I initially wrote my first impressions of the Nokia N81 8GB device back in November 2007 with the intent to post a more detailed review after the N-Gage gaming service launched since that was one of the primary reasons for the device. When N-Gage finally did launch, I loaded up some games and setup my account first on my Nokia N95-3 since it was my primary Nokia S60 device due to the HSDPA support here in the U.S. I then tried to setup my N81 8GB to use with the service (and most recently tried with the new N82 I received) and found out their is a fatal flaw in the N-Gage system, the service is locked to a single device and not to a customer's account.
All About N-Gage just posted an informative article that goes into all of the details of this new platform/service and matches my experiences perfectly. It turns out the games you purchase are locked to a single device IMEI and you cannot transfer them to a new device or use the service on multiple devices without repurchasing the games and/or setting up multiple player accounts and making separate purchases. You want to keep a single player account because that is how you build up player points, communicate and play with friends, and track purchases.
This single device solution may be fine for a few people, but the type of people that are most likely actually playing games on the N-Gage platform are most likely the early adopters who upgrade and switch their devices often in constant search of that perfect device. I have to admit that I have only purchased a couple of games because of the inability for me to play them on the devices in my collection and now that I know for sure you cannot transfer the games or have your account on multiple devices I actually will probably engage in the N-Gage arena less since I don't always have the single N-Gage device with me.
The All About N-Gage article lists 10 reasons why this policy is a bad one and then offers a couple of solutions. I think tying the games to a single user account and IMEI that can then be easily changed by the user logging into their N-Gage account is a good solution. Even better would be to allow you to use all your games on your devices and tie your game purchases to a single account, but I can understand that this may be too easy to pirate. However, existing mobile device games for S60 and other platforms seem to do just fine by requiring you to enter a user name and activation code so it may be possible.
UPDATE: Well it didn't take long for Nokia to hear the collective groan from N-Gage gamers regarding the current single device policy. According to the Nokia Conversations blog, Nokia is working on a long-term fix for this issue so that people will be able to transfer their purchased games to a new device when they upgrade or their current gaming device is switched to another S60 device. I think this is a great step for Nokia and it is very nice to see such a large company be this responsive to user feedback.