"The DMG Ice State of the Handhelds Address 3: Nintendo"
-By Philip Wesley-
-Apples, Oranges, and possibly Bananas.-
-Posted March 2, 2010-
"You don't have to feel safe to feel unafraid." - Lights (From the song "Lions!")
Nintendo is the only company in the industry that refuses to feel safe.I am perfectly aware that the preceding statement makes absolutely no sense to the more disaffected fans of Nintendo. There will be an explanation for that statement provided in this article. I delayed the printing of this article until after I got to read and digest the reactions to the Nintendo Media Summit that took place on February 24, 2010 in California.. The biggest handheld announcement at the Media Summit was the Nintendo DSi XL launch in the United States and Canada. The Nintendo DSi XL was announced for the price $189.99 with three built in pieces of software included in the package. The unit comes with the Web Browser, Hatena, Photo Clock, and two Brain Age Express titles already installed. This is similar to the pre-loaded Nintendo DSi bundles that were in select stores this last Christmas. One including two Brain Age Express titles and the other including the Mario VS Donkey Kong game and two Mario related DSi Ware Applications: The Clock and Calculator. A lot of complaints arose from the announcement of the Nintendo DSi XL's launch details and I will address the only one that makes sense: "The Price is too much!"
The price of the Nintendo DSi XL is substantially cheap for what you are getting in the box. The Nintendo DSi XL is a much more robust, sturdy system with a larger screen that uses a different kind of LCD than the DSi and previous Nintendo handhelds. The DSi XL uses an ASV Transmissive TFT LCD from Sharp for its larger screens. The ASV stands for "Advanced Super View" or rather "axially symmetric vertical" which is just tech jargon for the enhanced viewing angles, brightness, and power consumption savings of the new screen. The unit itself is a lovely matte bottom and glossy top unit with more surface area for holding on to while playing with the system. The top screen now locks in three positions instead of just two, the speakers are more robust than the previous DSi, and the larger playing field will make games that were fairly impossible on the original Nintendo DS a little easier. If you finally intend to defeat that last strain of GUILT in Trauma Center, than the Nintendo DSi XL is the boon you have been waiting to be given. The larger surface of play will make Meteos and Pictobits a lot less frustrating as well. The device is harder to lose and easier to see than the previous DS models. You are also given 1800 points worth of software right out of the box. Most parents will just need to purchase Touch Solitaire and few Soduku items and they are completely set. The new locking position is intended specifically for people who use items like Personal Trainer Cooking and the various My Language Coach titles. The unit also includes a much larger stylus and all the previous features of the Nintendo DSi. The extra $20 for the unit buys you a more durable system with better battery life, better functionality, a better screen, better speakers, a larger stylus, and $18 worth of software preloaded onto the system. In a world where we pay $50 to $70 for lack luster console games, $5 for coffee, about $3 for a gallon of gas, and $12 to $15 for a ticket to watch "Smurf Furries Yiffing in 3D for THREE HOURS;" that $189.99 for the best handheld system of this generation is small potatoes. If that is still a problem, you could always sell one of your kidneys.
The Nintendo DSi XL is a bold new step and it appears that Apple seems perfectly intent on mimicry. I do believe that Nintendo owes more to Carl's Jr. (Hardees) and the SUV than anything else for the inspiration for the DSi XL. Market analysts would state that smaller devices perform better because the world wants "sleeker" electronics. Basic psychology would state that larger devices make people feel more secure and safe. The more you have in your hands, the more ownership you feel toward it. The larger size is also easier to keep at hand and anyone who has misplaced their ever shrinking cell phone can attest to that fact. Nintendo has decided to take Kim W. Chan's "Blue Ocean Strategy" out into the deep blue waters where the fish need a bit more bait before they nibble. This strategy seems to yell: "When in charge, go large!" The people who would game, but have various physical inability (age/sight/weight) that make smaller handhelds unfeasible, are the audience that will benefit the most from the Nintendo DSi XL. For that reason alone, Nintendo should be commended for making their Nintendo DS a true equel opportunity handheld. While, I prefer Robert Kriegel (Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburgers) and visionaries like Stephen Levitt (Freakonomics) to the fanciful whimsy makers like Kim W. Chan, I will not begrudge Nintendo their very excellent results. Results are wonderful, but they are also very temporary in this market.
