Lagging behind standards maintained by competitors Sony, Microsoft and Apple, Nintendo is launching its second portable gaming system capable of downloading video games, without letting those who downloaded games on their first DS to transfer them to the new one.
Nintendo is currently operating a pay-for-it-twice system for its DSiWare line-up, something that will be evident to those who pick up the DSi XL when it launches this weekend and try to download games they may have already purchased for the DSi. Nintendo told Kotaku that the DSi XL will not recognize prior purchases of DSiWare games — downloadable games such as Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again and ArtStyle Pictobits that typically cost $2 to $5, even though the same games are made to run on both systems.
This is an unusual limitation not broadly seen with iPhone applications or even downloadable games for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 which can, with some case-by-case restrictions, be transferred from one unit to the next, through successive iterations of the hardware. Buy a new, better iPhone, for example, and you don't have to buy your apps again. The manufacturers of those devices restrict users' number of transfers. An iPhone application can only be synced to a handful of devices; Xbox 360 game data is subject to certain once-a-year transfer restrictions. On the PS3, some games' save files can't be transferred to a new system.
As of now, a spokesperson for Nintendo confirmed to Kotaku, the gaming giant offers its consumers no ability to transfer their purchases from one DSi to the bigger screen XL. But the rep did give a sign that a change in policy could be coming: "We're looking into that specific topic, but we don't have anything to announce at this time."
In theory, a purchaser account, similar to Apple's iTunes accounts would recognize the identity of an individual who has multiple DSes and grant them permission to download their purchased games to those units, but Nintendo currently does not have an ID system like that implemented into its digital gaming shop.
Nintendo's DSi XL hardware manual plainly states both that all DSiWare downloads "are for use only on a single Nintendo DSi." The manual also indicates that "software downloaded from Nintendo DSi Shop is licensed to you, not sold." What that adds up to is that, while Nintendo is selling people a new DSi to buy, it currently expects its consumers to pay for downloaded games all over again — or do without them. Compare this to how Nintendo supports the same cartridge DS games on all of its DS systems, erecting no barriers that would keep a DS or DSi owner from using their existing library of DS game cartridges on a DSi XL.
The inability to move digital files easily from one device to its successor is sure to be a growing problem for anyone who takes greater advantage of the widening selection of video games offered for download on the DSi and other home and portable game machines. Gamers have yet to see how any of the big game console makers will or will not allow them to transport the games they download for their PS3, Xbox 360 or Wii to the successors to those machines. Will those machines even be backwards compatible? And, if they are, will they remember what we've bought or make us pay for them again? The DSi XL, at launch, shows that there's a chance that a game company could ask a gamer just to buy their games all over again.