Game Boy Advance 2 set to stun E3 – DS to evolve into PDA

New model to launch this year – Climb-down looms for NCL

Posted by Staff
The new model of the Game Boy Advance will be shown at Nintendo’s E3 press conference this year in what will be one of the most remarkable moments in recent videogame history.

The unit will be a true gaming machine and will come equipped with a large high-quality back-lit screen and analogue controls, very much, one might argue, like Sony’s PSP.

Nintendo staffers have confirmed to that preliminary hardware will be shown both at the firm’s conference and encased alongside the Nintendo Revolution on the showfloor.

Indeed, SPOnG has been privvy to the emergence of the next-generation of Game Boy Advance for some time, though little more than it’s E3 debut was known.

As this news breaks, perhaps the most pertinent point to be mulled is exactly how Nintendo is going to explain the situation to fans and, of course, early adopters of the Nintendo DS. The answer to this conundrum is quite possibly the most incredible climb-down the games industry has ever witnessed.

Specifically, Nintendo will unveil a suite of PDA-focussed software for the DS powered by recently licensed Palm OS technology. The machine will evolve from a pure gaming machine into a PDA equipped to play Nintendo 64 quality games. Essentially, Nintendo believes that with the right software, it has a high-powered, wireless-enabled PDA capable of playing games of a higher standard than any competing device.

Picking up the pieces, however, will be something of a PR nightmare, something that Nintendo is fully aware of. The DS, announced so soon after the PSP was unveiled by Sony, was effectively a spoiler machine, aimed at snatching away market share from SCEI. Although this has been categorically denied by the Kyoto giant, the revelation that a new Game Boy, which in essence appears to be a PSP with a Nintendo badge, confirms this belief beyond any doubt.

The new Game Boy will be based around existing Nintendo GameCube hardware and will be, when it launches in the US and Japan towards the end of this year, the most powerful handheld console on the planet. SPOnG also believes it likely that the machine will make use of GameCube software. Revolution connectivity was confirmed.

By way of damage control, Nintendo must now cling to its ever-present third-pillar line regarding the DS. The firm has always claimed that the Dual Screen represents not a furthering of the Game Boy range, but something quite different. It would seem that those well-placed foundations will now be required to carry the hefty bulk of a complete reversal of application for a machine that was launched as a gaming device and will, within months, have its key role significantly altered.


Showing the 20 most recent comments. Read all 87.
Joji 2 Mar 2005 14:57
It's much cheaper than making new hardware, getting people to buy it again, and sending out new development kits to game companies.. It just wouldn't make sense.

Ah ha, interesting you bought that up. I'd expect if GBA2 is based on GC tech there wpould be no need for new dev kits because everyone already has the GC ones. And with many having made GC games they already know what th system can do. This would keep things cheap in a similar regard that DS and iQue PLayer cannibalised N64 tech for some use again. In the same regard to the DS the tech is more or less N64 so with that in mind all the developers can concentrate on creating games to best use the DS features. Because the tech is known games can possibly be produced a little quicker for both.

My take on the whole Spong story credibility thing is like this. I believe the chaps at Spong because they say they have a good source. Now while we may all be taking this news with a pinch of salt compared to many sites out there Spong get thins right a lot of the time. You can'tfault a good news hound that hunts for news via sources as opposed to waiting for official news to drop in your lap all the time.

What I do find funny is the fact when Spong are right all other sites go quiet and never show a little respect to the crew like with a certain MS scoop they once had, which many didn't believe. Nobody's perfect so it's okay to wrong and correct yourself accordingly too. I believe the Spong crew on this news and time will tell us the truth soon.
fluffstardx 2 Mar 2005 16:41
I get the feeling the DS will be used in a rather simple strategy, highlighted by both the inclusion of a GBA cart port and the ability to download games.

Taking these two as facts, the DS fills a simple gap: a step up for gamers who can't afford a handheld as expensive as the PSP or new GBA will undoubtedly be, and also still want to be able to re-use all their old games while at the same time gaining access to a whole new set. So, the DS becomes a machine not unlike Ninty's strategy in China with the N64 with downloadable games. The touch screen becomes a design feature, and opens it up as a communication device for schoolchildren etc.

Meanwhile, those people who want flashy graphics and multimedia get the Cube-in-their-hands GBA2, which on top of the amazing graphical power afforded by the TINY chipset in a Cube, can play other media (and, in a move to trump Sony, turns into a Robosapien-esque manservant at the flick of a switch-kidding) at the simple loss of compatability with the old GB range. That way, there's still a machine on the market that allows use of all the old games, while a new machine steals Sony's market.

