By Jared Newman | Posted at 3:19 pm on Friday, April 22, 2011
After five years on the market, Nintendo may be putting the DS Lite to bed and focusing on its three newer portables, the DSi, DSi XL and 3DS.
The rumor, based on a leaked Gamestop memo, originates from a link that is now defunct, but Engadget has since confirmed the news with a Gamestop employee. The memo tells store associates to remove their DS Lite display boxes once all the current stock is sold, because they won’t be getting any more shipments. Nintendo has given its standard dismissal, saying that it “doesn’t comment on rumor and speculation.”
It’s no surprise that Nintendo would phase out older DS models as it introduces new ones — the original Nintendo DS was discontinued long ago — but as Matthew Green points out over at Press the Buttons, the DS Lite is the last model to support Game Boy Advance games. The Nintendo DSi removed the secondary cartridge slot that allowed this backwards compatibility. Incidentally, Gamestop held a big liquidation of Game Boy Advance games last week, and the store no longer accepts Game Boy Advance systems or games for trade-in.
In other words, this story is more about the end of Game Boy Advance than it is about the Nintendo DS. Thanks to backwards compatibility, DS games will live on through the DSi, DSi XL and 3DS — at least until Nintendo moves on to new generations of hardware and we do this whole thing all over again.
Update: The makers of Intellivision Lives! have erased the Facebook note referenced in this post, and Gamestop now lists the game on its website. A new statement from the makers apologizes “for jumping the gun” by talking about who will and will not be carrying the game, and promises to “shut up till [publisher Virtual Play Gamse] releases official info.” Thanks to commenter Mike Dougherty for pointing this out. Original story continues below.
Classic video game compilations strike me as easy money makers, created on the cheap and sold on pure nostalgia. But for Intellivision Lives!, Gamestop wants no part of that formula.
In a news posting on Facebook, the makers of Intellivision Lives! for Nintendo DS said Gamestop declined to sell the game. “They say that the 30-somethings that shop there ‘may find it appealing’ but apparently they don’t feel it is for their target (younger) clientele,” the news post said.
As Gamertell points out, Gamestop isn’t categorically opposed to classic game compilations. The retailer already sells Retro Atari Classics and Namco Museum DS for the Nintendo DS, in addition to countless other compilations for other game consoles. And according to the Entertainment Software Association, the most frequent buyers of video games are 40 years old on average, so there goes the theory about pandering to younger clientele. I suspect that Gamestop’s decision has more to do with Intellivision than it does with a refusal to accommodate 30-somethings or nostalgia.
Following the new, large-screen handheld’s launch last Sunday, GameSpot’s Tor Thorsen wondered whether Nintendo might have a way for DSi owners to upgrade without sacrificing the DSiWare game downloads they already bought. “No,” a Nintendo of America representative said, “the games and applications are specific to each system, not each user.”
That’d be like Apple saying you can’t take your apps with you when upgrading to the iPhone 3GS from an older model. Of course that’s not the case, because Apple ties its games and apps to the user, not the device. That means you can also take your apps to an iPod Touch or iPad. It’s a system that encourages brand loyalty and lots of purchases.
Microsoft and Sony handle game downloads in a similar fashion, linking purchases to Xbox Live and the Playstation Network, rather than a specific console. Though Microsoft hasn’t yet been tested with the kinds of incremental hardware upgrades Nintendo offers (it doesn’t sell a handheld gaming console, for that matter), PSP owners tell me you can tie games to several hardware devices. Between the DSi, the DSi XL and the upcoming 3DS, Nintendo will have released three handheld gaming devices in a two-year span. If Nintendo won’t let a user move downloaded content between devices, how can that person buy with confidence?
Nintendo’s system for digital distribution needs a major overhaul based on user accounts rather than hardware. Otherwise, the company is telling its best customers — the ones that upgrade hardware often — that downloadable games are a bad investment.
The DSi XL, a chunkier, larger-screened version of Nintendo’s wildly popular gaming device, goes on sale in the United States on March 28 for $190. The “100 Classic Books” collection, which includes classic public domain works from William Shakespeare, Mark Twain and others, will be available in June, Bloomberg reports.
Sound familiar? That’s because Nintendo already released the books-on-a-cartridge to the United Kingdom in December 2008. I’m not sure why it took so long for the collection to come stateside, but reading the books on the DSi XL, with its 4.2-inch screens, sounds more pleasurable compared to the original DS and DSi, which had 3-inch and 3.25-inch screens respectively. And despite the growing competition among e-readers, Nintendo’s device could be the most book-like, with two displays that you can hold up side-by-side.
Nintendo’s sales and marketing vice president Cammie Dunaway told Bloomberg that the company’s not trying to get a piece of the e-reader market. Let’s face it, without a cloud book store or the promise of weeks-long battery life, the DSi’s not equipped to do so anyway.
