Iwata promises new DS functions, dates Wii gift channel

Nintendo president tells the <i>Wall Street Journal</i> the DS will get "practical" abilities next year; Wii VC game exchange launching in December worldwide, TV guide channel in Japan in March.

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Nintendo has already lured millions of nongamers into its web with the Wii's motion-sensing control and the DS's brain-training titles. However, that hasn't stopped the company from planning to expand its "Blue Ocean" strategy to further entice consumers by adding nontraditional gaming functions to its platforms. At the E3 Media & Business Summit in July, designer Shigeru Miyamoto unveiled Wii Fit, a game/peripheral combo that turns the Wii into a virtual personal trainer/yoga guru.

Now it seems Nintendo has plans to further enhance its DS handheld with nongaming features. Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said that his company plans to roll out a series of "practical" DS functionalities that "will be useful in places like train stations, amusement parks or museums."

"This is the first device that is portable and wireless and anybody can use," said Iwata of the DS. "With so many devices out there, it would be wasteful to not turn it into a tool."

Unfortunately, Iwata did not go into any more detail about the nature or launch date of the DS's forthcoming features. However, Nintendo has been quietly offering limited nongaming functionality for the DS in the US for quite some time. During the just-concluded Major League Baseball season, the company transmitted stats, trivia games, and video replays for a fee to DS owners at Seattle Mariner home games. In Japan, museums have allowed visitors to download a virtual tour guide to the handheld.

Besides dishing about the DS, Iwata also told the WSJ that the Wii's recently announced game-gift channel would launch worldwide in December. Though details remain scarce, the service will apparently allow gamers to give each other Wii Virtual Console games as presents for this coming holiday season. According to Japanese magazine Famitsu, Iwata has also confirmed that Nintendo will launch an interactive television guide channel in Japan in spring 2008.

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