Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime showed off the new Nintendo DSi, the third version of the handheld game device with built-in flash memory, connectivity, web browsing, music playback and two cameras.
The device, first announced last night in Japan, will come with a number of features aimed at expanding the audience for the DS and creating new types of games. It will have built-in versions of two “Brain Age” educational games that don’t need cartridges to play. It can play music in the AAC format. (Note: it doesn’t play MP3 format songs).
“We didn’t set out to build the world’s best portable camera or the world’s best music player,” Fils-Aime said. “We’re focused on new forms of entertainment.”
With the cameras, one points out and the other points at the user. The player can distort the images, splice them, add graphics to them, insert them into a photo diary, and share them. In future, games you will likely be able to insert your own picture into the faces of the game characters. With the music player, you can change the pitch and change the speed.
With the memory (Nintendo didn’t specify how much), you can shop at the Nintendo DS Shop online and download games onto the memory card. You can also transfer downloadable Wii games to the Wii console. The Opera web browser will be faster than the current version, making web surfing on Wi-Fi easier.
But U.S. fans will have a long wait, as Fils-Aime said the device will start selling in Japan in 2008 and will not start selling in the U.S. until “well into 2009.” Presumably, the company is expecting limited DSi supplies and a sellout in Japan and is delaying other territories until it can ramp up its factories.
Fils-Aime also said the company will have dramatically more supplies of the Nintendo Wii console and the existing Nintendo DS Lite in the world markets this fall in hopes of meeting demand. The DS has sold 77 million units worldwide; last year, Nintendo ran out of supplies in mid-December. The Wii, which has sold 29 million consoles, has been in short supply since its launch in 2006. Fils-Aime said after the press conference that the Wii will likely have 50 percent more supplies this year than last year.
The downside for the company here is that demand may weaken for the existing DS now that the DSi has been announced. It sounds like it’s going to be a long gap. Nintendo has been moving forward at a quick pace introducing new models. The DS debuted in 2004, but sales really took off with the Nintendo DS Lite launched in March 2006.
In any case, Nintendo is unloading a pretty formidable blast at its rivals Microsoft and Sony for the holidays. It will be interesting to see if there are any surprises coming from the other side for the fall season. Microsoft has “Gears of War 2” coming and Sony has a bunch of original titles as well.
Nintendo also showed a number of new games, many of which won’t ship until next year. One such title is “Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon” for the DS, based on a franchise that first appeared 18 years ago. It also showed off a first-person shooter game, “The Conduit,” where aliens take over Washington D.C. Both are out next year. Also coming in 2009: a zombie killer game “Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop” for the Wii; the “Punch-Out” boxing game for the Wii; and “Call of Duty: World at War” for the Wii. Those titles suggest that Nintendo isn’t abandoning hardcore gamers by expanding to more casual audiences, said Cammie Dunaway, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Nintendo of America.
Previously announced games such as “Wii Music” and the latest “Animal Crossing” game for the DS are on schedule for release this fall. The “Wii Speak” group voice accessory will debut Nov. 16 and allow four groups of friends to talk to each other on an Internet party line.
By the end of the year, Nintendo will introduce its Nintendo Club rewards program that is already in place in Japan and Europe. In that program, you can earn points by filling out surveys and trade them in for prizes.