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Nintendo DSi

A defence.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

"It's the usual rip-off." "F*** you Nintendo." "Worst. Update. Ever." "F*** off you rip-off bastards." "Get bent Nintendo." Not my words, of course, but the words of Eurogamer readers after discovering that they would have to pay GBP 149 or thereabouts for the Nintendo DSi, which introduces slightly bigger screens, onboard flash memory and a download store, a couple of 0.3-megapixel cameras and an SD card slot at the loss of GBA compatibility - all housed in a slinkier, matte frame.

Not only are they not my words though, but they aren't my sentiments either.

Eurogamer has banged on about Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi's philosophy of "the lateral thinking of withered technology" before, and it's worth repeating, not just because it infuses everything Nintendo does, but because it's even more dramatically relevant to the DSi than it has been to the DS, Lite and Wii.

The 0.3MP DSi cameras are hardly going to frighten the average mobile phone, smart or otherwise, and the limited music playback functions are unlikely to scare Apple back into R&D on a new iPod; but for now they - and the amusing photo and sound mixing software packages included in the DSi system software - are little more than proofs of concept. Like the original idea of having two screens, the stylus in addition to regular d-pad and face button controls, and a microphone built into the handheld, they are there to tempt developers in new directions. If pressed, Nintendo would explain that it only includes new features in consoles when they facilitate creators and they are cheap enough to mass-produce at a profit. This is what Yokoi was on about, although one of the virtues of leading the market is that Nintendo rarely needs to say so directly.

The DSi will launch in Europe in two colours: black and white.

The bottom line for the average Eurogamer reader is that the camera and its new friends are not designed to sell the system to you immediately; they are designed to appeal to developers, and to briefly entertain people who do take the plunge without delay.

It's the same story with the SD card slot and the DSi Shop, which is inaccessible to European journalists at the time of writing, but has grown from nothing to boast over 20 games - including a new WarioWare, Solitaire, Mr. Driller and Panel de Pon - and half a dozen basic applications in Japan in the five months since the system launched. On the surface of it, there is nothing there to tempt the money out of your wallet this time next month. But in the longer run it will be a tempting reason to consider upgrading, even for filthy pirates bemoaning the obsolescence of their beloved R4s - an obsolescence Nintendo will hope to sustain with rolling firmware updates that are prerequisites for Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and DSi Shop access.

If you can see a pattern emerging, it crystallises further beneath the DSi's slender bonnet, where CPU speed doubles from 67MHz to 133MHz, there's 16MB RAM (four times as much as the DS or DS Lite), 256MB of internal flash memory for the first time, and enhanced Wi-Fi support (WPA and WPA2 security, most notably). Right now, your existing games have nothing to gain. But you can look forward to games that will benefit from it, judging by Nintendo's admission that we can expect DSi-specific releases. The tech tweaks are hardly enough to worry the PSP's bigger and faster alternatives, but it's a rather more attractive proposition taken in context of the beauty and creativity already exhibited by some of the best games in the DS' existing back catalogue.

It also goes some way to explaining the GBP 149 price - along with currency fluctuations and, most significantly, the presence of the DS Lite on the market. Nintendo isn't abandoning the DS Lite, which costs GBP 99; it's happy to continue selling it, but it wants to launch the DSi now to build up a base of early adopters, fit to encourage developers to consider it as an alternative, and presumably to get the DSi Shop out there, and start fighting back in the war against casual piracy.