At a press conference in Japan in the early hours of the morning, Nintendo confirmed the rumours that had been circulating the web by announcing the latest update of its best-selling handheld console, the Nintendo DSi.
Although the overall design bears a striking similarity to the existing DS Lite, albeit slightly smaller, there are a host of new additions packed into both hardware and software that should excite Pocket Gamers and point to Nintendo's immediate vision for the future.
Details: The DSi features two 0.3-megapixel (640x480) cameras, one on the outside and another on the inside of the case.
Gaming Implications: Aside from the ability to take snapshots, this obviously suggests potential uses for communication (webcam style) and also the use of photo imagery in games, be it the players face or the environment.
It's also possible that the cameras could be used as a basic motion-sensor.
Details: Both screens have been enlarged to 3.25 inches (from three inches)
SD card slot
Details: An SD card slot for memory expansion and plug-n-play with the Wii Photo Channel
Gaming Implications: Another way to deliver and save content and exchange with other formats suggests closer interaction with the Wii.
Built-in web browser
Details: Previously sold as a separate add-on, the Opera-browser is now built in to the DSi.
Gaming Implications: The DS was already a connected gaming device, but this obviously opens up the connected gaming opportunities further and allows for game micro-sites, content distributed via the web and the ability to potentially play browser-based games. Obviously general browsing and communication options are improved.
Support for the Nintendo DS Store
Details: Ability to access a Nintendo DS Store selling Nintendo DS Ware
Gaming Implications: Pretty clearly this will herald a new tranche of WiiWare/LiveArcade style micro/casual games for the DS now and offer a new way to buy games and add-on content without having to go into stores.
This approach has stimulated a wide range of creative games on other formats (allowing more publishers/developers to promote their wares) and we can expect to see ports of games from WiiWare and the like plus a new era of creativity. That said, we can also expect to see a lot more samey casual games.
Ability to play MP3s via SD cards
Details: One knock-on feature of the SD Card slot is the ability to play MP3s
Gaming Implications: Aside from turning the DS into more of a universal media-playing machine, this could lead to the arrival of some cool iPod/iPhone style music-based games.
Removal of Game Boy Advance slot
Details: Err, there's no Game Boy Advance slot (part of the reason for the smaller size)
Gaming Implications: No more backwards compatibility and another nail in a coffin of the Game Boy although it has been suggested elsewhere that GBA games could be available for download via the DS Store.
And that's about it for now on the what. As for the when, the DSi is due to launch in Japan on November 1st for ¥18,900 (roughly £100 - so only slightly more expensive than the existing DS Lite), initially available in white or black. Although no details have been unveiled yet for worldwide distribution, US and European release are expected in early 2009.
We'll obviously have plenty more coverage on the device in the next days and weeks, including a hands-on report and an update on the worldwide release plans from the American press conference, which is cracking off later today. So do please click 'Track It' to stay in touch with the latest.