At least, that makes sense to me. This being Nintendo, the strategy is probably way more complex and fallible than that.
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oed 6 Mar 2005 05:04
I've read a lot of reactions to this "news". There appears to be a lot of over-reaction here to what is, basically, speculation. So, if the DS gains PDA capabilities, how does that alter the games that are unique to the device? The control system is unique among game devices, the wirelessness has a lot of untapped potential for viral, competitive and collector-type games. The DS is a gaming device... but if it can do other stuff too, great. I don't think it's going to "focus" on being a PDA just because it has some PDA tools.

Nintendo has never implied the DS is a Gameboy. They've stated the opposite, in fact. I didn't buy my DS expecting it only to play games, I wanted it to have some communications capability. Once I had it in my hands, I wanted to be able to use it to browse the web or check email. If the DS gets good PDA capabilities, I'm all over it. Until then, I will keep my DS for playing GBA games and the occasional good DS release like "Feel the Magic" or "Touched". Looking forward to "Atari Retro", "Electroplanckton" and "Animal Crossing".
Rod Todd 6 Mar 2005 08:05
oed wrote:
So, if the DS gains PDA capabilities, how does that alter the games that are unique to the device?

In the way that companies will stop making them.
oed 6 Mar 2005 09:08
I don't think I understand your argument, or it doesn't make sense. Are you saying that because the DS will have some software to be a PDA, companies won't make games for it?

The DS provides a unique platform for game development and is primarily a gaming device. I don't think giving the DS some PDA software is going to have any adverse effects on games developed for the system. I think the opposite is true. If the PDA aspects are good, it will sell even more units, giving software developers an even wider base of users at whom to market games.
tyrion 6 Mar 2005 13:44
oed wrote:
The DS provides a unique platform for game development and is primarily a gaming device. I don't think giving the DS some PDA software is going to have any adverse effects on games developed for the system. I think the opposite is true. If the PDA aspects are good, it will sell even more units, giving software developers an even wider base of users at whom to market games.

The DS's unique points will be what kills it as far as games are concerned. Publishers are less and less willing to take risks on games.

If the GBA2 will be GC compatible and given that the PSP is very close to the capabilities of the PS2, publishers will see the ability to publish two basic versions of games as very enticing.

There will be the high end PS3/XBox2/Revolution version and the PS2/PSP/XBox/GC/GBA2 version.

Middleware will iron out the differences between the individual hardware platforms and the control methods will all be basically the same mix of analogue stick, D-pad, 4 buttons and shoulder buttons/triggers that we know now.

Each platform, except maybe the PS2 and GC, will have online capabilities, either through a fixed connection for the consoles or through wi-fi for the handhelds.

The hard part of each game, the game design, will be the same across every version. The only things that will change will be the graphics and sound, taken care of by production pipeline software and middleware.

The DS will be left out in the cold as an experimental machine, fewer and fewer games will be released for it since publishers will see the increased development costs as more important than the "art" of the games it makes possible.

The only thing that may change the above will be if the Revolution has a distinctly different control scheme, in which case it will fall by the wayside too.

I'm sorry that this seems to inevitable, but just look to the cinema to see why. IMAX gives such a richer experience to audiences that all films should be released that way, but the costs are prohibitive. The screens are so large, there are many fewer than normal sized ones, so the audience is smaller, so the risk is greater so there are fewer films released for the format.

The DS is the IMAX of the computer games world. It is just different enough to be ignored. Nintendo's PDA software is an admission of this fact since it is offering an alternative use for the DS than just games, a safety blanket for those that have already bought one.

One thing I do need to point out though, I've finally seen a DS TV advert. If I didn't already know the name Nintendo, I'd have no idea what it was about, if I had a slight knowledge I might think it was a Cube or GBA add-on. Nintendo are, again, marketing to those that already know. Not good.
oed 6 Mar 2005 20:47
Your points are taken, but I don't quite agree with your analogies. I don't think the DS has to dominate the market to thrive as a platform. The PS dominates the market now and it is the system I play least (though it has some good games). Of course there are a companies who won't take the "risk" to release inventive games... but there are few games that I want to play that are designed for commercial reasons alone. For example, most movie tie-in games are quick grabs for cash with formulaic and rushed productions. On the other hand, "Katamari Damacy" was "arty" and "uncommercial" by most standards, but it was one of the best games to come out last year (in my humble opinion).

Lest I be accused of painting a rosy picture of Nintendo, I think most GBA games are rubbish. Many of the DS games out now are rubbish as well. But there are bright lights on the horizon, and the PDA software potential is one of those lights.

Sounds as if your DoomSpeak about the DS is based on its very architecture and not the news about the PDA functionality... the latter of which I thought we were discussing.

