SAN FRANCISCO--On Sunday, Nikkei Net reported that Nintendo was readying a third hardware configuration for the DS. The Kyoto-based game giant quickly blasted the story "speculation," saying that the Japanese news service had based the story on their own research and not any official announcement.
It didn't take long for the official announcement to come. On Thursday morning in Japan, Nintendo held a press conference to unveil the DSi. The redesigned handheld will be 12 percent thinner than the DS Lite, with screens 17 percent larger than those of its predecessor. Though it will lose the Game Boy Advance slot, it will boast two cameras--one outward-facing 3 megapixel and one lower-resolution one for self-portraits--and an SD card slot for multimedia storage. It will also sport a built-in Internet browser, which will let users directly download games from a new online DSi store.
The DSi will launch in Japan on November 1 for ¥18,900 (about $179). However, Nintendo did not use its Tokyo press conference to reveal release plans for the handheld in any other territory. Presumably, that's what Nintendo of America is planning to do at its own media jamboree, which is being held at an upscale hotel just off of San Francisco's iconic Union Square this morning.
Game journalists and analysts from across the continent gathered for the two-day event's kickoff presentation, which will be presided over by Cammie Dunaway, NOA's executive vice president of sales and marketing. In 2007, she took over the position from now-NOA President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime, whose attendance at today's to-do had not yet been confirmed as reporters jostled for position inside the presentation hall. Dunaway and Fils-Aime co-anchored Nintendo's widely derided presentation at this year's E3 Media & Business Summit in Los Angeles.
[9:12] Reggie made it, he takes the stage to tell us about "the third upgraded DS" and holds up a DSi.
[9:14] DSi will have built-in flash memory, "which will change the way DS is played."
[9:14] DSi shop will launch with redesigned versions of two Brain Age games.
[9:15] The soul of DSi will be "new forms of entertainment." Its camera and music functions are not meant to compete with the "red ocean" of competitors.
[9:16] The DSi has 2 cameras, and "how you use the cameras will make the difference." The pairing will offer a "new way of photo functionality." Photos can be edited, manipulated, combined, and shared online.
[9:19] "We intend for this to be the camera for your everyday life," says El Reg.
[9:19] DSi will allow for full media playback for music and podcasts.
[9:19] The DSi browser will be a modified version of the Wii's Opera browser.
[9:20] It will be faster than the DS Lite for Web connections.
[9:20] "Today's Japan announcement is for Japan only," says Reg. "We will not see the DSi in America until well into calendar year 2009."
[9:21] "Here's why," he continues. "There is currently still much demand for the current model of the DS Lite in the US." He says that they are 22 percent ahead of 2007's record sales, so there's no need to introduce the DSi just yet.
[9:23] "Iwata is addressing the problem of Wii storage," he says. "Soon you will be able to download and store virtual console and WiiWare titles directly on your SD card, and play them off your SD card. This will make the Wii download experience much easier."
[9:23] Reg quickly switches gears to sales, and says Wii hardware and DS hardware will break records come holiday shopping season.
[9:24] "Will this be enough to meet demand?" asks Fils-Aime, "To that I say, 'Ask me in January.'"
[9:26] Dunaway takes the stage now, to introduce a remake of Punch-Out. The game will follow scrawny Little Mac on his road to becoming the champ. It will apparently feature returning fighters such as Glass Joe and King Hippo.
[9:27] Next she's touting a new build of Call of Duty: World at War for the Wii.
[9:27] On comes a slide of the "black, white, and red" action game MadWorld. Think Sin City meets Killer7 on the Wii and you're close.
[9:28] Punch-Out is just for the Wii, apparently.
[9:29] High Voltage Software's Eric Nofsinger gets onstage to show off The Conduit, the Wii-exclusive shooter due Q1 2009.
[9:30] "Our goal is to make a AAA shooter for the Wii," he says, and the pre-alpha build he's showing definitely looks promising.
[9:32] The game will feature aliens taking over Washington, DC and will feature 15 enemy types. Think Area 51 in the US Capitol.
[9:33] The gameplay looks very F.E.A.R. like, with graphics that look surprisingly sharp for the Wii.
[09:36] Dunaway takes the stage to reintroduce Wii Music, which she says "Miyamoto says he isn't sure is even a game."
[09:37] Onstage bounds JC Rodrigo from Nintendo studio Treehouse.
[09:37] "The point of this game isn't a high score," he says. "The point is to play however you want.
[09:38] "You can play whatever you want however you want to play it," he says, offering a reggae version of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as an example. Apparently there's even a barbershop quartet mode.
[09:40] Rodrigo shows how you can use just two buttons to play music. He cycles through the instruments, which include everything from guitars to bagpipes.
[09:41] He demonstrates how you can cut reverb and make chords through button combinations.
