Chicago (IL) - Today in the United States, Nintendo begins selling its much anticipated DSi portable game player. While the device has been on sale in Japan since the Fall, U.S. buyers will be able to shell out around $170 for a model in either blue (cyan) or black. The DSi includes front-facing 3.0 Megapixel and rear-facing 0.3 Megapixel cameras, two slightly larger screens, more memory, an SD card slot, and is backward compatible with DS line which, to date, has sold more than 100 million units. Nintendo hopes DSi will compete against the iPod touch as a viable gaming platform with its online DSi shop.
The Nintendo DS, its predecessor, has over 850 titles that will also play on the DSi. Over 80 of those titles have shipped more than 1 million game copies, and seven titles shipping over 10 million copies.
The DSi is nearly identical to the DS in appearance, though slimmer. In addition to the two built-in cameras, it includes an SD slot for AAC audio files and camera image capture (which can be played/viewed as on an iPod), slightly larger screens (3.25" instead of 3" in DS), 256 MB of RAM, and is able to download games from the DSi shop. It does have a lowered battery life, the result of the larger screens and feature set. In addition, the DSi has removed the Slot 1 present in the DS, and therefore cannot play any of the former GBA player games.
While it's disappointing the player does not play MP3 files, there are several free MP3 to AAC converters purported on a basic Google search, and there is also dBPoweramp which is free to try, and $24.95 to buy. It provides a Windows Explorer context-menu option to convert on-the-fly without having to navigate from inside the console app. Also, in iTunes you can import your MP3 files and it will automatically convert them to AAC if setup that way.
While the device has been on sale in Japan since last Fall for about $220 equivalent, here in the United States Nintendo has not offered it for sale because of the success of DS sales. They felt an earlier introduction would hurt DS sales and was not warranted until now.
GameStop has been offering a $25 early-pay hold to guarantee your copy of a DSi because they believe they'll be sold out very quickly. Some websites are reporting color choices of various combinations of white, blue and black.
In the United States, the game will be offered in blue (cyan) and black.
Nintento of America reports these games will be available in DSi shop when launched:
• WarioWare: Snapped! – Using the built-in Nintendo DSi camera, this outrageous title puts players right at the center of fast-paced mini-games, challenging them to race the clock and get a peek at Wario's photo album.
• Bird & Beans – Using an elastic tongue, players must scramble to collect falling beans. The harder a bean is to catch, the more points it's worth.
• Brain Age Express: Math – In this math-focused edition of the popular Brain Age series, players can enjoy a mix of new and familiar training exercises. A new Themes mode also lets Nintendo DSi users experiment with images and voice recordings in fun, unusual ways.
• Master of Illusion Express: Funny Face – This game uses your Nintendo DSi as a prop in a card trick. Draw a face on the touch screen and astound your audience as the face tells them which playing card they picked.
• Art Style: AQUIA – The newest addition to the eye-popping Art Style series, this mesmerizing underwater puzzle game challenges players to help a scuba diver reach the ocean floor by matching a series of colored blocks.
• DSi browser – Nintendo will also be offering a free Opera-based browser for download, to allow web surfing on DSi. Nintendo reports, "Powered by Opera, this simple-to-use application makes use of the Nintendo DSi system's dual-screen display to provide fast, intuitive Web browsing."
Nintendo has always been behind the times graphics-wise. Their high-end Wii units today cannot produce high quality graphics comparable with other players, and this is also true of the DSi. Even in the early days of the black and white first-gen Game Boys, the LCD was sticky, slow to respond to changes in pixel colors, and was maintained that way by Nintendo for long after the competition had moved on to nicer displays.
I don't know why Nintendo doesn't wan to be a cutting-edge game provider, giving developer the opportunity to port applications more natively to their equipment. It's like they're intentionally trying to stay behind the curve. While their profits indicate it's a successful strategy, I cannot help but wonder what other realities there might be were they to step it up a notch or two?