But I do think publishers would be wise to start bundling books onto DSi cartridges. Imagine the entire Harry Potter series on one cartridge — what a great gift that aunts and uncles who clueless about video games can give to their niece or nephew who has a DSi. As Dunaway said, “It’s just one more way to enjoy your device.” It shouldn’t start and end with the public domain.
Occasionally, I wonder how I’ll continue playing video games as I get older. My hands will probably slow down, and my vision could fade, but until now I never figured console makers would release hardware specifically to accommodate the aging gamer.
That’s what Nintendo appears to be doing with the DSi XL, a larger version of the Nintendo DSi that was released in April. Compared to the original DSi’s 3.25-inch displays, the XL will have 4.2-inch screens, plus a fatter stylus. Kotaku got word that the portable games machine, which will be called the DSi LL in Japan, will arrive in North America and Europe early next year.
Before Nintendo announced the DSi XL, rumors suggested that the device was a response to older gamers’ requests, though Nintendo isn’t stressing this outright — to a fault, as some writers are missing the point of what the DSi XL is about. Make no mistake, the DSi XL, whose screen resolution is the same as its predecessor, is intended for elderly gamers who need the boost, and are willing to sacrifice some portability to get it.
That’s a big deal, because it means Nintendo views the aging video game enthusiast as a market worth catering to. This hobby started as a diversion for the young, but there’s starting to be a demographic that got hooked on arcades, but is now old enough to start needing bigger screens and finger-friendly peripherals. The rest of the games industry should be proud of what’s happening here and figuring out whether they ought to replicate it.
As for the young, I’m sure there are some who will covet the DSi XL. I’ve been using my iPhone for gaming a lot lately, and having revisited the DSi to play Scribblenauts, I was taken aback by how small the screens seem in comparison. But I’m not going to complain about how this console update is too soon after the original DSi. If anything, it didn’t come soon enough.
Unless Nintendo is changing the way it approaches gaming consoles, the underlying technology doesn’t matter as much as the big picture. The Wii staked its reputation on motion controls, not current-generation graphics or processing power. Same goes for the Nintendo DS, which is all about combining a touch screen and traditional button-based gaming on a handheld device.
Besides, the current-generation DS already packs in respectable graphics, and some of the console’s greatest games wouldn’t have benefited from a boost. For instance, the Phoenix Wright series uses 2D animation, never getting in the way of your touch-based sleuthing. New Super Mario Bros. has 3D flourishes, but what really draws people in is the game’s old-school roots. And then there’s Brain Age, which is so simple that I fail to see how a beefer processor and better graphics would improve the experience.
My point is that it’s about the games, not the hardware, and from my experience the Nintendo DS hasn’t suffered from technological constraints.
In any case, I don’t expect Nintendo to move on from its current-generation DS and DSi anytime soon. They continue to sell phenomenally well, with 552,900 units moved in North America alone in August. That’s actually a 6 percent increase from same the period in 2008, and four times more sales than Sony’s PSP.
Continued sales mean that people are going to stay interested in the current-generation Nintendo DS, and all the games it supports, for years to come. If Nintendo does upgrade the DS to a better chip, I won’t be the only one who could care less.
As the iPhone and iPod Touch look more like portable gaming platforms, I haven’t tired of watching Sony and Nintendo flail. They’re like two incumbent political parties having identity crises in the face of a new competitor who’s hogging the spotlight.
The latest round of this partisan bickering comes from Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime, who in an interview with the Washington Post argued that the Nintendo DS does things the iPod Touch does not. As proof, he pointed to the DS’s two screens, Nintendo’s franchise titles such as Mario Kart DS and New Super Mario Bros and innovative games like the recent Scribblenauts, which lets players type out virtually any PG-13 noun and have the object literally appear on the screen.
“All of these experiences are very unique and very different and what you cannot find on their App Store,” Fils-Aime said.
It’s a weak argument. Half the games Fils-Aime mentions use the DS’s second screen to provide superfluous information, and there’s nothing in Apple’s technology that precludes a title like Scribblenauts. But the major problem here is Fils-Aime’s “our console is different” mentality.
Guess what? Every console is unique in some way. Check out Dan Terdiman’s CNet article today on a new breed of iPhone games that integrate your phone and contacts. That’s unique. Or just visit the App Store and pick up a free chess app, a free tower defense game and the entirety of Wolfenstein 3D for $2. That user experience is unique.
The real question is whether one console’s unique experience is better than the competition’s. I’ll concede that Nintendo has powerful franchises in Mario and Zelda, et al, but that doesn’t make up for how Apple is capturing the casual gaming market that Nintendo covets. Nintendo needs to find a solution to that problem, and Fils-Aime needs better talking points.
Man, we’re getting so close to having Apple as a real contender in the handheld game console wars, I can feel it.
As Gamespot points out, Apple’s music-themed event marked the first time that the company publicly argued why the iPhone and iPod Touch are better gaming options than Sony’s PSP and the Nintendo DS. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, went so far as to say those other two consoles are “not a lot of fun.”
