Thursday, February 16, 2006

Nintendo DS to Get Net, TV

It looks like the handheld gaming market is going to get even more interesting. While Variety is reporting that some movie studios are cutting back on UMD movie releases for the Sony PSP due to sluggish demand, the RED HERRING writes that Nintendo is adding new features to its DS platform to bring it closer in line to the PSP in terms of capabilites.

Nintendo announced plans to sell a customized version of the Opera Web browser on a DS cartridge and a separate TV antenna and tuner cartridge as well. David Chamberlain at In-Stat said, “A Wi-Fi box that’s connected to your TV [is] very exciting for people trying to make other kinds of applications. I think [Nintendo will]… gauge the market and find out not only what kind of support they get from consumers, but developers as well.”

Schelley Olhava at IDC noted "Nintendo has an advantage in the fact that gamers tend to be very accepting of new, fringe technology, but at the same time it adds new features to the device, the company has to focus on the gaming experience."

According to Nintendo, more than 14 million DS systems have been shipped worldwide with more than 4 million of them sold in the U.S. According to Olhava, "by the end of 2006 the PSP will have an estimated 24 million users worldwide, compared to the DS’ 21 million."

Olhava said, “People will continue to purchase the devices first and foremost to play games. Secondarily they will watch movies and browse the web.” But value-added services and accessories could make the difference in a market worth billions of dollars."

Based on personal observations of my two kids, the DS is winning hands down on the gaming front. After a month, my 8 year-old daughter is still going strong with her DS and 2 games, while my10 year-old son's PSP lays dormant for weeks at a time. To be fair, my son has a PS2 as well, but the PSP is still lagging on the compelling games front and now its multimedia advantage is taking a hit too.

Anyone could see the lack of demand for UMD movies from miles away, since who would want to buy the same movie twice if you didn't have to. Get it on DVD and then copy it to the Memory Stick Duo. It might take a few hours but it'll save you some money. And now the PSP web browsing ability is coming under assault too.

Nintendo has picked a good company to work with in Opera and I'm guessing with a stylus and touch screen you could have a much richer browsing experience than with the PSP. It'll soon to be hard to determine which device is for the kids and which is for the grownups...