SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Nintendo is rolling out the next generation of its popular handheld gaming console in the United States on Sunday, pitching the product as more of an all-purpose social and entertainment device.
Aside from game-playing functions, the dual-screen DSi features two cameras, a microphone and a host of tools that will allow users to create content and share with others.
The DSi will retail for $170 apiece and began selling in Europe on Friday. The third generation in the DS franchise, the DSi was launched in Japan last November and has so far sold 2 million units.
“This thing is to the digital camera what the iPod was to the MP3 player,” said Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter. “You take the same form factor and you just add something to it and suddenly you’re going to have a lot of people carrying it.”
Nintendo’s second-generation DS handheld, the DS Lite, will continue to sell for $130. Nintendo has shipped more than 100 million DS units overall since the franchise launched in late 2004.
Cammie Dunaway, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Nintendo America, said the DSi seeks to make the traditional gaming experience more personalized.
“How do you get a Nintendo game device in every briefcase and backpack and pocketbook? We realized that what you need to make that happen is a device that is highly customizable... Natural tools for customization are things like photos,” she said.
Pachter said he expects the device to appeal to teens and tweens.
“They’re going to turn a one DS household into a two DS household. You will hand it down to your little brother when you get your DSi.”
Nintendo’s DS line competes directly with Sony’s PSP handheld device and increasingly faces competition from Apple’s iPhone, which is emerging as a serious video game platform, and iPod touch devices.
The PSP has sold more than 50 million units, while the iPhone and iPod Touch have combined to sell more than 30 million.
Nintendo is also launching a new online store where DSi users can download new games and applications via the device’s WiFi connection. The store will also offer a DSi Internet browser for download, based on the Opera browser.
Nintendo has been credited with helping expand the traditional demographic profile of the gaming industry. The company’s Wii console has been a hit with consumers, attracting adults and females who are more interested in casual and social games.
The Wii, Nintendo’s console platform, has sold more than 50 million units worldwide since its release in 2006.
Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Tim Dobbyn