Nintendo: Larger screen DSi official, profits falling

That was a fast rumor-to-fact turnaround. The larger screen Nintendo DSi I posted about on Tuesday now has a name and a Japanese launch date. The DSi LL will have 4.2" screens and will launch November 21st for ¥20,000 (about $220). In North America and Europe it will be called DSi XL and will launch during calendar Q1 of 2010. The screens of the new device are a little bigger than rumored and are a pretty significant step up in size once you see the old and new units compared. They're also supposed to have a larger viewing angle than the current DSi screens. The DSi LL will initially be offered in Wine Red, Dark Brown and Natural White. Engadget has a chart comparing the DS, DSi and DSi LL that helps put things in perspective.

Officially Nintendo says they've made this new DSi LL for older gamers who have trouble seeing the screens of the other models. I can see it also being popular with people who own a DS not because of its mobility but because of the kinds of games the system offers (games that take advantage of the touch screen as well as old school turn-based RPGs). The larger form factor won't be a deterrent if you don't carry your DS around with you anyway.

From a business perspective, Nintendo needs the DSi LL to prop up its falling sales. According to posts at VentureBeat and PC World, Nintendo profits are falling and they won't be making their forecasts. For the April to September 2009 period, Wii sales dropped 43% when compared to the prior year. DS sales were down 15% even with the spring launch of the DSi. Investment in the DSi LL was probably fairly modest and should give the DS line a nice bump in sales as Nintendo fans rush out to buy this year's model.

Fixing the Wii situation could be more challenging. The release of New Super Mario Brothers on November 15th should product an uptick in Wii sales, but overall it feels like Nintendo has painted themselves into a corner. They more or less neglected the 'core gamer' while selling Wii & Wii Fit bundles to soccer moms everywhere. That market seems to be approaching saturation and those old folks in the retirement homes we saw playing Wii Sports aren't running out to buy Dead Space Extraction or Muramasa: The Demon Blade. Nintendo has to find a way to get real gamers excited about the system again (and in fairness the two games I just mentioned, while both third party, should help). Or maybe real gamers are still excited about the Wii, but there just aren't enough of us to maintain the crazy-high numbers the Wii was selling for the first years of its life? Perhaps Nintendo has to step up the quantity of first party AAA games for real gamers in order to make up their decreasing hardware profits with higher software sales?

If Wii sales are tapering off, will we see some kind of Wii HD or Wii 2 announced at E3 2010?

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