[09:42] The number of instruments is staggering, and includes sitars and bells. At the author's request he tries out the bagpipes, which don't sound even vaguely Scottish.
[09:42] Should've seen this coming--someone asks for "more cowbell," and Rodrigo obliges.
[09:44] Percussion instruments also include a beatbox option. The Fat Boys are spinning in their graves.
[09:45] Apparently the 50-odd Wi-Fi laptops in the hall are causing interference with the Wii Remotes. But that doesn't stop them from trying another rendition of the Super Mario Bros. theme, with less disastrous results than at E3.
[09:45] Of course, there are only two instruments involved.
[09:46] Rodrigo and a partner try to act like they're rocking out, but the music sounds very much like a kindergartner mucking about on a Yamaha home organ. Still, the nonbutchered theme draws applause from the audience.
[09:47] Apparently they showed off Wii Music at the Austin City Limits music festival. Dunaway gets onstage to read testimonials about the game from musicians you've never heard of. Apparently it's great for teaching kids about music--hopefully it will make grade-school music classes less agonizing.
[09:47] Now it's on to Animal Crossing: City Folk.
[09:48] "When we introduced Animal Crossing on the GameCube, most people didn't get it," she concedes. "But it was the core gamers which really get into it."
[09:48] The new game will have USB keyboard support and DS connectivity.
[09:49] "We think this will really enhance the experience for core gamers, who will spread the word," she said.
[09:50] Now she's touting Wii Fit. Apparently Jessica Simpson and Christina Aguilera's personal trainer is in the house to whip any takers into shape.
[09:51] Next up is Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party, which Dunaway says...hold on a sec. Sin and Punishment 2 from Treasure just came up out of nowhere.
[09:51] Due in North America in 2009.
[09:51] "We saw how many downloads there were in Japan and realized US gamers would appreciate it too."
[09:52] Original was an N64 sequel, but this one is all-new and all Wii.
[09:52] Switching gears back to the DS, Dunaway introduces a "new series of games from the creator of Brain Age."
[09:53] Behold the Personal Trainer series, which will teach you how to actually do things like cooking, math, and...walking? Walking?!
[09:53] Apparently the hotel chef will be demoing it later today.
[09:54] Now another new game: Rhythm Heaven, due in the first half of 2009 in North America.
[09:54] Apparently the game is currently selling 50,000 units a week in Japan, and is expected to be a big hit.
[09:54] Oh, hello. Age of Empires: Mythologies coming to DS in November 2008.
[09:55] Like Viva Pinata DS, the Microsoft Games Studio game spin-off is being published by THQ.
[09:55] Tecmo Bowl DS. November 2008 as well--hello, Christmas wish list!
[09:56] Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, due October 21, and Chrono Trigger available this holiday season.
[09:57] Now it's Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, the series' DS debut in North America. Due first half of 2009.
[09:58] Another American Treehouse employee takes the stage to show off some gameplay.
[09:59] The employee stresses how strategic the gameplay is, given that when you lose a soldier or character, they're gone for good.
[09:59] He demonstrates how to ambush characters in a mountain pass.
[09:59] The entire game will have stylus-based touch-screen controls.
[10:00] Pegasi battle barbarians in the top screen, and the demoer stresses the enhanced graphics, battle animations, and magic animations.
[10:03] The game will have wireless multiplayer, both ad hoc and via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
[10:03] You will be able to pit five of your best soldiers against five opponents.
[10:04] This Fire Emblem features full voice-chat support, allowing for unlimited nerd trash-talk.
[10:04] You can also loan and borrow units from friends to use in your single-player campaign.
[10:04] Obviously, this will be all done wirelessly.
[10:05] When you give the unit back, you keep the experience.
[10:06] There's also an in-game shop option that lets players use gold earned in-game to buy new items from an online store. Apparently new and powerful items will be rotated into the store, which will have daily inventory changes.
[10:06] Dunaway says she's "merciless" when playing the game. Fierce!
[10:07] She introduces Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, available November 10.
[10:07] Next comes Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure from EA.
[10:07] Now she introduces Mario & Luigi RPG 3, available next year for the DS.
[10:08] A trailer shows that players can assume the role of Bowser during the game.
[10:09] Dunaway is wrapping up with two more announcements.
[10:09] Wii Speak channel is coming November 16.
[10:10] The Wii Speak channel uses a microphone on top of your set for up to four people to talk via their Miis online. It will be sold separately for $29.99 and will come with a code that will let you download the Wii Speak Channel software for free from the Wii Shop Channel.
[10:10] Last but not least, she announces to much applause that Club Nintendo is coming to America. The program lets players earn points by buying games, filling out surveys, and other activities and redeem them for highly coveted limited-edition Nintendo wares.
[10:12] Denise Kaigler resumes the stage to tout the online press kit, and some other legal disclaimers. Come back to GameSpot Monday for previews galore from Nintendo's fall press event.