-Gage since the device launched earlier this month, claiming that the device sold some 400,000 units worldwide during its first two weeks on sale.

These figures paint a completely different picture to those published by independent market watcher Arcadia Research this week. Arcadia claimed that the N-Gage had sold only 5000 units through every US retailer that stocked the device in its first week on sale. In the UK, Chart-Track has measured less than 800 sales through videogame retailers in the first fortnight on sale.

So where does this discrepancy arise? Have the independent firms been failing to count significant bulk sales of the device? Or do sales outside the US and the UK made up these sales figures? Nokia's senior VP for entertainment and media, Ilkka Raiskinen, did state that sales were strong in Europe and Asia-Pacific, implying that US sales were weaker - but really, 5000 sales in the US against 395,000 elsewhere in the world?

What seems altogether more likely is that Nokia is measuring something entirely different from what the market research firms are measuring. Arcadia Research and Chart-Track measured the sell-through of the devices - the number of N-Gage units actually sold to consumers by the retailers polled. Nokia, we suspect, is measuring shipments - the number of N-Gage units sold to retailers, but which may well still be gathering dust on shelves.

If so, then Nokia's figures aren't representation of the system's installed base whatsoever - serving only to provide confirmation of the 400,000 initial shipment figure for the N-Gage which has been bandied around for several weeks but never officially stated until now. You have to admire Nokia's spin, though - announcing a figure like that sounds very positive, but we suspect that it would all be somewhat less upbeat if we knew what percentage of those 400,000 units have actually been purchased by consumers.

Nokia hopes to sell between six and nine million N-Gage units before the end of 2004. By contrast, Nintendo expects to sell around 20 million GameBoy Advances in its current financial year, which ends next April. The GBA has been outselling the N-Gage by a factor of 30:1 at UK videogame retailers over the past fortnight; while a direct comparison of the GBA launch to the N-Gage launch in the USA (using Arcadia Research figures) shows that it outsold the significantly more expensive N-Gage by over 100:1 in their respective first weeks on sale.

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