DS is not easy to develop for, and that may be its downfall. In the meantime, at least we get to experience games in a cool new way.
NiktheGreek 6 Mar 2005 20:51
Tyrion's got it all summed up very well. I'll add my own thoughts (shamelessly stolen from my own blog, but still valid in terms of recent discussion):

Nik, a week ago wrote:
Recently we've been inundated with new ways to play games. Dance mats, bongos, maracas, light sensors, fishing rods - all have redefined the input for a game. Some have been successful, others haven't. The main problem with this kind of thing of course, is that many of these have very specific functions based on their novelty appeal, as have older examples of the specialised peripheral such as lightguns or steering wheels. All the peripherals I've listed have been compatible with few games. Enter the Nintendo approach.

Nintendo's as guilty as most when it comes to novelty controllers, of course. The bongos are a shining example of this. However, more recently they've taken a "blank canvas" approach. A lightgun can play gun games. A Game Boy Advance can play anything you want as long as it's within the system's power - something Nintendo has utilised for Zelda: Four Swords, Squaresoft for Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, Namco for Pac-Man Vs. and Sega for Billy Hatcher. All perform very different functions. Of course, the problem with the GBA link was that it cost money - a GBA plus connection cable is not a small investment for what is often a trivial enhancement. Third parties were understandably reluctant to get in on the action, especially after a Nintendo Official Magazine UK poll found that three quarters of the fans didn't care anyway. Even the most successful console add-ons (such as online play, Xbox Live in all it's glory hasn't even topped 2 million customers) aren't that successful. Simply put, required peripherals are often a barrier between the game and success. Enter the revised Nintendo approach.

By including the non-standard features in the basic system, Nintendo is hoping to shove other software houses down it's path of experimentalist development, to offer something truly different and win back their once-loyal fanbase. In a way, it's working. Sega has created Project Rub, and Namco's got Pac-Pix. Here's the issue: those are the same developers that tried the new things anyway. Sega was the first company to use the GBA link to GC, the first to use the DS-GBA intercompatibility, the only company to make an online Gamecube game. Namco utilised the Dreamcast fishing rod and microphone in games that weren't about fishing and didn't require voice control, purely for the hell of it.

Companies like EA, however, are content to offer ports of GBA titles such as The Urbz with mundane extra functionality offered by the touch-screen. Put simply, most developers aren't Namco, Sega or Nintendo. They don't have the imagination to pull it off. Even companies as inventive as Sega are having a hard time turning blank canvas features into fully-fledged games, as the likes of Sega Superstars and Project Rub will show. Nintendo used the features to add mini-games, and as a poor substitute for analogue control. I'm not paying £99 for a system based around mini-games, even though the one I played today was fun.

The other problem is that in the past, peripherals have been prohibitively expensive, which put consumers off. Not any more. The bongos, the EyeToy and other peripherals have been included with the software at an RRP equal to that of regular software; a far cry from the days of Samba de Amigo. There's also the fact that a dedicated peripheral included at no extra cost offers an experience that is equal to (if not better than) workarounds like a touchscreen; Mercury on the PSP is easily as inventive as anything on the DS.

What does all this mean? Basically, it's all very experimental and if I don't see more companies taking advantage of that fully soon, I'll spend my money on something else.
tyrion 7 Mar 2005 09:07
oed wrote:
Sounds as if your DoomSpeak about the DS is based on its very architecture and not the news about the PDA functionality... the latter of which I thought we were discussing.

Firstly, I like the sound of DoomSpeak over and above its obvious DS link. "Also, make a note of the word 'DoomSpeak'. I like it and I want to use it in conversation more often."

Secondly, the PDA software is, as far as I'm concerned, an admission by Nintendo of the problem they face in going forward with the DS. This just serves to highlight what I, and others, have been thinking about the DS for a while now. That makes my DoomSpeak quite appropriate to this discussion.
Ditto 7 Mar 2005 09:44
Ditto 7 Mar 2005 09:45
I don't think that the DS will just die. It's a great console in it's own right, and I believe that if Ninty don't release a GBA2 then the DS may not capture the market but it will be a success.

Having said that, if a GBA2 is released most publishers, as you said, would rather produce a single version powered by middleware.

Just a thought: how long will it be until games consoles are almost completely standard, in same way that DVD players are standard? For the first time we're heading into a generation where middleware will be the norm for most games from the very start, with most games now being multiplatform.
tyrion 7 Mar 2005 13:46
Adam M wrote:
Just a thought: how long will it be until games consoles are almost completely standard, in same way that DVD players are standard? For the first time we're heading into a generation where middleware will be the norm for most games from the very start, with most games now being multiplatform.

