Monday, September 26, 2005

Thinking about a DS

The Nintendo DS, hyped as a portable Nintendo 64, it has lived up to the hype in more way than one; like the N64 it only has a few dozen good games, most of which are entries into existing francises: Mario, Bomberman, Advance Wars, Kirby, Castlevania. Also, like the N64, it takes a common technology (stylus in the case of the DS, analogue control in the case of the N64), turns it into a gimmick and hypes the hell out of it. David Sheff, in Game Over, quotes Nintendo officials saying that the company plans ten years ahead, while a webcast of the unveiling of the Nintendo Revolution's highly “innovative” controller specifically cites the DS as marker for where the company is going.

Hence we see Nintendo's plans for the next decade; a world where proprietary technology locks Nintendo's games to Nintendo's hardware. Since the days of the NES, Nintendo has forced developers to sign contracts forbidding them to port their games to other systems. It has then been cracked down on piracy almost as aggressively as the RIAA and MPAA have, sending college kids to jail for hosting ROM sites. The proprietary mini-discs for GameCube games were intended to be, and have proven to be, (ahem) not be as commonly pirated as PS2 and Xbox games.

How can a game dependent on highly proprietary input hardware like the DS (two screens, stylus) or Revolution be feasibily ported to other systems? Who would bother to write, much less use, emulators for it?

The game library for the Nintendo DS has proven that Nintendo's plan for the next decade has nothing to do with innovation. Nintendo actually wants games developed for Nintendo's systems to never appear on anything else, and they're taking steps towards that.