Eight news stories 2.10

  • New Nintendo DS, the DSi: It is 12 percent thinner than the DS Lite, due to the absence of a Game Boy cartridge slot. The two screens are bigger, up to 3.25 inches from 3 inches. There are two 0.3-megapixel cameras and an SD card slot. Downloadable games will be available over Wi-Fi, save them to the SD card. There is upgraded sound and MP3 player capability. This is the normal Nintendo evolution of its handhelds, it will be interesting to see if they have done anything about enhancing DRM now that DS games are so widely pirated. The extra capabilities take the DS further towards the universal portable device because eventually they will have no option but to take on iPhone and Zune.
  • Wii games to be downloadable from the Shopping Channel onto SD cards. This is possibly just an interim fix until Nintendo get round to making a console with a hard drive. But a 32 Gbyte SD card is not to be sniffed at as a storage device, so maybe Nintendo will stick with solid state backing memory.
  • Xbox 360 sales triple. In the UK it is now outselling the PS3 two to one. Microsoft’s strategy of using price this year is going to give them a big win over the PS3 and erode the lead of the Wii. The 360 is such an elegant and simple design that it readily lends itself to ever more efficient manufacture. There is no reason why it should not eventually come down to $149 or even $99 if it suits Microsoft’s grand strategy.
  • UK game publishers club ELSPA to continue to fight for the PEGI rating system even if the government choose BAFTA. This is the continuing fallout from the totally unnecessary Byron review which could saddle the industry with unwanted bureaucratic delays and costs when there isn’t a problem to be fixed. The current, odious, British government doesn’t have long to run so obviously ELSPA are hoping that the incoming Conservative government will be less ignorant.
  • In the understatement of the year Electronic Arts’ VP of publishing for Europe, Dr Jens Uwe Intat says “I think that Europe is definitely not maturing at all yet.” Of course the market isn’t maturing, we are still at the very beginning of what is going to happen. I hope that the corporate EA vision of the market future is a lot more bullish than this statement.
  • Industry pundit Chris Morris, in an interesting piece in Forbes, thinks that hardcore gamers are being nudged aside “as parents and seniors become more important to publishers”. His vision is slightly different than mine as I see casual and hardcore merging into many shades of grey. But such is the massively growing diversity of the market that both could happen.
  •  Doug Lombardi of Valve thinks that game graphics are now as good as they need to be and that the capability is topping out. Once again I disagree. But this time because of the simple certainty of Moore’s law. We can make more powerful silicon so competitive pressure will force us to make that more powerful silicon. We will get to photo realism and we will go beyond photo realism. Gaming will eventually exceed the best video that you can currently see in the cinema. Progress is an inevitable part of the human condition.
  • Huge new cash injection into Canadian game development. This time $1.15 billion in Ontario as the province strives to become a dominant force in the industry. You have to admire the single mindedness of the Canadians in grabbing a huge chunk of what is going to be the world’s biggest entertainment and education media. It is sad to compare their vision with the ignorant myopia of the British government who are willfully throwing away a potential powerhouse for our economy. I think history will report the throwing away of our lead in interactive media as one of the biggest failings of this Labour government.


  1. Lombardi isn’t saying that graphics won’t get better, that will happen by default, it’s just that they are becoming less important.

    Consumers just don’t see the generational jumps now. When the next consoles are out it isn’t going to be better graphics that sells it. Games will have to develop more depth to make up for it.

    Graphics will improve, simply because they can thanks to better hardware, but I actually think the biggest bottleneck will be the time and ability of the artist and animators to create realistic looking work. Creativity and style are going to have more to do with future wow factor.

    As for the new DS, it offers nothing interesting to make me get a new one. I got most of that stuff in my really tiny phone that I got for free with my contract. I have the feeling that the addition of internet and downloadable games is a nifty way of updating firmware, so sadly I have a feeling this new one will bomb for that reason.

  2. The Wii is only capable of SD cards up to 2gb, that’s a hardware limitation, so no firmware update will change that.

    They would need to add SDHC support to enable SD cards of 4gb or greater. They could do this, but it would be a hardware revision.

  3. I predict they’ll do nothing about DRM, because they know that piracy has been a huge factor in the success of the inherently profitable hardware, which means they don’t have to make money back on software.

    The DS has outsold the Wii, 360 and PS3 put together, and is still outselling them every month even though you’d think everybody already had one by now. Its business model has been proven on a massive scale, and only the most naive idiot would think that wasn’t part of Nintendo’s plan. If there IS any new DRM, I bet you £50 it’ll be so trivial it’ll be defeated inside one month at the maximum.

  4. I know Ninty make a profit on every lump of hardware they sell, but the fact remains that both Sony and M$ have a higher software attachment rate, this is something Nintendo will have to tackle with
    the next round of consoles they have.No point of doing it now, seeing as the horse has already bolted. Friend of mine works for gamestation and he tells me customers brazenly go on about how they have an R4 cards for there DS’s.

    maybe its just my age (30), but i no longer consider graphics as a major concern when i buy a game (this doesnt make me a casual gamer – the concepts and gameplay must still be complex) but more the depth and intereaction.

  5. @Robin
    There is no conflict between “The 360 is such an elegant and simple design that it readily lends itself to ever more efficient manufacture.” and RROD.
    RROD was cause by bad implementation of one component (the GPU) and has precisely zero to do with the design of the 360. It was the way a part of that design was productionised.
    Microsoft are now several chipset evolutions along and RROD has been history for a long time. Soon the GPU and CPU will be integrated into one chip giving Microsoft even more economies from this elegant design.

    If you want to know just how elegant the design of the 360 is then just ask a few game professionals. They love it.

  6. Bruce, read the article. A faulty design was approved for manufacture with insufficient testing. The result has been a $billion+ damage limitation exercise, and a protracted struggle to bring the manufacturing cost of the machine down, further hampered by distractions such as the HD-DVD addon and the Elite model.

    The RROD has clearly not “been history for a long time”, as they shipped over 11m affected machines and didn’t recall a single one of them.

    Ease of development has no relevance to what you’re claiming – and most of the gaming professionals I know have had to ship back at least one faulty 360.

    “Elegant and simple” doesn’t come into it. It just sounds like you’re trying to reassure yourself of something in the face of abundant, readily-available evidence to the contrary. Again.

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