Iwata: DS going online, Revolution to have built-in Wi-Fi

Nintendo's next-gen console to sport built-in wireless connectivity, IBM CPU, and an ATI GPU; DS to go online later this year; new Zelda trailer and screens inside.

Hot on the heels of J Allard's keynote at GDC, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata outlined his own company's future plans in even more detail at the San Francisco event.

After walking onstage, Iwata briefly talked about his background in game development. Then he whet loyal Cubers' appetites by showing a trailer for the forthcoming, still-untitled Legend of Zelda. The trailer (viewable here) showed the new, grittier version of series hero Link engaging in a series of The Lord of the Rings-like adventures, including battling orc-like creatures and visiting a cave full of ghostly warriors.

After the lights came back up, Iwata announced that, four months after its release, the DS is going online. Starting later this year, Nintendo "will provide users with a link to other players across the country or around the world," according to a statement from Nintendo. DS owners will be able to connect to Nintendo's online service, which will be free, from any wireless hot spot using the DS's wireless connectivity, and play other owners of the dual-screen portable online. He said Nintendo's online infrastructure for the device--like the servers--was "already in place."

As further icing on the DS cake, Iwata also revealed that Nintendo is developing a new Animal Crossing title specifically tailored for online play. He also showed off the DS's offline Wi-Fi capabilities in a "spontaneous" eight-player Mario Kart DS game. Iwata also updated the audience on the DS's sales figures--over 4 million to date.

Last but certainly not least, the at-times controversial executive Revolution. Confirming earlier rumors, Iwata said the device would have built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, "which will allow users around the world to connect with one another wirelessly." While he carefully avoided the word "online," Iwata implied that Nintendo will apparently reverse its long-standing policy of abstaining from online gaming with its forthcoming machine, saying it would have sort of the same Wi-Fi functions as the soon-to-be-online DS. He also said development kits for the device would be sent out by the time of the E3 expo in May, and that it would be backward compatible with GameCube titles.

Iwata also let the audience peer into the guts of the Revolution, which he more elegantly referred to as the device's "technological heart." Like the next Xbox, it will be powered by a custom central processor from IBM, in this case code-named "Broadway." It will also sport a graphics card--code-named "Hollywood"--from ATI, which is also making the GPU for the next Xbox. "We're excited to be developing the graphics chip set for Revolution, which continues our long-standing relationship with Nintendo," said ATI president and CEO Dave Orton in a statement.

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