When it comes creating machines that do more than play games, Nintendo never shared the eagerness of its competitors. Thinking back, I can’t recall any of their consoles or handheld devices offering other entertainment media besides games.
That’s why the deal between Nintendo and book publisher HarperCollins, to release the 100 Classic Book Collection for the Nintendo DS handheld, is such a surprise.
Really, though, it’s pretty clever. You pop in the cartridge, flip the DS on its side so the dual screens are aligned horizontally, like a book, and use your finger and the touchscreen to thumb through the virtual pages of Dickens, Shakespeare, and much more. And does your Amazon Kindle play video games when you grow tired of reading? Thought not.
It makes sense from a practical standpoint, which helps explain why Nintendo is bucking its “gameplay above all” philosophy to do it. The DS could probably handle some sort of video capabilities to compete with the Sony PSP’s UMD format. Likewise, Nintendo could devise a streaming video service for the Wii and has suggested the possibility of DVD functionality. But you’d need servers to stream video, a major marketing push to sell new handheld video formats, a firmware update or new console generation to support DVD. None of that sits well with the company’s classic approach to gaming systems.
In any case, Nintendo doesn’t need to offer any of those non-gaming perks; they are outselling Sony’s handheld and the other two consoles, after all. So instead of branching into potential pitfalls like music and video, the Big N is providing a much simpler alternative — the written word.
Maybe it’s not such a surprise after all.