Nintendo is the largest handheld seller in the market and that is why they have the most cause to feel unsafe. Nintendo is under attack and has always been under attack in the handheld market. Nintendo successfully fought off the Game Gear, Lynx, Wonder Swan, VMU, Game.Com, NGage, Tapwave, Gizmondo, Neo Geo Pocket, and more in the past. The truth though, is that Nintendo has been getting stomped on since the beginning of 2010 by the Sony PSP in Japan. This is because of a strong mid to late 2009, early 2010 line up that included a Kingdom Hearts game, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, Phantasy Star Portable 2, and upcoming titles like Valkyria Chronicles, and a new Metal Gear Solid title. The PSP will eventually decline quickly if they do not put out at least one large scale title in Japan every other month. Since this is not a sustainable proposition, Nintendo may be able to destroy the PSP in Japan if they announce a second New Super Mario Bros. title exclusive to the Nintendo DSi, or if they retool titles like Golden Sun 3 or the next generation of Pokemon to be DSi Exclusives. Nintendo in Japan is engaged in a fist fight via software. Dragon Quest IX was a brilliant coup, but they need to keep the fire going and turn up the heat before the PSP escape the oven. There is always the specter of a new Game Boy handheld or a new service for the Nintendo DSi; but Nintendo should hold off for a few more months and acknowledge that the replacement for the Nintendo DS is the Nintendo DSi for right now.
The Nintendo DSi is the evolution of the Nintendo DS and the fans need to learn this truth for themselves. At the current time of this address, there are less than five DSi ONLY Game Card titles available worldwide and none of them are Nintendo First Party titles. The Nintendo DSi includes twice the processing speed, power, and abilities of the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo DS Lite. Nintendo DS titles are literally running off of the internal software on the DSi and not off of the real capabilities of the hardware. The upcoming GDC and E3 events will be a showcase for first party Nintendo games on the Nintendo DSi and I can not wait to see those in action. While a Nintendo DS Plus may be in the works for later, it would be in Nintendo's best interest to act conservatively and release a new kind of feature this Christmas instead of new hardware. New hardware in Japan may be a good idea for January or February of 2011 depending on how well the Yen and the Dollar hold up. (Of course, there is always room for success with iQue in the piracy riddled Red Bloc Market! End of sarcasm.) Nintendo is doing decently in the United States and Europe for the time being and DSi Exclusive titles would go a long way in killing off the PSP Go relaunch and the PSP 4000 units before either of those gains any future momentum in the North American market or further momentum in the Japanese market. It may also be a great time to dig up this relic of the past: The Nintendo V-Pocket.
The Nintendo V-Pocket is a wonderful enigma to behold, like the design documents on Metroid 5 Dread that were leaked before E3 2004, the Nintendo V-Pocket stands tall amongst those of us who refuse to forget the likes of Dinosaur Planet on the Nintendo 64, Catnapped!, Donkey Kong Plus GBA, or Resident Evil on Game Boy Color. The buzz on the "other M" that is the 2-1/2D Metroid 5 Dread is that it has been scrapped, of course. But those of us who saw that team ninjas steal it away toward the Memory Hole will never forget! Back onto the subject of the Nintendo V-Pocket for now! Nintendo recently announced that they had scrapped a successor to the Game Boy Advance due to the success of the Nintendo DS at the time. The V-Pocket was rumored to be many things, Nintendo had apparently contracted Palm to create an original OS for a new system and that system was V-Pocket. Then V-Pocket was not a system but a media player according to other news sources. Personally, I still believe that Nintendo intends to eventually release a Virtual Console like service on the Nintendo DSi or a Game Boy successor. Personally, I hope they call that Virtual Console like service: "The Nintendo V-Pocket." That would be a fitting result for that mystery brand that Nintendo shrouded away into secrecy. The next year should be interesting, just to see where Nintendo goes in the future. The Nintendo DSi XL and the future DSi Exclusive titles are a nice step forward for the mean time. Nintendo does not need to rush out a new handheld just yet. The fourth part of this address will be on future trends, or rather.. what I would like to see in a new handheld from any of the companies. Please look forward to reading that address soon!
-Would you like to go to the Ice Block Entrance, Library Entrance, or the Main Entrance?
-Philip Wesley 2010-
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