Iwata: DS can download and play back games

Nintendo's president says the new handheld will be able to receive wireless game downloads, then execute them on the fly.

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TOKYO--When analysts reported last month that the Nintendo DS would support voice-over-IP functionality, we thought we'd heard the last secret of the Nintendo DS hardware. But at this morning's press conference in Tokyo, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed that the machine can download game data wirelessly, then play it back.

"The Nintendo DS' greatest features are its revolutionary control schemes, such as the touch-sensitive screen and the microphone input," Iwata began. "And its other major feature is the wireless connection. With it, we're going to revolutionize the way that games are played."

"The DS's wireless connection isn't just a substitute for the link cable that was used on the Game Boy [for multiplayer games]. The DS has wireless download capability, which allows it to receive a program and to execute it. With it, people can play games together using only one cartridge," commented Iwata, citing as one example Super Mario 64 DS' four-player, one-cartridge simultaneous gameplay.

While game-session sharing isn’t totally new, since it was possible with titles on the Game Boy Advance, the DS can do far more. "Although this won't be available at launch, we're thinking of using the wireless download function to change the way in which people try out upcoming games at retail outlets," said Iwata. "We're thinking of a system where people can download a demo program [from the store’s machines], with a time or a usage limit, to their own DS. We hope that this system will allow new potential hits to be recognized by everyone, and that it will help to buck the trend where only sequels are hitting the sales charts."

Iwata also went on to talk about plans to integrate the DS' download capability with theatrical movie releases, starting off with a short mention of former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi's conviction that Nintendo should enter the animated film business.

"We are absolutely considering the idea [of going into the movie business]," Iwata said. "Although we don't have anything to talk about right now, we hope to make an announcement by the end of the year."

"On a related subject, we're planning [to] try integrating the DS with movie theaters. By using the system's wireless functionality, users that bring their DS and GBA Pokémon cartridge to designated theaters will be able to download game data that will be distributed during certain scenes of next summer's Pokémon movie. In one scene where the main characters meet a new Pokémon, that character's data will be sent to their cartridges. This will be the first time such a distribution scheme has been used anywhere in the world."

(We can deduce from this statement that the Game Boy Advance cartridge slot on the DS must be somehow compatible with the wireless link functionality. Although it is known that the Game Boy Advance link cable will not work with the DS, it seems likely now that GBA titles with wireless support will indeed be able to link up while in a DS system, although this has not been confirmed nor denied.)

While most of Iwata’s comments were based on the Nintendo DS, he assured the crowd that Nintendo is still supporting the Game Boy Advance. “The DS isn’t the only thing that Nintendo will focus on. Ever since the price reduction of the Game Boy Advance SP in September, it’s been selling better than last year, when it was in high demand to begin with. We forecast that there will be over 60 million units shipped throughout the world within the year including the Game Boy Advance, and we are anticipating further market expansion [of the handheld and its games].”

Stay tuned to GameSpot for more information about the Nintendo DS all this week.

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