Now, we can debate ad nauseum the merits of iPhone and iPod Touch gaming vs. the PSP and the DS. We can argue which device is the most successful, has the best games or has the greatest chance of survival. But that’s boring. What’s really great about the console wars is all the bickering and spin that goes along with it. In that regard, Apple showed that it’s ready to play hardball.
At yesterday’s event, one of Apple’s slides touted a catalog of 21,178 “Games & Entertainment Titles,” compared to 3,680 DS games and 607 PSP titles. Of course, it’s totally bogus for Apple to include “Entertainment” in the mix, as we’re strictly comparing gaming devices here. A quick check of Apptism shows 14,657 games on file.
If Apple’s still ahead, why fudge the stats? Because that’s what you do in the console wars. I’m reminded of when Sony argued last January that it’s a better value than the Xbox 360, assuming that you bought the basic Xbox 360 Arcade, then purchased the most expensive hard drive available and threw in an optional Wi-Fi adapter. Sure, the argument is valid, but the math is fuzzy.
And then, there’s all the trash talk. Back in February, I looked on with delight at the way Microsoft and Sony were sniping at each other. Yesterday, Schiller argued that “once you play a game on the iPod touch, you think ‘hey, [the DS and PSP] aren’t so cool any more…’” Burn!
Sony and Nintendo haven’t fired back yet (in fact, Sony’s been unbelievably timid on the matter), but if Apple keeps up this rhetoric, it’s only a matter of time until the sparks fly. I can’t wait to watch.
If we can all agree that an Intellivision compilation for the Nintendo DSi would have been pretty neat, than we can all mourn together, because it’s not happening.
The reasoning is most peculiar. Nintendo says games from two of its virtual storefronts, WiiWare and DSiWare, must not run under emulation — that is, software that pretends to be hardware, such as an old game console. So while Nintendo will happily let you buy old video games through the Wii’s Virtual Console, it’s not cool for third parties to do the same on their own, at least according to Intellivision rights holder Keith Robinson.
IGN, which broke the story, has already performed the necessary speculation, wondering if this news foreshadows a store for classic games on the DS. With no comment so far from Nintendo, you can’t read into the story any further than that.
Still, this is disappointing given DSiWare’s track record so far. The most recent update to the store consisted of an Animal Crossing-themed clock and calculator, and most of the actual games are derivatives of existing Nintendo DS or Game Boy Advance releases. It’s certainly not the hub of unique indie games that WiiWare has been since launch.
It’s worth noting, as IGN does, that Apple has already approved the compilation, officially dubbed Intellivision Lives!, for the iPhone and iPod Touch. I hope Nintendo shifts DSiWare into gear and starts competing.
Though I try to abstain from fanboyism, I’m addicted to the console wars. And I’m not talking about insults flung around by loyal customers; only official company statements from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony will do. The more ridiculous, the better.
Spin factor is always high, but the latest remarks on the Nintendo DSi by SCEA director of hardware marketing John Koller are even more satisfying, because they’re false.
Here’s his statement, in part:
“If Nintendo is really committed to reaching a broader, more diverse audience of gamers beyond the “kids” market that they’ve always engaged, there isn’t much new with the DSi to support that. Significant gamer demographic groups are being ignored … Compare that with the PSP platform, where we have many blockbuster franchises from our publishing partners launching this year, representing a wide variety of genres and targeting diverse demographics.”
I want to focus on the idea that the DS is for “kids,” while the PSP is apparently for everyone. Let’s put aside anecdotal evidence, such as the recent release of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for the DS, because then you’ve got to subjectively compare entire game libraries.
Instead, let’s look at what Sony’s Koller said to Edge magazine last September as he explained why the PSP was losing support from third-party publishers. Koller himself said the PSP’s demographics had shifted younger since launch, and publishers weren’t grasping that fact because they kept putting out mature games that sold poorly. To wit:
“When we launched the PSP it launched at a 28-year old, heavily male, New York subway [demographic], and that slowly trended down. Now we’re in the mid-teens with a lot of tracking even younger than that. Our research shows that in the next 12 months young moms actually are set to have the highest propensity to purchase the hardware and software for their young children.”
Isn’t this the “kids” demographic Koller was alluding to this weekend, or was he trying to say that Nintendo DS owners are primarily young goats?
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.
By Ed Oswald | Posted at 8:44 pm on Sunday, September 28, 2008
Nobody can dispute that Nintendo has a true blockbuster on its hands when it comes to the Nintendo DS. The device has sold some 77.5 million units worldwide through June of this year, and continues to sell them at a rapid pace-at least a million per month, if not more. But the device has not been updated since March of 2006, when the company introduced the DS Lite.
That is about to change. According to a story in the Japanese business daily Nikkei, the company will release an updated model later this year. The most notable new features would be an integrated camera, and the capability for music playback.