Testing Out DSi XL's "Multiplayer" AspectS

When the DSi LL launched, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata pointed out that the portable's larger 4.2" LCD screens meant that it was easier to watch others play.

"Nintendo DSi XL realizes beautiful game screens even for those who look at them from an angle," Iwata said earlier. "You do not have to peek closely into the monitor of another player's video game to get a good view anymore. Nintendo DSi XL is going to offer a new play style, where those who are surrounding the game player can also join in one way or the other to the gameplay. When you look at the home console video games, you can understand that the fun of great games can be conveyed to and shared by those who are watching the player play."

Over the weekend, I tested this out by having a few people try the the DSi XL: Three adults between the ages of 25 and 35, two of whom had never played with a Nintendo DS, let alone a DSi XL. The third has owned several DS consoles and is quite familiar with the platform. Besides the adults, a pre-schooler checked out the DSi XL for the first time as well as my older son and wife.

Impressions? The obvious, and the not-so obvious.

The screen, they noted, is big — that, of course is the point. The two who have never played with a DS (not everyone in Japan likes video games!) said that it was easy to see when they or others played with the DSi XL. They didn't think the DSi XL was too big or heavy and when they were shown a DS Lite, their reaction that the screen was "too small." Keep in mind, their first first-hand exposure to the DS platform was via the DSi XL.

The third tester pointed out something I hadn't even thought of. She said that because the DSi XL screen is so large and lacks privacy, she would not feel comfortable playing the XL on the train. The people sitting next to her would be able to see what she is playing easier than if she was playing a DSi or DS Lite.

(In Japan, people are so worried about privacy on the train that book stores automatically wrap any purchased book in a book cover so others cannot see the title. One company even makes "Mail Block" privacy screens for cell phones.)

The third tester also pointed out that the DSi XL seemed heavier and bulkier, making it less portable than the other DS handhelds. The other testers did not seem to mind, one saying that if he had to hold the DSi XL for several hours, then it might feel heavy. This, if anything, shows just how strong first impressions are. Their concept of the DS starts with the XL — that is the DS as they see it.

And how did the "multiplayer" go? Nobody really go into watching others play the DSi XL — not because something is wrong with the DSi XL, not that at all. Instead, they'd start talking to each other, start watching TV, etc. If Nintendo created dedicated software that somehow focused non-playing players to watch the screen, then Nintendo could do something revolutionary with handheld gaming. The kids, however, had no problem watching others play — that is, while waiting their turn.