Nintendo iQue goes online

$20 upgrade to Nintendo's China-market home system will let users download, play games online.

Nintendo is going online, but not in the way you'd expect. iQue, the China-based joint venture between Nintendo and former Silicon Graphics president Wai Yen, has announced that it will release a peripheral device that will let owners of the iQue Player download and play games online, specialist import game retailer Lik-Sang reported today.

Launched nearly one year ago, the iQue Player is for all intents and purposes a micro-sized Nintendo 64 system built into a largish control pad. All games are run off rewriteable flash cards--iQue kiosks in Chinese supermarkets will write new games onto the cards. Users pay for them with special paper vouchers that cost about $8.

Plugging the iQue hardware into the $20 iQue USB Cable Upgrade, and then plugging the system into the USB slots on an Internet-enabled PC, will allow users to access the iQue@Home service. Players can then download games by using the vouchers, as well as store games on the flash card to a remote server to free up room for more games. iQue owners will also be able to communicate with each other using the service.

The peripheral will be available in about two weeks. No announcements have been made yet as to how the online multiplayer will function--that is, whether online modes are already built into the software, or whether users will have to buy or download all-new games. Also not known is whether this development is any indication of how the Nintendo DS, Nintendo's next home system, might make use of online functionality. Still, it's an intriguing move from a company normally resistant to Internet gaming.

Games available for the iQue are as follows:

1. Dr. Mario
2. Super Mario 64
3. Star Fox 64
4. Wave Race
5. Mario Kart 64
6. F-Zero X
7. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time
8. Yoshi's Story
9. Paper Mario
10. Sin and Punishment

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