GDC 2009: Nintendo drops DSi details

Project lead Masato Kuwahara discusses what gamers can expect from the forthcoming redesigned handheld, due out April 5.

The big news to come out of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's 2009 Game Developers Conference keynote address this morning was the confirmation of a new Zelda game for the DS, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. However, Nintendo also spent some time championing the DS's soon-to-be-released successor (though not replacement), the DSi. According to a representative, the redesigned handheld has sold 2 million units since its Japanese launch in November, with Amazon.com preorders in the US amounting to more than any game product in history.

Later in the day, Nintendo offered a more in-depth presentation on the DSi, which is expected to be released in the US on April 5. DSi project lead Masato Kuwahara hosted the session, which was titled "The Inspiration Behind Nintendo DSi Development." Kuwahara began his talk by giving a brief rundown of his previous experience at Nintendo, with highlights including work on the Game Boy Camera and Game Boy Printer, as well as the Game Boy Advance wireless adapter. This work, he said, heavily aided him in his role in leading development on the DSi.

According to Kuwahara, Nintendo saw that in 2006, there was about one DS per household in Japan. However, the company's goal was one DS per individual, and this became the driving force behind the DSi's development process. The question, he said, became, "What can we do to get each individual to purchase their own system and keep it near at all times?"

Kuwahara then went into some of the technical specifications of the DSi. As previously reported, the DSi's body was slimmed down by 2mm, and the weight was slightly reduced from that of the DS Lite. Nintendo also increased the device's screen size from 3 inches to 3.25 inches, which Kuwahara believes makes gameplay more enjoyable. He also said that the screens' backlight can now be adjusted in-game, and that a reset function has been added to the new power button.

The hardware designer then walked session attendees through the device's development process, saying that the first feature to be added was the two cameras. He said that the VGA cameras can be used with the DSi in a horizontal or vertical position. Kuwahara noted that Nintendo opted not to install traditional megapixel cameras, saying that this decision was partly due to cost concerns and partly because a greater resolution would reduce response time. He also said that a megapixel camera would have been too big to fit into its current position.

He then addressed the DSi's SD-card slots, saying that they would be compatible with both standard and SDHC cards. The SD slot, which he said was championed by preeminent Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto, lets users store AAC music files, photos, and DSiWare purchases.

Sound quality was a major concern in redesigning the DS, Kuwahara said, and as such, the design team completely rebuilt the handheld's speakers. The DSi now has a louder speaker volume, and the analog volume switch has been swapped out for a digital control. The system can also be muted, he said.

Kuwahara said that, in one of Nintendo's "overturning the tea table" moments, the DSi was actually designed twice. The first iteration featured two game-cartridge slots, with the idea that players could switch between two different games on the fly.

Kuwahara then shifted his focus to DSi-compatible software. He first laid out the DSi Menu, which functions similarly to the Wii's Channel system. There are 39 slots in the Menu, and programs in these slots can be rearranged in any order. The Menu also lets device owners display a custom photo on the top screen.

Next, Kuwahara went into depth describing the DSi Camera program. Naturally, the software makes extensive use of the device's dual cameras, offering users 10 different lenses by which they can distort or reimage photos. Photos can be taken in standard mode, and then different lenses can be applied to the photo to add a variety of effects to the same picture.

The Distortion lens lets users warp photos using the stylus; Graffiti offers the ability to doodle on pictures; Color adds paint to otherwise black-and-white pictures; Color Pad adds the ability to alter the hue of objects in photos; Mirror reflects images in three different views; Mischief uses face-recognition software to add, for example, sunglasses or tears to pictures; Emote lets users tweak facial expressions; Merge morphs two faces into one; Resemblance analyzes the similarities between two faces; and Frame offers a variety of borders that photos can be inserted into.

Kuwahara then detailed DSi Sound, which acts as a music player and recording device. With the program, users can alter the playback speed and pitch of songs stored on an SD card. Songs can also be played backward, and 12 different sound filters can be applied.

The DSi Shop functions as a Wii Shop equivalent and is accessible through a Nintendo Wi-Fi Connect access point. Through the program, DSi users can purchase and download DSiWare software, with currency available for purchase directly through the shop by way of a credit card or by redeeming point cards bought at retail outlets. As announced earlier today, Nintendo will be giving away 1,000 points to everyone who logs into the DSi Shop with their handheld through October 5.

Lastly, Kuwahara also described the DSi Browser, which will be available as a free download through the DSi Shop. The browser offers a variety of display options, with either the entire page shown on the lower screen and a zoomed-in version appearing on the top, or a widescreen mode, in which a Web page is displayed to match screen size.

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Discussion

64 comments
belmont67
belmont67

Giving away 1000 free points? I don't care if its a cheap ploy to get people to buy games online, thats just awesome.

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

About the web surfing you can do on this thing do you think a virtual stylus keyboard might be included?

MADDjoe
MADDjoe

Ahhhhh...reading about it makes me want it even more now. They should release it tomorrow dam you nintendo for messing with me like this. I want to get my greedy little hands on it.

