Thursday, 26 February 2009

Nintendo DSi: the ultimate lifestyle accessory?

According to:

The free Nintendo DSi, Nintendo’s latest DS console is destined to become a must-have gadget.

Is there anything this little device cannot do? I refer, of course, to the Nintendo DS, the handheld games console that is the socially acceptable face of video gaming. Since the first Nintendo DS was launched in 2005, followed swiftly by a touch-screen version in 2006, almost 100 million of the pocket-sized gadgets have been sold across the globe.

April sees the launch of yet another Nintendo console – the DSi. This gadget, broadly similar to the current DS Lite, has a built-in camera, a larger screen and the ability to download games straight to the device. Despite the current state of the economy, and the downturn in consumer spending, it’s expected to fly off the shelves.

It’s not hard to see why. The DS is less a gaming gadget and more a lifestyle accessory. It has also fundamentally altered the way people view video games. Gaming is no longer the preserve of teenage boys hunkered down in darkened bedrooms for hours on end; it’s something enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities – a pick-up, put-down distraction to while away the morning commute. “It’s more than a gaming system, and more of a personal tool to enrich our daily lives,” said a Nintendo spokesman.

The success of Nintendo’s DS and free Wii consoles is due largely to the formidable library of games that users can choose from. While some “traditional” gamers have carped at the lack of games to suit them, “casual” gamers and newcomers to the pastime have been quick to embrace new types of “games”, from those designed to hone mental agility to others that encourage users to take care of virtual pets.

“Nintendo is the friendly face of gaming,” says Guy Cocker, who writes for Gamespot. “It’s proving popular with people who don’t even consider themselves to be gamers.”

The DS is dozens of gadgets in one user-friendly package. Who needs an Amazon Kindle when the DS can double as an ebook reader? Last month, Nintendo launched the 100 Classic Book Collection, a “game” which didn’t involve racing cars or defeating enemies, but rather using the console as a portable novel, and ploughing through the likes of Oliver Twist and Alice in Wonderland.

Likewise, you could give up your expensive gym membership and turn instead to the trusty DS to lick you into shape. The My Health Coach game comes with a free pedometer, which plugs in to a slot on the DS, and software to help measure, record and analyse your daily exercise regime. It even enables you to keep a tally of what you’ve eaten throughout the course of the day, and will suggest a nutritionally balanced menu for your next meal.

There’s a yoga game too, as well as games designed to help improve your sight and reaction speeds, and quicken your mental sharpness. My French Coach can help you learn another language, while Stop Smoking with Allen Carr provides a step-by-step personalised program to help you give up the demon tobacco. I’m a big fan of Cooking Guide, a fantastically clever game that not only suggests recipes based on the ingredients you have in your cupboard, but will provide idiot-proof spoken instructions as you cook.

Given the success and enduring popularity of the touch-screen DS Lite, Nintendo could be viewed as taking a risk with its newest handheld console, the DSi. Although it proved a smash-hit in Japan when it was launched late last year, selling more than 1.6 million units in the first two months, cash-strapped British buyers might prove harder to please. Despite the addition of a low-quality camera and music player, and a more svelte design, the DSi differs little from its predecessor.

But, says Guy Cocker, it’s the way Nintendo uses these new features that will make the DSi the latest must-have gadget. “Nintendo knows what it’s doing. They will really take advantage of the new hardware offered by the DSi, and I’m sure they’ve already got some great new games in mind. Expect to see games that use the camera’s motion-sensing capabilities, which will in turn encourage people to upgrade to this newest console. Hardcore gamers will buy it anyway, because they like to have the latest gear.”

The DSi boasts a new feature that will enable users to download games and other software straight on to their device via a wireless network. Among the initial offerings will be a notepad-style program on which to write notes, as well as puzzle games.

Cocker believes the new DSi Ware shop could prove as significant as Apple’s Application Store, which enables iPhone and iPod touch users to download new software to their devices, and which has sold more half a billion applications since July.

“A lot of people will use this to try out new games and download new titles,” he says. “I think the influence of the iPhone is clear.”

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