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02:20 PM

Nintendo DSi Making U.S. Debut In April

Among the unique features on the DSi is two 0.3 megapixel cameras, one on the external body and the other pointing at the user when the device is flipped open.

Nintendo DSi Gaming Platform

Nintendo DSi Gaming Platform
(click for larger image)

Nintendo said Wednesday that it would release the DSi, the latest iteration of the company's market-leading DS portable gaming device, in the United States in April.

The DSi, which has more entertainment features than the older model and could prove to be a competitor of Apple's iPod Touch, has been available in Japan since last fall. The device is scheduled to be on U.S. store shelves April 5 for $170. It will be available in blue and black.

Among the unique features on the DSi is two 0.3 megapixel cameras, one on the external body and the other pointing at the user when the device is flipped open. The outside camera is for taking and sharing pictures over the Web. Developers are expected to make use of the inside device to make games more interactive.

Other features include a voice recorder and music player and software filters and controls for altering voices or changing the tempo of songs. The system plays downloadable games, as well as store-bought games. The DSi can also play the more than 850 titles made for the DS.

Among the games available in April with the DSi launch is Rhythm Heaven, which has sold more than 1.6 million copies in Japan since its release in July 2008, first for the DS and later the DSi. The game has players tapping and sliding a stylus on the hardware's touch screen in time to music created by Japanese pop-star producer Tsunku. Having popular games available for players is key to driving sales.

The DSi has a slightly larger touch screen than the DS, at 3.25 inches. The new device also has a slot for an external SD memory card up to 2 GB, and is thinner and lighter than the older system, which Nintendo will continue to sell.

The DSi has a built-in Web browser for accessing Nintendo's online store called the DSi Shop, which sells games and software that can be downloaded over a Wi-Fi connection.

Once available in the U.S., Nintendo's latest gadget could evolve into a competitor of the iPod Touch, which is also a gaming platform and music and video player. The iPod is more expensive with a starting price of $229, but games are cheaper on the Apple product.

Nintendo leads the mobile gaming market by a wide margin. In January, Nintendo sold 510,800 units of the DS in U.S. stores compared with 172,300 units of Sony's PlayStation Portable, or PSP, according to The NPD Group.

Despite Nintendo's success in the portable gaming market, the company in January shocked financial analysts by reporting that profits would be 33% less than expected. Nintendo, which trades on the Tokyo stock exchange, gave no clear reason for the warning, other than saying there was "softness in the Japanese consumer market."

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