Nintendo recently announced the next iteration of its DS (short for dual screen) handheld will hit U.S. stores on April 5. It’ll sport two LCD screens, a pair of digital cameras, Wi-Fi capability and an SD card reader. That list of features suggests a lot of lifestyle-type uses that go way beyond gaming, but will Nintendo take full advantage?
We already know the machine will play the DS’ robust library of games, but it’s sort of a mystery what Nintendo plans to do with its two 0.3 megapixel digital cameras. You’re not going to be using the DS to make phone calls, so in some ways it’s a redundant feature for most of us with low-grade digital cameras built into our cell phones. Clearly, Nintendo must have some gaming or software-related use in mind for these cameras, or it wouldn’t have included one of them, let alone two.
Fawning previews for the DSi have touted its potential use as a “lifestyle” device rather than a gaming machine. Several of the popular “games” for the machine might not be games at all, with one article discussing a pedometer-like application that keeps track of how far you’ve walked and how many calories you’ve burned.
The DS has already had some nontraditional gaming hits, with its popular brain-training games (that don’t actually improve your mental acuity) and pet-raising simulations. But I’m more interested in whether American DS owners might finally reap some of the cool software benefits enjoyed by Japanese users. I remember reading a while back about a Japanese DS “game” that helps gamers pick out a wine at the grocery store. Input a few broad menu options about what’s for dinner and, voila, up pops suggested pairings. Other features I’d like are the ability to access weather reports, as well as maps and my fantasy sports teams.
Lots of people already do this sort of things on their iPhones. But there’s certainly room in the U.S. marketplace for an iPhonelike, Internet-enabled device that doesn’t come with a costly service plan or even the ability to make phone calls at all. The DSi will already come with an SD card reader that will allow for music and movie playback. If they add a wireless keyboard that plugs into the DS cartridge slot and lets me surf the Web and send e-mail, I may never buy a smartphone.