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New GBA to be shown off at E3

But it won't be a next-generation model.

The third version of Nintendo's Game Boy Advance will be shown off at this year's E3, it has emerged.

But Nintendo has distanced itself from a frenzied wave of Internet speculation claiming that the Japanese giant will be launching a next gen Game Boy later this year, saying that the rumours were "pulled out of the air".

A spokesman for Nintendo of Europe told Eurogamer this morning: "There is always speculation on what the next Game Boy will be, however, at this time there are no announcements about a new Game Boy SP product."

However, unofficially the Kyoto-based firm is expected to unveil a remodelled Game Boy Advance based on the existing technology at its traditional pre-E3 event.

At this stage no concrete details exist on what enhancements Nintendo will be making to the GBA, but it's expected that the various add-ons released over the past year or so will be integrated into the remodelled console; namely the PlayYan multimedia capabilities that enable users to watch movies and listen to music on their GBA, as well as other obvious improvements such as the much missed headphone jack and, of course, wireless connectivity.

And it's on the latter point where things get potentially interesting, with the potential for Nintendo to extend its wireless download plans to the GBA, as well as include the GBA in its long-mooted online gaming plans. All of this remains in the realms of speculation, but the way is clear for Nintendo to truly extend the GBA lifespan well beyond what it otherwise might have been had it chosen to focus solely on the DS going forward.

To put the wild speculation about a next-gen Game Boy console into context, the story was initially based upon a report released yesterday by American Technology Research analyst P.J. McNealy which pontificated on the likelihood of a new GBA SP being released in time for Christmas.

The report looked at the share performance of THQ and Activision, and the likely effect on trading a new GBA SP would have on them.

In turn, the report went on to list four bullet points why - in McNealy's opinion - Nintendo is likely to launch a new GBA SP, reasoning that Nintendo has averaged a new version of the GBA every two years, that the DS has not cannibalised GBA sales, that piracy concerns in Asia Pacific required a more secure version of GBA, and, somewhat curiously, that a new GBA SP would be a "fun, new device while Sony focuses on the PSP and the expected launch of the Xbox 2".

McNealy guessed that the new GBA would be priced at around $99, fitting snugly between the DS at $149 and the old GBA SP at $49.

But nowhere in the report does McNealy suggest that Nintendo was readying a next-gen Game Boy, and indeed why would they? Launching a next-gen Game Boy having just enjoyed a successful DS launch worldwide would truly be one of the most bizarre business decisions ever.

Reports elsewhere talk of a "PR nightmare" for Nintendo, but it appears in this case that the only nightmare for Nintendo right now is having to deal with spurious stories "pulled out of the air" and the resulting deluge of phone calls as fellow journalists frantically try and get some clarity on the issue. The spokesman for Nintendo told Eurogamer today: "It's a case of looking at this McNealy report and someone putting two and two together and coming up with five. McNealy's report is him putting two and two together and coming up with four. It's just his opinion, and not endorsed by Nintendo in any way."

An official Nintendo statement reacting to the ballyhoo also emerged this morning: "Game Boy Advance continues to be a shining star in the video game industry with more than 65.7 million units sold worldwide.

"In 2004 alone we sold 4 million Game Boy Advance SPs in Europe.

"Our newest hand-held game system, the Nintendo DS, has done extremely well since it launched in Japan and the US and similar success is expected when it launches on 11th March in Europe. Nintendo DS is on target to ship 6 million worldwide by March 31," the spokesman added.

If you were Nintendo, would you release a next-generation Game Boy and single-handedly confuse the market and cannibalise sales of your extremely successful handheld consoles?