October 2, 2008

New Nintendo DS Will Add Camera, Portable Music

Nintendo Co Ltd unveiled on Thursday an improved model of its DS portable device that will carry new features including a camera and the ability to play music in hopes of remaining a strong competitor against Sony's PlayStation and Apple Inc's iPod and iPhone.

With a slimmer profile and a larger display than the current model, the new Nintendo DSi is set to hit stores in Japan on November 1 for 18,900 yen ($180).

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said plans to sell the device overseas will be announced later.

Nintendo's strategy to broaden the gaming population by offering innovative but easy-to-play games has been a roaring success in recent years as the DS and Wii console have attracted women and the elderly on top of traditional gamers.

White-hot demand for the DS and Wii console, which features a motion-sensing controller that lets players direct on-screen plays by swinging it like a racket, helped the company raise its annual operating profit forecast in August by 23 percent to 650 billion yen ($6.2 billion).

"We are finding ourselves in an unprecedented stage where one of every six people (in Japan) has the DS," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told a news conference on Thursday.

"We will strive not only to appeal to those households without the DS, but to promote a shift to 'one DS per person' from 'one DS per household'."

About 6.94 million units of the DS were sold worldwide between April and June. Meanwhile, Sony's portable PSP only sold 3.72 million units.

In Japan, however, the PSP outsold the DS by 20 percent in the six months to September, according to game magazine publisher Enterbrain, in a possible sign of slowing momentum for the Nintendo machine.

In response to the growth in popularity of Apple's iPod the new DS also comes with an audio player, to play sound stored in a memory card. Users will be able to change the speed of the sound. In a demonstration, Iwata showed that players will be able to listen to a foreign language lesson at a slower speed, or distort music or voices to a shrill pitch for fun.

Nintendo also demonstrated new game software for its hit Wii home console, including "Wii Music."

Players just need to jiggle their remote controller to feel as though they are playing any of 60 musical instruments, including a drum set, sitar, saxophone and piano, although there are only 50 preprogrammed melodies.

Nintendo's star game designer Shigeru Miyamoto said he loves to practice guitar at home alone but he is intimidated about playing in front of an audience.

"This removes all those obstacles to a jam session," he said.


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