Rustysmitty
Rustysmitty

Well I'm getting one. But only because my kid dropped my DS Lite. So I thought why not upgrade. If he didn't drop it though I probably wouldn't be getting one. I really can't wait though. I've had the latest Castlevania game sitting in my broken DS for about a month and a half. Just as I was getting into it too.

hjm0916
hjm0916

i think they worked hard to produce a first class game system that everyone can adadpt to

Tomatoes95
Tomatoes95

@Glade_Gnarr: Like in "Stairway to Heaven"? That's really creepy to hear backwards. Back on topic though, I think I'll buy one. Maybe in white... (Yes, Aus gets white! :D) And VC games on DSi would be... AWESOME! No other word for it, awesome! No GBA slot? Meh, I don't use it anyway. -_-

Legend-of-Evil
Legend-of-Evil

I am still really miffed about the loss of the GBA slot, considering I find it eternally more useful (backtracking people!!!) But if Nintendo thinks its going to work...well it probably will knowing them

rsnow7
rsnow7

If Nintendo plans to pull off this modification of the DS onto the market, then they should release DSi games, but also release a DS original/DS Lite version of that game, and then make just DSi games if DSi sales are through the roof. It's a safer choice in my opinion.

Beesond
Beesond

So I just heard about this new DS yesterday. If you have a DS already, an ipod, a laptop, and dont care about pictures, is there any reason to get this? I mean all the functions this does are done by other junk and better. At least until the games are on SDHCs and become DSi only, so is that eventual grow of games into SDHC the only point of getting one of these? If so I will wait til the price dips way down or they offer it with new skins and games in a bundle.

KJsmashdude
KJsmashdude

I dont have a mp3 but i want to play my music! And yeah the SD cards from the wii will save me money! :D

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

nate1222: I'm with you on this idea man. Although they probably wouldn't be able to convert N64 games over because of the lack of control options, they could still allow us to play our Virtual Console games we've gotten from the Wii and play them on the DS. It'd require an update of some sort probably to the Virtual Console games, but I'd be ok with that. I think that'd be an incredible idea actually. They'd kinda shoot themselves in the foot if they didn't. Especially if they come out with a similar service on DSi. It'd be a crime if they didn't allow for cross compatibility. Nintendo! I'm talking to you now! Let us play our Virtual Console games from the Wii on the new DSi...and I'll get one, much sooner than I'd have thought of doing so. Right now though I just don't wanna get rid of my GBA slot on my DS. It's too enticing. Plus it's super helpful. Although my GBA SP is much smaller. :P

gamelove1
gamelove1

Not getting it. Seems pointless. Mabey I'll get one around Christmas if games that are good need the camera (Zelda: Spirit Tracks, New Mario, Oh I forgot, that ones a dream.) Or if really good DSi Ware games come. But other then that it seems like there is no point in upgrading right now. I can wait untill christmas.

Sonic_1048
Sonic_1048

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

nate1222
nate1222

It'd be super cool if we could use the SD cards from our Wiis and play the NES, SNES and Genisis games on them on the DSi. That'd make me buy one! I've loaded my SD card with a crap load of Old School goodies already, via Virtual Console. I purchase more VC (NES, SNES, Genisis, etc...) games than Wii and GameCube games combined.

MagicOneUp
MagicOneUp

why AAC and not Mp3? i have to reconvert all my tracks... what a waste of time. i'll be preorder mine though.... can't wait

gameking5000
gameking5000

Still you wonder if the new features make up for the rise in the price.

torontomapleafs
torontomapleafs

I might just get this. I have a PSP but i really want GTA ChinaTown Wars and this seems like a good time to get a DS.

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

I bet a lot of people will get scrred for life when they listen to a song backwards and find it's Satan talking to them.

Awhawk23
Awhawk23

I can't wait!!! Getting mine in black!!! Seems awesome 2 me!!!

Heathcliff
Heathcliff

I'm perfectly satisfied with my DS Lite. No need to upgrade.

tekken220
tekken220

i think that ds lite is better because i think that dsi is a waste like psp 3000.

LeoGoBezerk
LeoGoBezerk

Camera functions makes me sick. Its like a feeling that i waste my additional money for the functions that i don't care about. Everything else is OK but still need some specific exclusive games.

ghX11
ghX11

@ Leick3: There will be a virtual handheld console, from what I've heard in different website. The only thing that sucks is that only 1st party games will be released for it, which is bad for all Mega Man fans out there.

h4xx0rz
h4xx0rz

twilight_33: if you're worried about graphics, I'm pretty sure the processor is at least twice as powerful as the DSi. Someone did a spec check. But I'm not sure if that means better games or not.

XBD247
XBD247

Very excited for this hand held. Not to much happening console side so eager to get into the diverse DS selection.

