Nintendo to Expand DS Networking

At the Academy of Interactive Arts & SciencesD.I.C.E conference in Las Vegas, Nintendo announced new features and promotional initiatives for its Nintendo DS wireless handheld game systems, including free game samples from retail kiosks and real-time wireless voice chat between gamers.

Nintendo says its DS wireless gaming platform currently boasts more than 850,000 unique users worldwide. Nintendo sold more than 14 million Nintendo DS systems through December 2005, including more than 5 million in Japan since its launch. Now Nintendo plans to launch the DS Download Service beginning in March 2006: the service will offer all DS owners free downloadable game demos, movie trailers, and other content for temporary download at “thousands of retail locations around the United States,” including Best Buy and GameStop retail outlets. When owners bring their DS handhelds within range of the kiosks, the devices will notify them that items can be “beamed” to their DS units: users simply click “DS Download Play” to choose from available downloads. The downloaded content remains available until the DS units are turned off.

Nintendo says users can “sequentially” try out as many games as they want (which we take to mean, “users can try games one at a time”). The first DS Download Service offerings will include Tetris DS,Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day,Mario Kart DS,Meteos,True Swing Golf, and Pokemon Trozei, plus a video clip of Metroid Prime Hunters. Nintendo says the downloads available via the DS Download Service will change quarterly, so look for new selections in mid-2006.

Nintendo also rolled out a new chat feature for Metroid Prime Hunters: gamers will have the ability to chat directly with one another before and after wireless games using the DS’s built-in microphone. Players in North America will be able to click the “chat” icon and simply speak directly to people on their friends list: players can use the function to agree on settings or simply gloat about their mad skillz. (Or maybe Metroid Prime Hunters just became a new way to ask the age-old question: “What did you get for number 7 on our math homework?”)

Nintendo is also planning the March launch of the new Nintendo DS Lite in Japan, a “lighter, brighter” version of the Nintendo DS. The DS Lite is described as roughly two-thirds the size of the original DS handheld and about four-fifths as heavy. Nintendo plans to roll out the DS Lite in other markets at later dates.

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