Commentary > Game Over
Nintendo embraces instant messaging?
New handheld system will feature free wireless gaming, IM capabilities.
March 16, 2004: 3:06 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) Nintendo's latest handheld system seems to be moving even further away from a pure gaming machine.

In an analyst report issued Tuesday, P.J. McNealy of American Technology Research said the upcoming Nintendo DS will offer Instant Messaging functionality. Rather than being offered nationally, though, the DS is more likely to offer local IM service, using free bandwidth with unlicensed RF spectrum (essentially, the same bandwidth that's used by two-way communication devices). Users would type messages on a touch screen using a stylus.

The addition of IM would be the second potential step for the DS to be a multimedia device. In an earlier note, McNealy revealed a two-hour movie has been successfully demonstrated on the machine. Nintendo has not confirmed any non-gaming functionality, however.

Additionally, the DS will feature free wireless gaming, McNealy wrote. Exactly what that might mean is unclear. It could be that the machine will simply allow players in the same room to play together without the need for a corded connection. (Indeed, a wireless adaptor for the Game Boy Advance is already being sold in Japan.) Conversely, Nintendo could allow friends in different locations to compete against each other or co-operatively, should the wireless signal be strong enough.

Nintendo declined to comment on the report, citing its policy of not addressing rumors or speculation.

Game Over
Video Games
Nintendo Company Limited

As talk grows about the DS sporting additional functionality, interest in the system is increasing. Industry observers are curious whether the company will use the DS to go head to head with Sony's PSP, a handheld game device that offers additional multimedia functionality. Sony (SNE: Research, Estimates) in late February delayed the North American launch of the PSP until early 2005. Nintendo said it is still on track to release the DS this holiday season.

Though the PSP was originally seen as a threat to Nintendo's Game Boy, that talk has quieted in recent months as major publishers have suggested it will carry a price tag ranging from $199-$249 and software will run for $40. Neither Nintendo or its publishing partners have suggested a price point for the DS. McNealy has written that software will likely range from $20-$30.

Nintendo has tried hard to keep details about the DS under wraps, only acknowledging it would feature two, three-inch LCD screens and two separate processors. There has been tremendous speculation on how the machine will look.

McNealy's note, which cites "several [unnamed] industry sources," said the machine will have design characteristics similar to the popular Game Boy Advance SP.

The DS will incorporate the 'clamshell' look of the Game Boy Advance.  
The DS will incorporate the 'clamshell' look of the Game Boy Advance.

"The form factor will feature two three-inch screens that fold together, similar to that of the Game Boy Advance," wrote McNealy. "There will be two flipper controls, two directional pads, and an 'a' and 'b' button. The stylus will be used for gaming, Instant Messaging, and other multimedia functionalities."

The possible inclusion of wireless multiplayer gaming has long been rumored for the DS. Sony has reportedly dropped wireless functionality from the PSP, which could give Nintendo a leg up. (It's entirely possible Sony is still debating whether to include some sort of wireless gaming, however.)

Click here for more columns.

Wireless technology likely will play a significant role in the next generation of consoles with Nintendo's next generation machine due in 2006. If the DS does have wireless functionality, it's possible the device might be able to sync up with the new console, much as the GBA can link up with the GameCube today.  Top of page

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus rally
Thanks for nothing, Corporate America
It's not just the economy, stupid
Wells Fargo's scandals are hurting its bottom line
Prices are rising faster than they have in six years
Britain probably can't have what it wants with both the EU and the US

graphic graphic