DSi – Considering the Possibilities

By Ishaan . February 22, 2009 . 2:56pm

So, DSi launches in April for $170. A few of us started to talk about DSi-specific games in the other post. Seeing as how there’s so much ground to cover when discussing the new DS model, I figured I’d throw together a post that could get us (and hopefully developers) thinking about some of the possibilities the platform provides.

 

Let’s cover the improvements before we get to the more interesting stuff.

 

The DSi supposedly has extra RAM as opposed to the measly 4MB in the Lite. It apparently also has a more powerful main ARM processor than the old DS, but no one is quite certain yet of its actual clockspeed. The upgraded hardware could be used used to power the DSi’s built-in cameras.

 

Now, the homebrew scene is going to exploit this to the fullest. Applications that initially required a Slot-2 GBA ram expansion cart will probably be able to make use of the inbuilt RAM for single-cart play. This means those of us who want to play something akin to homebrewed Quake 2 on the DS without the need for two separate carts will probably have something to look forward to.

 

But the most good in this regard could come from actual developers. While it’s probably going to be a little longer before we see DSi-specific games, it would be nice if developers could use the improved hardware to make games look a little better overall. I’m not technically sound enough to comment on what improvements in particular would be possible; but hey, there’s more RAM in there and both screens are  bigger. Maybe ingame voice-chat is now possible instead of restricting us to lobby chat like in Metroid Prime: Hunters?

 

Next up is the inbuilt flash memory, which is 256MB. Not a whole lot, but not shabby when you consider the Wii only contains 512MB of internal memory. The system also supports SD cards, which can be used to stream data and music. This means two things are now possible:

 

1. Upgradeable firmware.

 

2. Downloadable content for games.

 

It’s funny how obsessed I’ve become lately with downloadable content. I wasn’t really too keen on it before, but playing Burnout Paradise has made a complete believer in the concept. Of course, the key here is pricing and value for money. While I don’t want to see DSi games follow in the footsteps of Tomb Raider Underworld or Blue Dragon, the possibility of downloadable songs in more music games is a very welcome one.

 

But that’s not what I’m really hoping for. No, what I’m really, really hoping for – and I know a lot of people are going to be with me on this – is an online RPG with timely quest and item updates. With a little bit of effort and the right pricing, a feature along those lines could help create the equivalent of World of WarCraft on the DS. It’s a little too late for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time and Phantasy Star 0; but hey, SEGA and Square both love money (especially Square) so new games in those series (or others) aren’t out of the question. I’m almost hoping this is exactly what Sakurai’s new game is, but such hopes are for the naive and gullible. This feature would also abolish the concept of “unlocking” content that’s already on the damn cart – something none of us particularly like.

 

Coming back to racing games for a second, the 256MB of internal memory would also allow for custom soundtracks in games like Trackmania or GRID, both of which I play obsessively on DS. It also annoys me to no end that you can’t share the tracks you create in Trackmania DS with other people unless it’s over local bluetooth because Firebrand’s track editor is one hell of an impressive feat, and I’ve been enjoying playing around with it a lot. Being able to export to internal memory or SD card as a file would make it possible to share custom tracks in future games via e-mail without the need for developers that are low on time and budget to implement Wi-Fi functionality in their games. Not everyone can pull a Bangai-O Spirits.

 

All this memory and the lack of a GBA slot has also led to a lot of speculation regarding a Virtual Console for Game Boy Advance or older games, especially since a DSiWare service already exists. Keep in mind though; there is no Slot-2 this time around, so GBA games might need to be re-tooled since it isn’t possible to simply emulate them using the Slot-1 hardware. It certainly would be neat to see Nintendo go this route, but I can’t imagine it being very high on their priority list at the moment.

 

And then there’s DS-to-Wii connectivity, which hasn’t really found its legs. This could be pushed very hard through firmware updates. The one cool feature I can think of in this regard is being able to use your DSi as a microphone/headset in place of WiiSpeak. Not everyone wants their entire family listening in on their conversations with their online playmates, and this would make for a fun, effective way to arrange for a little privacy. It could also be possible to use the DSi as a standard controller for more games if Nintendo made a few adjustments, but I highly doubt they’d do anything to jeopardize the sales of GCN and Classic controllers.

 

Oh, and please, for God’s sake Nintendo, pay the royalties for MP3 playback and make it official. Do we really need to rely on homebrew for such basic functionality?

 

Next up are the cameras. The first thing I could think of in this regard is being able to take a picture of yourself and use it as part of a Nintendo Wi-Fi profile. DSi supports a wider variety of wireless connections as well, so it would be nice to see some sort of profile system that makes for a better online experience. As far as games are concerned, all I have at the moment is some sort of Girls Mode game that lets you “virtually” try on make-up using the cameras’ face-tracking abilities. Sega pulled this off with Project Beauty, a DS game bundled with a camera. Yeah, I know…that’s not exactly what you were hoping for, but it’s probably what they’re going to come up with first and foremost. Personally, I can’t wait to draw whiskers on someone in realtime.

 

Another cool feature could be ingame weather changes triggered by changes in real-world lighting detected by the camera. And my last idea for a game is a platformer that relies on data for levels that it picks up from the camera about your environment in realtime. Of course, both these features would suck the system’s battery dry in no time at all.

 

That’s all I’ve got so far. DSi presents some great opportunities for pushing the envelope in the handheld space, and I really, really hope developers warm up to it, especially in Japan because handhelds are what is keeping the Japanese game market alive at this point. I’m probably going to hold off on buying one myself until I see devs pushing it harder than the DS Lite, but I do hope they won’t make me wait long.