Grooveraider
Grooveraider

I'm happy with my current DS Lite (Onyx). Until I see some downloadable games I can't live without - there's no point in buying the DSi. Besides, I own an R4 w/ 4 gig SDHC card. I can still watch movies / TV shows or play mp3s. I could care less for the built-in camera feature because I already own a 10 megapixel camera. Sure the camera feature on the DSi will be used in-games. But nothing has intrigued me, yet. DSi no-longer has the GBA slot which I still play GBA games as well. Those of you who could careless about what my reasons for not getting a DSi - by all means enjoy.

twilight_33
twilight_33

Ok so I have a ds fatty got it when it origionally came out and then just a while later the lite came out and pissed me off because they already made a better one. Well its my time to buy a new dsi since I am long due for an upgrade. I wish they just did better with say maybe enhancing graphics not to much nessasarily just enough tho. Any way I am excited none the lePr

Gtoniser
Gtoniser

The camera's are a feature which probably a lot of people mark as useless, but remember that there are younger people using ad DSi too, for who such a camera with editing software is pretty neat. Never played any GBA game, so I don't really care about that slot. Not gonna buy DSi tho since my DSlite is still in perfect condition and all games still run on it.

riariases
riariases

Stupid rejects(sounding like a punk). If Nintendo had left the GBA slot on, you all would have said "Thats like 10 years old. Grow up Nintendo." Its smart that their advancing. They couldn't keep it forever.

SuperfastSonic
SuperfastSonic

Free points?!! That sounds awesome! But what games can you buy?

h4xx0rz
h4xx0rz

Everyone who's complaining about the cameras, listen up. Nintendo designed this to appeal to everyone, not just gamers who don't care about the cameras and want their GBA playability. This has basically become a powerful cell phone without the phone, or if you look at it close enough, it is simply this: DS + iPhone, - Phone = DSi. With these kind of features, everyone will snap it up, and the added DS playability makes it the gateway into the video gaming realm. This is what casual players will pick up for the features, then once they start playing DS games, they will look to home consoles if they get addicted to it. And since they've bought a Nintendo product, wouldn't it make sense to get the Nintendo console? This really is just a brilliant scheme to get more people to buy their consoles, systems, and games. Not that I'm complaining: it's great that Nintendo is trying to make video games something everybody does, but I am complaining about the gamers who don't like all the new features and gimmicks. It simply makes sense to do it this way from a business perspective, and this system was not built for you.

Leick3
Leick3

the cameras are unecessary and hopefully they will make a handheld virtual console but this is so much better than the original DS, its like a completely different system

Kleeyook
Kleeyook

I won't buy it unless it includes VC like Wii. i want to play GB, GBC and GBA games too. :(

somberfox
somberfox

It would've been perfect if they left out the cameras and kept the GBA slot.

mr_marbles_79
mr_marbles_79

Does the dsi shop have the virtual console games like wii because that would be a great way for people to play classic mario without the gba slot

wahyudil
wahyudil

Luckily I never had a DS before ... and now I think is the time to buy one ....

zeldawrocks
zeldawrocks

I don't want a DSi. I love my DS Lite. But then again, I didn't want a DS Lite until I used one and fell for it. And the same with every GB iteration since the GBA. So I won't be surprised if I want one. And I certianly won't be surprised if I get one. Curse Nintendos fantastic handhelds!

atopp399
atopp399

Interesting features if you like the whole camera and gaming kind of thing. I will probably stick with my DS Lite unless they release DSi only Zelda or Mario games.

The DSi Shop sounds cool enough I guess. If you buy the DSi for the original Game Boy game ports I think you could get an original Game Boy and a ton of games for cheaper through ebay than the DSi alone will cost. I hope people are not buying the DSi and using it only as a newer version of the original Game Boy. I can see people paying $170 for this and playing only original Game Boy or Nintendo games through the DSi Shop. I am sure Nintendo will love those people.

This should have been a new Game Boy or DS release not just another system overhaul.

Rect_Pola
Rect_Pola

I'll probably breakdown when they start whipping up DSi-only games.

Slayster
Slayster

I've not owned a handheld since the original gameboy, but the DSi is looking quite tempting.

nate1222
nate1222

@gameking5000 I agree. The DSi looks cool. But I still like playing my GBA games and I'm actually happy with my current DS. Nonetheless, DSi will probably sell well and become Nintendo's new handheld standard. People love their multi-purpose gadgets. Especially if it's cheap. And it'll probably be another thorn in PSP's side.

gameking5000
gameking5000

@Saries I wonder who did that?.... Anyway, the DSi really doesn't seem to improve that much. It doesn't really improve the gameplay at all. Except increasing the devices screen size. To me it feels like I using something like an iPod rather that a gaming console

Saries
Saries

I like how everyone has a negative score on their comments.

DonTonyDeluca
DonTonyDeluca

I cant wait to get this one! sounds awsome, i love new hardware regardless of whether its a new platform entirely or just updates

darkshadow50
darkshadow50

Im going to get one seeing as my DS Lites hinge is buggered and is held together with tape. It will be interesting to see what games and apps they are going to roll out once it is released.