It's possible, but I don't think it's likely.

Let me explain what I mean.

The DVD market has a standard platform because it is content driven and it has to be.

The PC market has a (semi) standard platform because it is application driven, it doesn't have to be, it could be content driven, but changing the Wintel stranglehold is a large task.

The games industry has no standard platform because it is hardware driven, always has been, maybe always will be. Breaking the stranglehold the platform holders have on the market is a monumental task.

One way to move the games industry to be content driven is to get a consortium together and define a standard hardware platform and make it stick. Historically this is difficult (MSX anybody?) Can you imagine our current "big three" deciding on a standard platform? Neither can I. Can you imagine an outsider coalition defining a standard and beating the big three? Neither can I.

Another way is if Criterion figure out how to make RenderWare support a single disk that runs on all current platforms and EA make all their games use the new format. Given the way the hardware platform companies control the games published for their devices (copy protection, region locking, approval processes, etc), this is also unlikely to happen.

The only other way I can think of at the moment is if we all stop buying consoles and only use PCs. This is very unlikely to happen for reasons of cost, ease of use and "fear" of PCs in the general public. This is also unpalatable to many due to it meaning effectively giving Microsoft the games market as well as the PC market.

The problem with the games market is that it is controlled by the people who make the hardware, they have the final say over what gets published on their platform. They also have the ability to have exclusive content and business plans built around it.

This doesn't mean that games publishers have no power, EA dropping support for a platform would probably kill it. However EA would probably not produce their own hardware either.

In the short term, I can see a reliance on middleware reducing the differences between versions of a title, but I can't see a standard hardware platform and only one version of a game being released.
config 7 Mar 2005 15:06
MSX? Old skool failure.

Threeeee Deeeeee Ooooooh

We're doooooomed!
fluffstardx 7 Mar 2005 15:27
I'm surprised this debate has lasted this long. Over 80 posts? Ag!

Let's just see what they say, shall we? Iwata loves the machine, so it's not going to just die. Games developers love it too, so it'll have support. Heck, it isn't out in Europe yet and people are already saying it's dead!

The DS is one of the few systems i've ever seen put on display that people actually play on. PS2 cabinets and their competitor counterparts are usually ignored, i find; the DS interests people as they pass, and as such Nintendo has already done what it came to do. Such a machine deserves to live.
NiktheGreek 7 Mar 2005 19:36
tyrion wrote:
The only thing that may change the above will be if the Revolution has a distinctly different control scheme, in which case it will fall by the wayside too.

"If the next generation platforms are going to create even more gorgeous looking games using further enhanced functionality, and if that next-gen market can still expand the games industry, then I'm afraid that third-parties may not support Nintendo."

Original article

We may be being pessimistic in our predictions for the DS, but Iwata's words on innovative systems are worrying indeed.
warbaby 8 Mar 2005 04:07
i bought the DS the day it was released, hard as hell to find one... went all around town. being a die hard nintendo fan i had no second guesses about buying a DS... fairly well priced, what the hell. im always one to have the 'latest gadget', no matter what the cost, problem is though, im fairly dry in the wallet afterwords. i now hear that nintendo is planning on releasing a GBA2... im gonna want this, juss like im gonna want the PSP... but if it as sum of yu say, DS being the cheaper alternative, that just cant do...

now im wondering, should i abandon ship now, trade in my DS fer sum store credit, while its still worth sumthin, or wait until E3 and see whats goin on, i only fear im gonna only get 30% of what i originally paid for. i dont think i can justify to myself that i bought a gaming system to be used fer just a few months.

i used to divuldge money quite willingly into the pocket books of nintendo, im slightly reluctant, althought mario kart and animal crossing will grab me by the teeth and beg to purchased.

i can only hope i dont have to part with my DS...

more and more it seems people are after power, and not ingenuity, the DS is brilliant, albiet a bit confusing in my mind.
Joji 8 Mar 2005 04:24
Well I have to agree with Adam and Fluff. You need to give the DS a good first year run before we start claiming it's a failure or gonna be phased out. Sales are strong for DS despite PSP presence.

DS is unique enough that it can do well where other normal consoles (like 32x 3DO) have failed. I see no reason why it should boom if it's gonna possibly replace GBASP eventually. Its possible PDA options count as a bonus if many would not bother buying a PDA specificly. All PDA on the market have more or less dump games anyways, so Nintendo are killling two birds with one stone while not aiming to take over that PDA market. Think of it as raising the bar (to PDA makers) if you will.

