And then there were three: Nintendo shows its hand

And then there were three: Nintendo shows its hand
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May 18, 2005 Nintendo last night unveiled its contender for the heavyweight clash of the games console – called Nintendo Revolution. Surprisingly, very few specifics of the Revolution internals were disclosed – there will be wi-fi networking, wireless controllers, two USB 2.0 ports, and DS memory card slots but no details of the processor and graphics chips upon which the machine is based other than that the microprocessor will be an IBM developed with Toshiba. Like the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Revolution will be backwards compatible with previous game systems though the unlike Sony and Microsoft, the Revolution will be able to play Nintendo games from the last two decades. The company was also clear to point out that unlike its competitors, it does not seek to be the centrepiece of the loungeroom.

The Revolution is the successor to the Nintendo GameCube that finished a distant third in a field of three in the current generation of game consoles and the company’s future is dependent on the success of the machine. Since the release of its first home video game system in 1983, Nintendo has sold nearly 2 billion video games and more than 336 million hardware units globally, creating enduring industry icons such as Mario and Donkey Kong and launching popular culture franchise phenomena such as Metroid, Zelda and Pokemon. Nintendo appears set to continue to target a younger audience than its competitors and the Revolution looks set to have a lower price point too.

It’s now clear that Microsoft will be the first to market with the Xbox 360 arriving this year in time for the Christmas sales bonanza – exactly the same head start that gave the Sony Playstation 2 winning momentum in the current generation. The Playsatation 3 will debut in the stores in 12 months time with a price expected to be below that of the Xbox 360 and Nintendo's new Revolution is expected to arrive in mid-2006 too.

"We will show the world what a next-gen system can be. Revolution marries the strongest heritage of innovation to the future of gaming," says Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. "With backward compatibility and the 'virtual console' concept, the stylish, compact body provides maximum gaming power. It will not only take home entertainment into another dimension by expanding the definition of video games, but it also will give you access to the great history of gaming."

Some of the system features include:

• The compact design, approximately the size of three standard DVD cases stacked together. A variety of prototype colors are being showcased during E3. It will come with a silver stand that makes the system a welcome, artistic component of any multimedia setup, whether it's displayed vertically or horizontally.

• Backward compatibility: The new console plays all games from the current Nintendo GameCube generation. But there's more…

• The console also will have downloadable access to 20 years of fan-favorite titles originally released for Nintendo 64, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and even the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

• Easy expansion: A bay for an SD memory card will let players expand the internal flash memory.

• Two disc formats, one slot: Instead of a tray, a single, innovative, self-loading media bay will play both 12-centimeter optical discs used for the new system as well as Nintendo GameCube discs. Owners will have the option of equipping a small, self-contained attachment to play movies and other DVD content.

• The specs: The system boasts 512 megabytes of internal flash memory, wireless controllers, two USB 2.0 ports and built-in Wi-Fi access. A worldwide network of Nintendo players can gather to compete in a comfortable, inviting environment. Revolution's technological heart, a processing chip developed with IBM and code-named "Broadway," and a graphics chip set from ATI code-named "Hollywood," will deliver game experiences not previously possible.

• The stars: Introduction of a number of new franchise properties will add to the world's richest stable of stars, including Mario, Zelda, Super Smash Bros., Donkey Kong and Metroid.

• Wireless freedom: A number of Wi-Fi-enabled launch titles are in development that will employ Nintendo's newly announced wireless gaming service, Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. A worldwide network of Nintendo players can gather to compete in a comfortable, inviting environment.

• Freedom of design: A dynamic development architecture equally accommodates both big-budget, high-profile game "masterpieces" as well as indie games conceived by individual developers equipped with only a big idea.

"Our next console proves small in size but big on ideas," says Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales & marketing. "We're throwing open the doors of gaming to wider audiences, from casual players to hard-core gamers who live for the thrill of defeating an endless army of wireless opponents."

Game Boy Micro

One of the surprises of the press conference was the release of a new redesigned tiny Game Boy Micro system – no new functionality but a much smaller form factor.

The sporty, silver metal Game Boy Micro measures a mere 4 inches wide, 2 inches tall and 0.7 inches deep, allowing it to sit comfortably alongside today's hippest technological gadgets. It weighs an astonishing 2.8 ounces, or about the weight of 80 paper clips. Yet Game Boy Micro has the same processing power and plays the same games as Game Boy Advance SP models, complete with standard face controls and gleaming shoulder and Start/Select buttons that literally shine.

A removable face plate gives owners the option to buy replacements to customize the look of their systems again and again with new colors and designs. Most notably, its 2-inch backlit screen shines with incredible power, rendering games in startling clarity with fantastic colors on the best Game Boy screen ever. For the first time, users can adjust the brightness of the screen to adapt to indoor lights or outdoor sunshine.

"We're making the gorgeous Game Boy Micro for image-conscious folks who love video games, the ones who want the look of their system to be as cool as the games they play on it," says George Harrison, Nintendo of America's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. "Because of its diminutive size and industrial-hip look, Game Boy Micro immediately identifies the person playing it as a trendsetter with discriminating style."

Game Boy Micro represents the latest evolution in the image of the Game Boy Advance line, but it is not a successor to any current system. Game Boy Micro will be released this fall. The system comes with a built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion battery and supports standard headphones.

The Game Boy Advance line remains tied for the most popular video game system of this generation. More than 28 million units have sold in the United States, yet Game Boy Advance launched a full eight months after PlayStation 2. Video game fans clearly appreciate great game play and portability. Nearly 700 games are now available for Game Boy Advance.

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