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Nintendo DSi Set for April US Launch

nintendo dsiNot that Nintendo needs any help, the company’s already dominating its competition in the US, but an added boost is due this spring.  Nintendo announced Wednesday that the third generation of their popular Dual Screen (DS) portable will come stateside on April 5th.

Available in Japan Since November, the DSi expands on its predecessor with the addition of two cameras (one outward facing and one facing the user), enhanced audio /MP3 functionality and a dedicated SD Card memory slot to help support WiFi delivered downloadable content or facilitate music and photo storage. The DSi also features upgradeable firmware.

Fitting squarely into Nintendo’s proven strategy of reaching as wide an audience as possible, the DSi is a device tailor made for mass appeal.  The twin cameras  open the door to new types of interactive game play while at the same they time bring photo manipulation tools otherwise unseen in gaming devices.  Photo albums can be created, stored and shared. Images can be stretched, shifted, cut out or colored in.

The DSi’s audio software similarly hits multiple notes.  As a game enhancement,  it improves the game’s sound quality.  As a convergence device it offers owners the benefit of a voice recorder and MP3 player in the same package. For novelty, during playback, the pitch and pace of sound files can be adjusted too.

A faster main processor supports the new features but battery life, compared to the DS Lite, is less substantial.

The DSi has been a popular platform in Japan since its launch.  More than 170k units were sold in the first two days of sale according to Enterbrain. About 1.6m units were sold through the company’s fiscal third quarter ended in December 2008, according to Nintendo.  Recent data from Famitsu showed 51% of Japan’s best selling software in 2008 were DS games.

Nintendo had been holding off bringing the DSi to the US because sales of the older, 2nd generation DS Lite model, which went onsale in 2006, were still showing strength and resillience.  That hasn’t changed. 9 month nintendo analysisThe DS Lite is still selling very well: for the first three quarters of Nintendo’s fiscal 2008, cumulative DS sales in the America’s were up 13% year over year (see table).   More than 31m units have sold life to date in the region.  In January alone, U.S sales topped 500k units, better than any other platform aside from Nintendo’s own Wii. (December sales were a record breaking 3.04million units).

Most prior DS games are compatible meaning a library of more than 850 titles will support the DSi launch. Game Boy Advance titles, and games with accessories requiring the Game Boy Advance (GBA) slot, are not supported. The GBA slot has been removed.

The slightly larger screened (3.25inches instead of 3.0) , and thinner (about 12%), DSi will be sold for $169.99.  Initially, color choices of Blue and Black will be available – perhaps fitting choices given the bruising Nintendo’s caused some of its competitors. 

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