New details on Nintendo DS launch; pack-in demo announced

Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, featuring four-player wireless play, will come bundled with every system. Launch software to be shown in October.


Metroid Prime: Hunters

In an early-morning teleconference today, Nintendo executives Reggie Fils-Aime, George Harrison, and Perrin Kaplan released additional details on the launch of the Nintendo DS. Most importantly, Fils-Aime revealed that Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, a playable demo of the upcoming DS title, will be bundled in with each Nintendo DS system sold this fall.

Metroid Prime: Hunters, a first-person shooter featuring four-player wireless multiplayer, will feature a number of improvements on the E3 version. As Nintendo software impresario Shigeru Miyamoto said in an E3 interview, the final game will feature a standard D-pad-and-buttons control scheme in addition to the stylus control shown off at E3. First Hunt should reflect this as well. "We've improved the playability and have done different things from the player-control standpoint," Fils-Aime said this morning. "The game has changed modestly for the better."

As for further details on the software launch lineup, Fils-Aime revealed this morning that Nintendo will show off the launch lineup to "key media and analysts" at the Gamers' Summit in Seattle in the first week of October. Nintendo was tight-lipped on the subject this morning, stating only that a total of 120 games, from both Nintendo and third parties, are currently in development. Also, as stated in the press release last night, PictoChat, the DS' own drawing-and-text-based chat utility, will be embedded in the DS hardware so all DS users will be able to chat wirelessly with each other--right out of the box.

Nintendo will reveal software pricing at a later date, but did state for now that the business model for DS software is "more attractive" to third parties than the GBA, which suggests a lower price point. Also suggesting a lower price point for DS media is the fact that a demo cartridge is packed in with the hardware. DS media was again confirmed to be 1GB in size.

George Harrison then addressed the marketing efforts that will be undertaken for the DS launch. More than 12,000 interactive DS demo units will be placed in mass-market and specialty stores. Some units, he commented, will actually feature two DS systems so players can experiment with the wireless functionality.

Harrison went on to comment that the DS will be backed by the largest launch budget that Nintendo has ever put behind one of its platforms, console or handheld--$40 million. Harrison also announced that the number of DS units that will be available across all territories during the fiscal year (which ends in March 2005) will be 4 million, up from the previously quoted figure of 3.5 million. Nintendo did not give specifics as to how this launch stock would be split among the four territories (US, Japan, Europe, and Australia) in which Nintendo plans to launch the system before the end of the 2004 fiscal year.

Fils-Aime also briefly commented on the PSP--more specifically, on the lack of any details on the system's launch at Sony's press conference today in Japan. "In many ways, what has transpired overnight does not surprise us," Fils-Aime said. "There has been a lack of detailed info on the PSP for quite some time, and we expect that to continue as they deal with their tough issues on battery life and other challenges."

As previously reported, the Nintendo DS will launch in the US on November 21 and in Japan on December 3, marking the first time that Nintendo has ever launched new hardware outside of Japan. The reasoning behind the new approach is that the US and Japanese holiday shopping seasons are slightly different--Japanese holiday shopping is generally at its peak around New Year's. The price in the US will be $149.99.

Nintendo revealed a few more miscellaneous details: The system will launch only in the silver/black color shown in currently available pictures, although more colors will probably be added later; battery life is 6-10 hours depending on the application; and Game Boy/Game Boy Color games will not be compatible with the DS, although all Game Boy Advance games will work with the system in single-player mode.

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