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Nintendo redesigns its new handheld
Nintendo DS Lite will be 2/3 the size of its predecessor.
Game Over is a weekly column by Chris Morris

NEW YORK ( Facing stiffer competition from its chief rival, Nintendo unveiled a new, streamlined look for its latest handheld system Thursday.

The Nintendo DS Lite will be 2/3 the size of the original Nintendo DS and weigh 20 percent less, the company said. The system will also feature brighter screens, making it easier to see gameplay.

The Nintendo DS Lite is 2/3 the size of its predecessor.
The Nintendo DS Lite is 2/3 the size of its predecessor.
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The new system will launch in Japan in March for 16,800 yen (approximately $145) slightly more expensive than the current system. Nintendo did not immediately announce release dates for the United States and other territories. Those will likely be announced in the next few months.

The DS has been a hit for the company, selling more than 14.4 million units worldwide since going on sale in November 2004. The system has been widely praised for encouraging gameplay innovation and introducing new gameplay styles. It has faced considerable competition, though, from Sony's PSP (PlayStation Portable), which hit U.S. retailers in March 2005. (Sony (Research) announced Thursday that it has shipped 15 million PSP units since the system's introduction.)

Though its gameplay has been praised, the same can not be said of the DS's appearance. The system's rounded clamshell appearance lacked the polish of the PSP or even the Game Boy Advance SP. As soon as the DS was released, the company began working on a new look. Last November, Reggie Fils-Aime, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Nintendo of America, inferred a redesign was imminent for the system.

The DS Lite shares some of the cosmetic features of the forthcoming Nintendo Revolution. Like the Revolution's controller, the DS Lite is a bright white color, reminiscent of Apple's iPod. Screen size hasn't changed on the system, but users will now be able to adjust the level of brightness with four possible options.

Nintendo has had luck increasing sales of its handheld systems via redesigns over the past few years. The Game Boy Advance, like the DS, was a technically powerful system, but its appearance played into the company's child friendly image. When it introduced the GBA SP 19 months later, the company reinvigorated the market, giving the Game Boy a more modern, compact look that fueled interest among older gamers.

Last year, the company offered a third look for the Game Boy with the Micro, a miniature GBA that hoped to capitalize on the "smaller is better" fad kicked off by the iPod mini. The Micro, roughly the size of a business card, has had fairly good, but not outstanding, sales likely because the Game Boy Advance is widely assumed to be nearing the end of its lifecycle, with a next generation system in the works.

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