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The Pocket Gamer Report: The DSi Goes XL

Pocket Gamer | 31 Oct 2009 14:00
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So, not five months since the release of the DSi, Nintendo has decided that what we really need is another handheld hardware bump, namely the DSi XL. But do we? Do we really?

Though it received a mixed reaction at the time, the DSi did at least boast a significant upgrade over the DS Lite, in that it heralded the arrival of proper digital distribution on the platform via a handy new SD memory card slot.

True, Nintendo tends to pinch its nose, make a "peeeuuuww" face and hold the DS at arms length like a pair of dirty socks as soon as anyone even mentions DSiWare, but the groundwork has at least been laid.

But what does the DSi XL bring to the table? Has anyone ever complained about the DS's screens being too small? In fact, is one the DS's strengths not its dinky portability?

Revisions such as increasing the screen size from 3.5 to 4.2 inches and inflating the anemic DS Lite stylus to a husky, arthritis-friendly prodder aren't likely to be seen as essential in the eyes of the majority of gamers. But there's a clue to the DSi XL's direction in its sedate new prune color-scheme.

Nintendo is already close to saturation point with the DS across the broader, more typical gaming demographics, but though it has made far greater inroads with the senior crowd than its competitors, there's still an enormous group of potential stylus swipers out there that Nintendo is zeroing in on. A group that hasn't yet cottoned on to the fact that an afternoon spell of dual-screen gaming can make an excellent alternative to tabletop Scrabble or a few rounds of Rummy.

A quick look at the games list on Nintendo's official DS site is as revealing an insight into the company's current handheld strategy as you'll find.

There's Active Health with Carol Vorderman, which encourages, shares dietary tips and gentle exercises and includes a handy pedometer attachment. We're not talking hyper-aerobics and a '"carbs are the enemy" approach, here. This is a lifestyle application aimed not at frenetic young nu-rave obsessed energy drink guzzlers, but at mature Earl Grey sipping types.

There's also the now three-years-old 42 All Time classics, which includes board and card games that will almost certainly be very familiar to the over fifties crowd. Perhaps even more telling than that, however, is the presence of 100 Classic Books Collection, right at the top of the list.

Marketing the DS as an e-reader would be a smart move for Nintendo in many ways and, coupled with the DSi XL's new larger screens and chunky stylus, could prove to be a key selling point for the older demographic.

Both the Kindle II and Sony's PRS 505 E-Reader system have established that there's a significant demand for e-readers, and with the DSi XL priced at 20,000 Yen (£134 or $221) it's likely that it will be significantly cheaper than the Kindle (£250 or $259) or Sony's PSR-505 (£250 or $369) when it touches down on US and European shelves.

The DSi XL will, of course, have its benefits for more traditional games, as well as web surfing and potentially multimedia functions. But these are ostensibly soft benefits, and news of the DSi XL will probably put a few noses out of joint among those who have already bought a DSi or DS Lite over the last 10 months.

The battle for Christmas supremacy just got a whole lot more interesting.

Pocket Gamer is Europe's leading source of news, opinion and reviews on mobile and handheld gaming.

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