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Nintendo is introducing a new version of its DSi gaming handheld, as we reported last night. The DSi LL will hit Japan on Nov. 21 and North America and Europe as the DSi XL in the first quarter.
Nintendo introduced its new dual-camera DSi just a year ago in Japan, but the company has to move fast. This handheld is an answer to the threat from the Sony PSPgo and Apple’s iPhone/iPod. But I’m afraid it isn’t enough. It doesn’t really bring Nintendo into the modern age of social apps, which can be downloaded on the fly onto a smartphone-like device. That’s the sector that is seeing a boom now.
Nintendo is sure to talk about more features in the future, but it hasn’t yet spelled out what you can do with this new DSi that you couldn’t do with the older one. A larger touchscreen doesn’t quite do the job. The Nintendo DSi LL has larger dual screens — 4.2-inch screens compared to the DSi’s 3.25-inch screens. The viewing angle is better. It weighs 314 grams and has a battery life of three hours. It has a small stylus and a longer one. Users can choose between dark brown, red wine and natural white.
For now, this seems like a rush job. It doesn’t address Apple’s biggest advantages: an AppStore with 100,000 apps and lots of free games, downloadable content that you can buy instantly and download over a Wi-Fi connection, and outstanding communications that you can really only get with a phone. I think we can expect Nintendo to chase these features over time, but in the meantime, this new DSi is going to have to do. Perhaps that is why Nintendo hasn’t changed its forecast for DS sales in its current fiscal year. Before, it expected to sell 30 million units in the fiscal year ending March 31, and now it still expects that. Meanwhile, Apple is closing in with nearly 60 million sold in two years. Nintendo is still on top with 110 million sold since 2004, while Sony is somewhere above 50 million sold with the PSP.
It will be interesting to see if the PSPgo can compete with the new DSi as well as the iPhone/iPod Touch. The PSPgo has downloadable content and cheaper mini games available for lower prices. It has a crisp screen and is a gamer’s device, with much more sophisticated games than are available for either the DSi or the Apple devices. But if it is pigeonholed as a hardcore gamer’s device, it’s not going to outsell the others. The game in handhelds now is all about getting to the mass market, and that means these devices are competing with smartphones.