While I’m not really sold on the DSi either, I’m excited about its potential quite a bit more than Kat seems to be. Yes, a fairly large number of Gameboy games are utter crap, and yes, there’s probably a decent number of people out there that still own a working something that can play Gameboy games; between the original, the Pocket, the Color, the GBA, and the GBA SP, there’s a good chance you’ve owned something that can play them at one point. Much like Nintendo’s E3 press conference, though, this isn’t for you.
[[image: ar_100208_dsi_01.jpg:Ain’t it purty?:center:0]]
No, the DSi, to me, seems like Nintendo’s next big step at becoming Apple 2. With the announcement of DS Ware and the name change from “Wii Points” to “Nintendo Points” the Virtual Console is no longer Wii-specific. This could very well be the foundation of Nintendo’s virtual games service…thing. There’s no way Nintendo hasn’t looked at the success of iTunes and said, “We can do that, too.” The new buzz word in technology these days is “platforms”. The iPhone, Google’s Android phone, and even Rock Band’s downloadable songs are all (or will be) platforms. Nintendo was always good at making money off platforms back when we called them “consoles,” but the idea is evolving along with the consumer these days and Nintendo doesn’t want to get left behind. What with the strength of their lineage — and since we’ve all taught them just how much we’re willing to pay for nostalgia over the years — they can offer up hundreds of bite-sized titles for a few bucks and build one hell of a virtual gaming platform.
Of course we already know this; that’s what the Virtual Console has essentially been all along. The DSi changes things because it makes things portable. Rather than follow in Apple’s footsteps forever, Nintendo’s now stepping up to meet the iPhone head-on. Apple recently rolled out its own games store, and now Nintendo’s going to beat them into submission with the combined strength of Gameboy, GBA, DS, and DS Ware titles. If they were smart, they’d set up something similar to the PS3/PSP remote play system and let us play Virtual Console games on the DSi, too, but they probably don’t need to for this particular showdown.
However, that would be short-sightedness on Nintendo’s part, I think. Imagine how awesome it would be if they went the extra mile and essentially became one of those “cloud computing” platforms. Want to play Super Mario Bros. 3 on the go? Use the web browser on the DSi to connect to any wireless connection, buy it, download it, and go. Feel like playing it when you get home? Turn on your Wii, your account shows you’ve already bought SMB3, so a quick redownload and you’re good to go on the big TV. Then, when Nintendo releases Super Wii and DS-2 five or ten years from now, your purchases would still be good there, too. And as long as we’re asking for the moon, they could even let us login at a friend’s house, like on a 360, and play with them there! No need to ever keep a cartridge again, or hell, even move to download-only games for Super Wii (which would have the added benefit of boosting that ol’ environmental rating, too). Of course, they’d need to stop being sticks-in-the-mud about storage devices to do that, but the DSi’s SD card slot is a step in the right direction.
[[image: ar_100208_dsi_02.jpg:Hey, it could happen:center:0]]
But that’s getting too far ahead of ourselves. Remember, this is Nintendo — the guys still using Friend Codes for their online service, we’re talking about here — so “baby steps” is the name of the game. For now, it looks like the DSi is going to be positioned to crush the iPhone’s App Store on the sheer strength of Nintendo’s old library, the extensive old libraries of its old competitors (now with SuperGrafx support), and the new stuff on DS Ware. In theory, thousands of games for consumers to access and buy, including some fantastic gems like Link’s Awakening, that really put the hurt on Apple’s offerings. Let’s just hope they try and do away with this “trickling things out bit by bit” nonsense that the DSi’s big brother has been doing.
Of course, the simpler way to look at all this is to imagine Nintendo twisting Apple’s arm and saying, “We own the handheld games business, and we always will own it. Got that?” And all Apple can do by way of reply is sputter, “B, but the ‘i’ is supposed to go on the other side.”