Iwata Vague About U.S. Release Date For DSi

Illustration for article titled Iwata Vague About U.S. Release Date For DSi

While Japan is getting the DSi this November, the U.S. isn't. In fact, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said the company won't be bringing the DSi to North America until late 2009 because it wants to continue selling the DS throughout the holiday season. Nintendo Co., Ltd. president Satoru Iwata is even more vague, telling business paper Nikkei, "The DSi will probably [our emphasis] be launched in the US and Europe next year." Outlining his vision of the DSi, he adds:

Because users can now download and save software, they can personalise the DS. By downloading subway maps and other things, for instance, the DSi can be useful for applications other than playing games. We wanted to create an offering that would fit naturally into people’s everyday lives.

The DSi is venturing into PSP territory, touch pen in hand. But can it compete? The Japanese stock market didn't exactly give the DSi the warmest of receptions... DSi Article [Nikkei via Digital World Tokyo]

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Nightshift Nurse

Here are the problems I see with the DSi:

It will fracture Nintendo's market share...though how much remains to be seen. My guess would be small but noticeable. You've got the obvious problem for the hardcore audience (which is undeniably huge on the DS) of the loss of the GBA slot. Not only is this a serious issue with regards to BC, but also to the loss of functionality in certain titles.

Though I'm sure I could come up with more given time, off the top of my head I can think of the following: Several Pokemon titles losing certain key connectivity features, Arkanoid DS and Space Invaders Extreme losing spinner control, Daigasso Band Brothers losing its expansion packs, any title that featured rumble will be losing it.

On the flip side of this is the added functionality. Iwata has essentially stated that the camera's primary purpose will be gaming and feature related (chat and so forth) as opposed to actual photography. This wouldn't be an issue if it weren't for the fact that future releases will be utilizing the camera, very likely as a primary function of the gameplay. This creates something of a Gameboy/Gameboy Color situation where those using the old hardware are simply unable to play certain titles because of additions to a later hardware revision.

This places Nintendo in something of a dilemma (and possibly why the investors are skeptical), because how do you make the DSi a desirable product? The same way you made the DS a desirable product - by creating high-profile titles that utilize the unique qualities of the hardware. But how do you do that on the DSi without alienating current DS (Lite) owners? Do you think they'll be happy they can't play the latest Mario, Zelda, or Pokemon title because the camera is an integral part of the gameplay?

And what about the other side of that argument: Do you think DSi owners will be happy with a stillborn product? A new unit whose features go woefully underutilized by Nintendo for fear of pissing off their current loyal DS userbase.

It creates the potential for something of a lose-lose situation for Nintendo. And there's every likelihood that if the DSi flops that the successful momentum of the DS will be derailed (not completely, mind you...but enough to create doubt). And that will force Nintendo's hand on a next-gen follow up (a DS 2) too soon and ultimately cost them a healthy chunk of the lead they've been enjoying up to now.

Now we get to the multi-media features...though it's harder to comment on these since the jury's out till (at least) November before we'll know if they're really any good. Even so, it's safe to say that based on Nintendo's track record of halting first steps into this type of territory that they may be a touch underwhelming. In the end it will likely result in something of a wash when compared to the PSP (which still boasts more in terms of multi-media functionality).

Of course this does beg the question of who exactly Nintendo is trying to target with this device: the four dozen people remaining in Japan who still don't own a DS Lite, teens and tweens who want an iPhone or iPod Touch, gadget enthusiasts, or the Nintendo handheld faithful?

If you'll permit me, let me engage in a little skit which portrays the hurdles facing at least one of those demographics:

"Hey, Nintendo redesigned the DS. I'm happy with my Lite, but what the hell, it's time for an upgrade! I'll just grab my $130 and...oh fuck!!!" And you'd be entitled to say "Oh fuck!!!", because it's going to cost you more to buy into this latest revision by quite a bit. In essence, Nintendo is asking you to jump back on to a wagon you don't recall falling off of in the first place.

It would also be fair to mention at this point that the DSi will cost more than the PSP currently does, approximately $10 more if the Japanese pricing scheme is followed throughout the world. Will people bite or will they simply pass on the DSi? Or will they consider taking that money and buying a PSP (and saving a few bucks in the process)?

And before anyone says anything, no, I don't think this will turn into any sort of windfall for Sony. I just don't think Nintendo will hit one out of the park either.

And while this last statement is my own opinion and really just boils down to everyone's individual aesthetics, it's also one I've seen echoed enough in the last twenty-four hours to warrant a mention: the DSi is ugly. We're not talking DS Phat ugly...but in terms of form factor it's definitely a step backwards when compared to the Lite. And let's face it, the appeal of the DS Lite's design was significant in moving as many units as it has over the last two years.

We'll know soon enough whether or not the DSi was a good idea. But right now there are fans out there tearing at each other like rabid dogs over wether or not it was a good idea...and that's a far cry from the typical unified confidence expressed in almost everything pertaining to this product to date.