Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What If a New DS Was Announced at E3 2008?

Many rumors are flying around already about this year's E3 and I'm sure there will be many more as July draws closer. One of those rumors was a remodeled or next generation of the money making machine also known as Nintendo DS. I can see why people would think a next gen model would be coming soon. Game Boy Color came out in 1998, Game Boy Advance in 2001, the original DS was unleashed in 2004 and followed up by the DS Lite in 2006. It would seem every three years or so Nintendo makes us empty our wallets for a new handheld. A new DS system in 2009 would seem to be a safe bet. Personally, I think a redesign is more likely. The DS has plenty of life left. The dual screened wonder has sold over 100 million units worldwide (source) and doesn't show too many signs of stopping. Games are still being released like wildfire (I'm talking quantity, not quality), it's still way ahead of PSP and Nintendo still has some key franchises they haven't covered yet. I predict we'll see one more redesign before a totally new version emerges. But what if I'm wrong?

I present to you my Nintendo DS "Next" Wishlist...

» Wi-Fi Enabled PictoChat: This would seem as such an obvious feature but, knowing Nintendo, it would still require Friend Codes to chat (which we all know I love!). A buddy list similar to AIM/MSN would be convenient to see if your friends are available for playing.

» Quality Speakers: I usually play with headphones because those cheap speakers sound awful. One of the few things the PSP got right was quality speakers.

» Backwards Compatibility: Another obvious one, but it still needs to be said. First gen DS games are a must. GBA should still be there, too. Slot 2 is also useful for accessories (Guitar Hero, anyone?).

» Internal Rumble: Not too important, but would be nice. As long as it isn't overused, it shouldn't affect battery life too much.

» Improved Download Play Speeds: DS Download Play is a great feature for people that want to play but don't own a copy of the game. Even Multicard Play load times are pretty hefty. Hopefully they are working on ways to decrease the waiting time to play.

» SD Slot: Nintendo has to compete with the PSP as far as multimedia. Being able to store game saves, pictures, video and music would be a nice addition for an on-the-go gamer.

» Larger Buttons: Notice I didn't say more buttons. Even though the DS appeals to children, us older folk have bigger hands and I don't think bigger buttons would cause any kiddies to not be able to play. The only button addition needed is a home button similar to Wii.

» Improved Graphics: There's only been a few games that really pushed the DS to it's limits in the graphics department (Exhibit A). So it's hard to tell what "improved graphics" would be. It won't be a huge jump, but even increasing cart size may help developers pack some more punch.

» Ergonomic Design: The DS "Phat" was actually easier to hold on to for extended periods of time than the Lite. We all like out tech toys to be small, but it has to be comfortable too.

» Widescreen: Another feature that could be cool, but not needed. The touch screen should probably stay around the same size but the top screen could prove quite useful in wide screen.

» Updated Firmware: The next DS should be Wii's true counterpart. The channel menu interface would be touch screen friendly and very familiar. Having a game channel and home button would be useful for hot swapping (it's really a pain to keep turning on and off the system). With a touch of a button on the home screen you can flip the bottom screen with the top screen where you'll find your buddy list, messages and data management. And of course, it's all upgradeable.

» Internal Flash Memory: Time to stop wasting room saving on the cart. If an externalcard slot isn't included, I don't see it impossible to include at least 256 MB worth of memory built in for downloading demos and games (see below).

» Virtual Console: It worked for the Wii! With your My Nintendo account linked to your DS you can transfer your purchased games to your DS. With the current button layout most NES/GEN/SNES/SMS games should work fine. It also seems DS homebrew is all over the place so the only logical thing to do is cash in with DS Ware. The addition of GB/GBC/GBA games would be the icing on the cake.

Nintendo is infamous for doing a lot right and a lot wrong with their systems. I highly doubt all these features could be included, but I like to think that at least a few of them will. You have to think about the production costs, price points, etc. Parents aren't going to shell out $300 for a hand held for their kids. A nice balance of the above features will get 1st gen DS owners to migrate over and should attract some new customers as well (if there's anyone out there without one already!). Then there's people like us that will buy whatever Nintendo tells us to.