Though they have had many chances (who hasnt?) Nintendo deserve a chance to make DS and perhaps GBA2 work.
Ditto 8 Mar 2005 09:02
The V Man 23 Mar 2005 18:03
Well I realise I'm teribly late in replying, but a few of my own thoughts...

I preordered the DS. I didn't just take one look and fall in love to shell out some cash. I took my time, followed the system's development, weighed it against the forthcoming PSP, and in the end felt it was going to be the Next Big Thing™. And I still think it COULD be, that is if Nintendo can stop itsself from cannibalising the system.

Lets take a step back for a minute. I don't know how many remember the original PSP announcement. No not the one everyone's heard from E3. The original. The one that pegged the PSP as the Playstation portal. Yes, a PS1 in your hands. This was the time when the GBA was still youngm and Sony wanted some of the limelight. And Nintendo grinned and all was quiet.

Fastforward a bit. Rumors are flying that the next Nintendo system will be powerful. 3D powerful. N64-ish powerful. Nothing confirmed, just lots of rumors.

And Sony hears it.

Sony, having gotten most of their faulty PS2 hardware reigned in and under control begin to think 'This here PS2 is mighty strong. And kinda small! I wonder...' and the PSP was transuted from the PS1 portable, to the PS2 portable.

It was all very quiet and VERY sneaky.

FastForward to E3, showing the DS. Everyone's intrigued about this ominous 'Brick' that has two screens. You acn use a touchpad to game with. neat!

Sony ups the ante again by boosting it's original Ps2-ish PSP's specs. 8mb of Ram? Pfft. we can do better. Cram 32 in. *Done*. Can't we push more poly's? *Done* see the trend. And both PS2-PSP iteration's have their specs available online for reference.

So now Nintendo's been caught with their pants down, playign with their touchpad. They have to face off the weakest, but most successful console of it's generation - against the N64 level DS. Built from technology that lost the previous generation's race.

But to turn back now would be to lose face and admit defeat.

Paints a bit of a grim picture.
And yet I had faith. They packed the DS with voice recognition, Wi-Fi, loads of touchscreen possibilities, and of course - two screens. So Preorder I did. I just find Nintendo games more fun.

What I don't find fun is having my chosen platform aborted before it's own birth.

Living in Canada, i got my hands on the DS in November. And I was pleased. But as I look around and see these clandestined whisperings of a new GameBoy and PDA software for the DS, I can't help but be concerned.

First off - the DS isn't the new gameboy. Yes yes we all know. But it IS a gaming system. Sure lets release some PDA software just because it has a touchpad. But has anyoen considered how much of a sub-par PDA this is going to be? What happens when you close the DS? It goes to sleep. How does a sleeping PDA alert you of a meeting? Or anything else? If picto chat can't do it from sleep mode....well lets just hope that they left that out for a reason. But I think you see my point.

So a new GBA. we knew it was coming. But so soon? Is Nintendo THAT scared of Sony? Granted they may have a reason, but since when has the mobile market bent to the side of greater graphics? Why would Nintendo risk alienating SO many fans? because don't kid yourself, that's what will happen. You can't say that in the face of the next GBA anyone will stay developing for this gimmicky 'third-pillar'. Why code for a touchscreen when you can speed production by coding for standard input? Why make 3 versions of your game when 1 won't sell half as well as they other 2? I really dont' think Nintendo thought this out. If they're that ready to start spitting out new consoles on a whim then I'll end my 20 year affiliation as a Nintendo fan and consumer and stick to my PC. I'll cart my laptop around and play games that way. Heck, I already do that at times.

So if Nintendo has any hope, any common sense, and any sense of loyalty to their fans, they won't spit out the new GBA for some time yet because if they do, they WILL lose. Their fans will be done with them and the lack of certainly that there will be that comes with each Nintendo Purcahse. "Will this system still exist this time next year?"

I hope so.

Appologies for typos. The typo gnomes have commandeerd my hands.
fluffstardx 23 Mar 2005 18:26
Nintendo have been planning this for quite a while. When the Cube first launched, they talked not about the power of the system, but how small the components were. Many a warning alarm went off.When Sony announced the PSP, they began speeding up the process. Considering how cheap they can manufacture a GC for, the portable one would cost about £100, with all the features Sony are shouting about. Difference is, they'll be winning the graphics war, and they won't have to use shoddy Memory Sticks.

Monkey Ball on the move. Billy Hatcher. Mario Kart. All waaaaay more suitable for short play while on transport than Metal Gear and Gran Turismo. And that is the Nintendo trump card: they make games (and encourage others to follow suit) that can be played for an age or for 10 minutes. And those Gamecube disks are very small. Hmm...
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