Nintendo to Launch New Handheld DS-i This Year in Japan

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Nintendo is refreshing its two-year old DS Lite handheld device with a new version that's thinner, has dual-digital cameras and will be out before the end of the year -- at least in Japan.

"I'd like to introduce to you the newest model in our Nintendo DS family, the Nintendo DSi," said Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, to a packed crowd at the Nintendo Conference 2008 Fall held in Tokyo's Shibuya on Thursday afternoon.

The DS-i looks similar to the current DS Lite and is a little thinner because it doesn't have a slot for GameBoy Advance cartridges. The device's two screens are slightly larger at 3.25-inches instead of 3-inches and two digital cameras have been added. The outer camera has a 3-megapixel resolution and pictures can be stored on an SD Card for transfer to the company's Wii or a computer.

It will launch in Japan on Nov. 1 and will cost ¥18,900 (US$179). That's slightly more expensive than the current DS Lite, which costs ¥16,800. Detailed launch plans for other markets were not detailed at the Tokyo news conference held to announce the device but Nintendo said it won't be available overseas until 2009.

Following in the steps of its Wii console and competing devices Nintendo will launch an online applications store for the DS-i.

"The pace of sales for the DS has slowed down compared to earlier periods, but the DS remains to be selling at a brisk pace compared to previously mainstream platforms," Iwata said.

The president was bullish on prospects for the DSi to succeed despite the fact DS has already sold close to 23 million units and critics have said the DS may have reached market saturation.

"We have succeeded in reaching markets that were untapped before," Iwata said.

Nintendo's recent internal data shows 54 percent of its DS platform users in Japan being female.

"If we can offer a new lifestyle through our mobile game product, I think the Nintendo DS platform can expect to continue to see growth," Iwata said.

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