SPOnG can confirm that a new Game Boy model will be seen at E3 this year, with the Kyoto giant eager to reinstate its recently conceived second pillar of true portable gaming.
Although this has been the subject of intense speculation, SPOnG stands by assertions made in the past that the unit will be debuted at Nintendo’s pre-E3 conference and will go on to be available in playable form at the show to a greater extent than many insiders might have guessed.
What’s more, speaking to retail sources in the US overnight, painted an interesting picture regarding the machine’s release date, with a pre-Christmas rollout expected by two highly placed commentators.
All of which leaves the burning question – what is it? The facts are simple: no development kits have been shown anywhere. We have spoken with numerous developers in several regions and none have had any information on an emerging platform. Nintendo, however, is very good with its secret-keeping, with developers like Sonic Team having access to DS units long before the system was in the public domain. They also managed to turn software, and non-traditional software at that, around at a very rapid pace.
A Portable GameCube device has been mooted, though SPOnG thinks this is unlikely for various reasons. One source in the US said yesterday, “This is not going to be Nintendo’s answer to the PSP. It’s not going to be more powerful.” So will the firm release an update to the current hardware, seeing what is essentially a shrunk-down SNES re-born in its third portable iteration?
At this point you’d have to wonder what Nintendo can do to improve on the SP. A Play-Yan could be incorporated, as could embedded wireless functionality, though the GBA will already accept a wireless adapter and Play-Yan without hindering the device’s core appeal. Perhaps a download-driven unit is on the cards, offering a selection of Nintendo’s back catalogue, though Nintendo’s new-found interest in the Internet is something of an oxymoron: paranoid confidence.
The DS will also see some re-branding, though of course the core gaming element will still exist as its installed userbase is now strong enough to cope with this. However, the machine, with around five million global sales at the time of writing, will emerge as something that does a lot more, with music, art, education and PDA software set to be shown in a major way in the coming months. Nintendo will push the DS as a machine that offers portable gaming to a market that would usually ignore such technology, aiming for a super-casual gaming audience that would enjoy the functionality of an interactive entertainment portable with the ability to browse the internet, send email, enjoy movies and music and above all, offer the option be creative on the move.
To reiterate, SPOnG doesn’t know what the new Game Boy will be. We do know, however, that it’s slated to be shown at Nintendo’s pre-E3 conference and will be in playable form on the event's showfloor. We also believe that it will be available to buy in Japan and the US in time for the 2005 holiday season. The DS will see heavy re-branding, though gaming will of course always exist as long as the market is there to support it.
If Nintendo’s third-pillar strategy is a success, the consequences for the industry and for the Donkey Kong creator are massive. If the DS is adopted by the illusive non-gamer as an acceptable, well-priced portable creative and communication device with free Internet access, Nintendo’s handheld dominance will again be restored. The only question remaining is what will it offer its core fans in the meantime.
Stay tuned for updates on all things Nintendo, including a very special surprise here on SPOnG as E3 rolls by.