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  • daizyujin

    Not to say that you can believe half of what you read on Wikipedia, but both that and a few other sites have clocked the system as just slightly double the speed of the DS with a full 16MB or 4X the ram of the original DS. If used properly, it could be a decent bit more powerful.

    I agree that 256 might be ok but there is a big if with this IMHO. That is 256MB is fine IF they allow for full use of the SD slot in the same manner as the internal flash storage. If it is like the Wii where you can’t run programs off the SD card, then to me that isn’t even beginning to be enough.

    As for MP3 capability, I feel your pain, that is the reason why we don’t have DVD playback on the Wii. Don’t hold your breath.

    As for the cameras I was at the local arcade when it came to me, your face in Mario Kart. Granted Nintendo may not want this, especially for online (who knows what somebody might take a picture of) but who knows. I really don’t see myself having too much fun with distorting my own picture. I am already fat enough.

    • jarrodand

      I expect DSi SD slot support will work like Wii, content can be retrieved directly from the card but apps can’t be run from it. That’d mean you can use it for stuff like DLC or custom soundtracks but not DSiWare.

      Of course, all that might change with Iwata’s magical “SD solution” promised this spring…

  • DKong

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_DSi#Technical_specifications

    It says the DSi has 16mb of RAM and the clock speed of the processors is 133MHZ.

    Anyways, with all this new DSi information that keeps coming out, I keep getting more and more pumped for it. I preordered it and can’t wait until it comes out!

  • wiiboy101

    DSi power vs DS

    according to the strong rumors hackers lol

    DS SOC system on chip buses cpus other chips and possibly ram arm 7 33mhz arm 9 66mhz 4mb ram

    DSi SOC system on chip as above but all clock speeds doubled possible other spec upgrades plus the 16mb ram vs 4mb again at twice the clockspeed

    DSI IS 2X CLOCKSPEED OF WHOLE SYSTEM VS DS AND 4X RAM nintendo also stated its more efficient than DS

    2x system clock plus 4x ram plus a flash drive THERE’S GOT TO BE A BIG GRAPHICS UPGRADE THERE

  • daz-NY

    the whole system clock is doubled not just the cpu im sure as its a system on chip design

  • http://hughisaacs2.googlepages.com/ Hugh Isaacs II

    There’s some great ideas here.

    and I agree with the Nintendo Wi-Fi profile thing all of the way (it would be great to have your profile publicly display your Mii character and display your real face for friends).

    Two things I’ve noticed that I’ve wondered about, the DSi doesn’t have a Mii channel despite new DS games getting Mii support (this seriously needs to come in an update).

    and it also doesn’t have Connect24 support, so there is no built in e-mail system like on the Wii which I find to be a big disappointment since that’s a big feature I use on the Wii (especially for news).

    • daizyujin

      Seriously another thing regarding Wi-Fi that bugs me is that they don’t have it set up where you can enable WPA for legacy DS games. This is a big deal to me since I really don’t like having to have my wireless network using WEP for the sole purpose of my DS being able to access it.

      • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

        Agreed. This is my biggest beef with DS Wi-Fi. It’s so clumsy and does everything it possibly can to hinder you from having a fun online experience. They really, really need to make it so finding friends to play with is easier.

        • daizyujin

          Well to me the big problem is that WEP is so insecure. I was shocked at how fast my connection was cracked. The sad thing is that every other device, the Wii included, features WPA support. It is nice that the DSi supports WPA but if it don’t support it for legacy titles, then its useless as you would have to turn it off on your connection just to play legacy DS games, leaving your connection totally open to anybody that walks past your house. That is why I just don’t even use DS online anymore. I refuse to allow others the ability to steal my connection just for the sake of using my DS. Especially since there hasn’t been many online DS games that have interested me in the past year or so.

          • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

            Call of Duty: World at War is a blast on DS. Aside from that, there hasn’t been much, yea. I’m looking forward to Phantasy Star, Blue Dragon (not Plus, the cool one) and Echoes of Time. Hopefully we’ll see more games going the online multiplayer route on DS this year…I love a meaty portable game!

      • jarrodand

        Yeah it sucks. I kind of expect we’ll see Nintendo release enhanced versions of their biggest WFC DS games (Mario Kart, Prime Hunters, Animal Crossing, Pokemon, etc) with added WPA support though (among other things). Similar to many of their early GBC upgraded releases (Tetris DX, Link’s Awakening, Wario Land 2, etc) or the New Play Control line.

        I also sort of wonder if this is why Sega pushed PS0 back for the west, to implement WPA?

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          Yeah, I really hope they make PS0 DSi-compatible. Really, I can imagine that game working well with the new D-Pad. WPA support would be nice, too, yeah.

          I hope they re-release it in Japan with all those added features, too. But we’re probably just getting our hopes up for no good reason…

  • Mr. Mee

    I personally want GB, GBC, and GBA Virtual Console games. Bring it on Big N!

    • jarrodand

      This. No Virtual Game Boy is shameful.

      Plus, there’s plenty of 3rd party handheld platforms (Wonderswan, Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket) that could be added in time too.

    • tricky11

      Let’s hope that these possibilities are possible.

  • LittleOni

    Another thing with the camera, that I think will happen (simply because the property is a license to print money) is seeing the Pokemon CCG having scanable bar codes that unlock special items/monsters/etc in the next iteration of the series. Or something of the like for any game.

    Needless to say, I have high expectations for the DSi. I hope to get mine on launch.

  • tricky11

    What I’m wishing for is for me to be able to play world of warcraft so there’s no need for me to make an effort and buy wow gold just to keep up with the game.

  • tricky11

    We’ll wait and hope that these possibilities are possible.

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