New Nintendo DSi hardware gets date, price

Nintendo of America issued a press release today detailing launch date and price for its new Nintendo DSi handheld gaming system.

April 5th is the date, and $169.99 is the price, with a choice of two colors (blue and black). The current DS system, which sold over three million units in North America last December, generally retails for $129.99.

This will be the third iteration of the hardware: The Nintendo DS (dubbed DS Phat by the gamer community), the Nintendo DS Lite, and now the Nintendo DSi. The "Phat" and the Lite were functionally identical, but the DSi adds some functionality while dropping some legacy support.

So what's new? The DSi features two cameras, one that faces the player and the other facing outwards. An SD memory cart slot offers storage space for photos or music (a music player application is included). A "DSiWare Store" will allow gamers to download software in exchange for DSi Points (for some reason both Microsoft and Nintendo seem averse to pricing things in their online stores using real money denominations, instead asking customers to first buy "points" to spend on downloadable software). Let's hope the DSi handles modern wireless networks better than the DS (which can't connect to a WPA-protected network).

On the downside, the Gameboy Advance slot is gone, which means the loss of not only old Gameboy Advance games, but various add-ons that interface via that slot (including the popular Guitar Hero On Tour input device).

The DSi will play most Nintendo DS games, but there will be some new games that will only work on the new hardware. With a worldwide install base of 84 million Nintendo DS units out there, it's safe to assume that most developers will continue to support the DS, only limiting games to the DSi when they take advantage of the new additions to the hardware.

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