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Nintendo DS Plays TV, Web

16 Feb, 2006 By: John Gaudiosi

Nintendo is expanding the entertainment capabilities of its best-selling Nintendo DS, making it possible to watch live television and surf the Internet using the dual-screen portable game device.

Oslo, Norway-based Opera Software is creating a Web browser for the hand-held that will work with the built-in Wi-Fi functionality of the Nintendo DS. Once gamers buy the browser, which will come on a standard cartridge, they will be able to surf the Web on both the touch-sensitive and regular screens using the stylus and onscreen keypad for input. A U.S. launch is expected later this year after an April debut in Japan.

A separate Nintendo DS card is in development that comes with a TV tuner and antenna that will allow gamers to watch digital TV broadcasts. U.S. release plans for this product have not been announced.

Nintendo also is rolling out additional features for the Nintendo DS. Starting next month, gamers will be able to download game demos, trailers and other content via thousands of retail kiosks nationwide that send content over Wi-Fi.

The initial details of the digital distribution project were outlined by Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo EVP of sales and marketing, in his keynote speech at the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' DICE 2006 Summit in Las Vegas, in which he spoke of the expanded wireless capabilities of the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

He said deals already are in place to have the kiosks placed in such specialty retail stores as Gamestop, EB Games and Game Crazy. Fils-Aime added that Nintendo is in advanced discussions with Target and Wal-Mart to add kiosks in their stores and that he expects the initiative to expand beyond retail premises. Japanese fans already can download Nintendo DS content at train stations.

Using the Nintendo DS' built-in Wi-Fi technology, owners can download content from anywhere within a 15-foot radius of the kiosk and it will remain on the device until it is shut off.

Nintendo also is introducing Voiceover Internet Protocol with new games that will allow players to use the built-in microphone to talk in real time before and after online matches of games like Metroid Prime: Hunters.

Gamers playing the first-person shooter game, which goes on sale March 20, will be able to talk live with other players before and after multiplayer online matches. Combining VoIP with Wi-Fi paves the way for Nintendo to further expand the cell phone-style communication of its gaming device.

The first DS Download Service stations will include free demos of Tetris DS, Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day, Mario Kart DS, Meteos, True Swing Golf and Pok?mon Trozei along with a Metroid Prime: Hunters video clip. The selection of games and other downloadable content at DS Download Service kiosks will refresh quarterly.

In November, Nintendo partnered with Wayport to allow gamers free Wi-Fi hot spots at more than 6,000 McDonald's restaurants. When coupled with the new Opera software, gamers would be able to play online games or search the Web at these hot spots for free, or log into thousands of other hot spots around the country at the standard rate.

Nintendo has sold more than 14.4 million Nintendo DS hardware units worldwide since its 2004 launch. More than 850,000 unique Nintendo DS gamers have played games on Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection, with more than 20 million different connections.

Despite the launch of Sony's PlayStation Portable, Nintendo continues to dominate the portable gaming market, which was the only sector driving game hardware and software sales last year in the U.S., the NPD Group reported. Portable game sales represented 25% of the video game market space last year. In addition to Nintendo DS, Nintendo also has its Game Boy Advance SP and Game Boy Advance Micro hardware.

Chris Marlowe contributed to this report.

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