Speculation abounds over Nintendo's intentions with its new DSi. Is it designed to compete with the iPod Touch, thanks to its music playback function? Is it taking aim at mobile phones with its two cameras?
The argument might be made that it is trying to compete with Apple's iPhone-like music player, which is increasingly being marketed to gamers. But Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata has a different take on that suggestion.
On the company's Nintendo DSi page over the weekend, Iwata expressed that the notion of Nintendo trying to compete with the iPod is ridiculous. In his "Iwata Asks" post on the site, he said the following:
Nintendo doesn't have any intention of directly competing with existing products, but the mass media has a tendency to portray everything as a rivalry between opposing companies. It seems (that) some people have the impression that we want to compete with cell phones or the iPod, that putting cameras or music players in our devices is out of character for us.
I hope those who have such an impression will take an interest in what Nintendo can make when it dedicates itself to pleasing as many people as possible who pick up a DS, and I hope they'll actually pick one up themselves.
But as much as Iwata and his team might try to disregard other game-friendly gadgets on the market, he explains that "it can be next to impossible with words alone to draw a distinction with previous products."
With two 0.3-megapixel cameras and a music player that can't compete on any level with the iPod, I don't think it's too difficult to agree with Iwata. But assuming that Nintendo truly doesn't want to compete with Apple or other media device manufacturers, why are those features there in the first place? Are they just extra add-ons that we probably won't care about?
That's the main problem I have with the DSi. What is it, exactly? Is the handheld a game device that Nintendo hopes will eventually replace the DS, or is it something more--something specifically designed to show the world that Nintendo's products, too, can do more than just play games?
As a current Nintendo DS owner, I see just one reason to buy a DSi: downloadable content. With two 0.3-megapixel cameras and a so-so music player, it can't compete with my iPod Touch, even if Internet telephony, or VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol), as well as other interesting applications, make their way to the device. And to be quite honest, my current DS Lite does a perfectly fine job of providing me with an outstanding gaming experience. I'm not so sure how the DSi would improve on that.
I'm all for Nintendo releasing a new iteration of its popular handheld, and I do believe that the DSi will do well in some circles, but if we look objectively at its specs, two thoughts come to mind: it's not a DS replacement in any way, and Iwata is right: it's not an iPod rival.
Right now, I look at the DSi as a gaming device that lets you do some extra stuff. And it wouldn't surprise me if the music player is one of the least-used features in the handheld because it's not designed to be an end-to-end solution for getting music and bringing it with you. In fact, it's simply designed to let you listen to music that you bought elsewhere while on the go. That's it.
And on the two-camera front? Yeah, well, that's going to be all about games and the occasional moment of photography fun. Other than that, I doubt that it will help the DSi compete on any level with devices that also snap photos and connect to the Web.
But if you're buying a DSi because you want it to replace your iPod Touch, you're buying the device for all the wrong reasons--and will be sorely disappointed. The DSi is supposed to be the next generation of handheld gaming from Nintendo. Nothing more, nothing less.
You won't find a great music platform in the Nintendo DSi. And that's perfectly fine with me.