Thursday, April 02, 2009

Nintendo's new DSI handheld a surefire hit

The world-gripping recession apparently hasn’t caught up to Nintendo. The worldwide videogame maker has sold more than 10 million copies of one game, Wii Play.

In February, sales of the Wii console system were up 74 percent over February 2008. Also in February, Nintendo sold 753,000 Wiis, reaching 19 million lifetime sales and it sold nearly 588,000 portable DS units, reaching nearly 29 million lifetime unit sales.

On Sunday, Nintendo will launch the latest edition of the dual-screen DS system, the $169.99 Nintendo DSi. It’s 5.4 inches wide, 2.9 inches long and weighs about 7.5 ounces. Looking at it, it’s not much different than its two predecessors. Only this time, the Nintendo portable comes with two built-in cameras (one facing you holding the game and one facing away), new audio recording and playback functions plus downloadable games and applications (hello iPod and iPhone!).

Players can manipulate photos with 10 different “lenses” that are built into th cameras. They can share their creations using a WiFi connection. And of course, it plays the DS games. A new DSi shop launches Sunday and is a new online storefront wehere users can redeem DSi points to download games and applications. DSi owners get 1,000 points to use so long as they visit the shop by Oct. 5.

While at the shop, users can download the DSi internet browser, powered by Opera, to provide what I found to be pretty fast web browsers via that WiFi connection. Software in the shop will “cost” 200, 500 and 800 or more points. You can buy additional points online at the shop or at retail locations ($19.99 for 2,000 point card).

Gaming-wise, there’s no much new. But the games are already various and pretty good. Now, you can adjust brightness at five different levels. You can use a built-in microphone for voice recognition and to manipulate, but not save, AAC sound files accessed via the SD card slot. The battery can provide up to 14 hours of play. And there are parental controls to help manage content for little ones.

I don’t have to tell you this will be a hit. Old DS users, particularly younger ones, will want the latest thing. The interactive features clearly separate next-gen from current-gen and being able to download games and apps is going to appeal to gamers who are seeing these features become available on other devices.

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