Testing the Nintendo DSi

Nintendo DSi Recently acquired a Nintendo DSi. Although I have a DS for sometime, I wanted to see how the user experience could be reshuffled through the new features provided by Nintendo.

The first interesting change is that you can download games from DSi ware virtual shop. Simply put, there's no game sold with the console! You plug in the interwebs, see what you can buy with 1000 points and download it onto the internal drive of the DSi. It takes a short amount of time that you spend watching a bunch of Nintendo characters who race to fill box with blue liquid (which means that the game download is complete). Fortunately, this time, the web browser (Opera) is free. What this means is that part of the software is dematerialized (no cartridges).

Nintendo DSi

Another important addition consists in the two cameras that allow you to take photos with eleven different lenses and exchange photos with other Nintendo DSi systems. The basic piece of software enables the user to manipulate content in very basic ways (stretch a photo, add moustaches...) and create new game mechanics (as in the Wario Ware game you can buy with your 5000 points). Of course the quality is so-so but I am more intrigued by how basic games could be implemented on top of that, than using the DSi to replace my camera.

Perhaps the most striking change lies in the small improvements and variety of usage allowed by the new features: web integration/access is very interesting and it turns the console into a platform to do other things than gaming. I actually used it last week in our Lift weekly meeting to access Google docs. The whole user experience is improved through very simple UI transformations. It's interesting to observe how dealing with memory issues on the DSi has changed: you have virtual "slots" where you can download applications from DSi ware and the addition of an SD card slot is also a good move to enable the use of external content.

On the minus side though, the loss of the GBA cartridge slot (then no weird add-on!) and the "yet another new power adapter" is again an issue. Moreover, it's not possible (so far) to read MP3 because they wanted to support the AAC music format; I know it allows you to alter the pitch and speed but I don't have anything in this format (yet).

Why do I blog this? as a user experience research intrigued by mobile technologies, the DSi is an highly curious piece with good things ahead. For two reasons:

  1. it's not longer a device uniquely devoted to gameplay: users can be engaged in web-based interactions, play with pictures and sounds and I am pretty sure there will be improvements and tools to build sth around them.
  2. it also disrupts the mobile gaming experience: playing with cameras or material from SD cards is perhaps more common after seeing games on cell-phones but it's still a good step for the video game console designers. For instance, Wario Ware micro-games with the camera are very curious (although a tad difficul depending on the light conditions). Furthermore, It seems to me that the social component will also be a hot topic using different contextes (colocated versus distant play).