ame Informer Online’s Managing Editor and resident Nintendo freak Billy Berghammer got to speak with Nintendo of America’s Director of Public Relations Beth Llewelyn about yesterday’s cryptic announcement of the Nintendo DS. Many questions have been answered, and some er...dodged.
Billy Berghammer: According to the press releases it said that there would be “new semiconductor memory up to one gigabit." What I’m curious about is if this is the onboard memory of the system or what the game sizes will be whatever format it is. Does that roughly translate to 128 megabytes of memory?
Beth Llewelyn: Ahh! You’re going to ask me to do math! I’m gonna have to figure that one out.
Billy: At least according to my math, that’s the way it works out. It’s just odd that you chose to use bits instead of bytes because historically bits are used for the transportation of data.
Beth: We’re talking about a new type of semiconductor memory that will hold up to one gigabit of memory. This is the software storage method. We will use a new type of semiconductor memory that will be able to hold up to 1 gigabit of memory which is roughly 8 times the storage capacity of the current GBA semiconductor memory. With an increased amount of storage in a small package, we think this semiconductor memory will allow us to maintain our stellar anti-shock protection while keeping the size and weight of the portable device to a minimum. It’s not going to be optical discs.
Billy: So GameCube games will not be playable on this unit.
Beth: No. I mean, no. You won’t be able to take your GameCube game disc and play it on the DS. This is a completely separate thing.
Billy: Will the unit be backwards compatible with the Game Boy Advance or the Game Boy?
Beth: We haven’t announced anything about that, yet.
Billy: The press release also stated that there’s two separate 3” TFT LCD screens on the DS. Are those 3” actually square or could that mean the screens are 3” high, but could have a wide screen?
Beth: They are 3" diagonal -- so a little bit bigger than GBA screens.
Billy: I also read that developers can use both screens as one if they so choose.
Beth: Yes, you can use the two screens as one big monitor. I think it’s one of those things that the developer will have the freedom to do what they want to do.
Billy: Will the screens be side-by-side, or vertical? Also, will the screens be set right next to each other or will they be separate, much like the classic Game & Watch designs?
Beth: The will be in the vertical position.
Billy: Why does Nintendo feel like they need to have a third system?
Beth: We’re always looking at ways to keep innovating in the industry. We’re always looking to make gameplay more fun – a little bit different – and we felt this would be a unique way to do that. We’re certainly not abandoning our current platforms. We’re still working on the successor to the Game Boy Advance, and what will be the successor to GameCube. Here’s really just a third product line that just adds some new and innovative gameplay opportunities.
Billy: I thought Nintendo was aiming to make gaming simpler. How does having a system with two screens simpler?
Beth: That’s probably a difficult thing to answer right now because we have nothing to show you. But I think the bigger picture answer there is that some games out there get very, very complicated, and it may turn away a lot of gamers. So what we want to make sure is we do make games that can be accessible for all gamers – all ages, all types. We’re looking for ways to make it fun and easy to get into. I think with this system that is certainly being taken into account. So when the games are being developed for this there are going to be games that are easy to get into. It’s just hard to get into explaining it in detail because we can’t get into the detail yet. But I think when you see this – and most likely that’ll be at E3 – you’ll get a much better idea.
Billy: Is E3 when we’ll actually get to see the hardware and the software?
Beth: That’s the current schedule. That’s the plan.
Billy: Will E3 be the first time we’ll learn about third party agreements?
Beth: Ah, yes. That’s the current schedule.
Billy: So there hasn’t been any third party or second parties that have games in development.
Beth: Nobody has been announced yet.
Billy: Do developers have development kits, or can interested developers get access to kits?
Beth: We’ve been talking to developers. I know a lot of work is going on behind the scenes in that regard.
Billy: Last year ATI announced that they were working with Nintendo on the graphics chips for their next generation systems. Is ATI doing the graphics chipset for the DS?
Beth: We haven’t announced specifically who were working with on this system, outside of ARM. That’s really all we can say on that.
Billy: A little earlier than this time last year Nintendo debuted the Game Boy Advance SP, and now this is another January announcement. Is this announcement related to the fact that the fiscal year is coming to a close? Iwata stated that we wouldn’t hear about this new system until the spring (E3). Earlier this week Nintendo’s stock was downgraded by Goldman Sachs. What was the reason for the gun jump? Is there any correlation at all?
Beth: No. We realize that – well obviously we’re out there talking to people about the system – there was going to be no way to keep this completely quiet. Because you guys talk! (laughs)
Billy: I never talk to anyone. I didn’t hear about this at all! (laughs)
Beth: (laughs) Well that’s why we got this out there ahead of time. Well people have been out there speculating about this mystery product. And then once we started going full bore with developers, and all the third parties, we knew it was going to get out there. So it just made sense to make the announcement, so we could put an end to all the rumors. That’s all it had to do with.
Billy: Nintendo also stated that this unit would have a worldwide launch at the end of 2004. Will the launch be worldwide on the same day or will it be Japan first?
Beth: The goal is if it happens this year for all the markets – that’s one of those things that time will tell. It certainly comes down to all the components – can we get everything, are we going to be able to manufacture enough to supply the major markets? That’s certainly our goal. Whether it’s same day, same month – that’s much too soon to tell. But we’ll know more as we get closer to E3.
Billy: So currently – Japan for sure by the end of the year?
Beth: Which market it would be, whether it’s all markets – I really can’t answer that.
Billy: You said that the Nintendo DS would be debuted in North America at E3. What about Japan? When do you think Japan will get their first look at the Nintendo DS? Would Nintendo possibly be thinking about another Spaceworld show?
Beth: Ummmm, I really can’t answer that right now. I don’t think that has been decided. As I’ve said, a lot of this hasn’t been announced. Basically we’re lifting the curtain a little bit – giving you a little bit of information and really a lot more is going to be talked about when we get to E3, or when the time gets closer to E3.
Billy: Now, for your typical Nintendo gamer out there that’s got a Game Boy, and a GameCube – why would they be interested in the Nintendo DS?
Beth: You know, the same reason that you’re interested in the other systems – because it’s got some great games that you want to play. That’s why we make hardware systems – so we can provide some fun games, and some games that you’re probably not going to be able to play on any other system.
Billy: Why are you excited about the system?
Beth: You know, we’re just learning a lot about it. So, it sounds great. There’s a lot more that we know about it, and unfortunately I can’t tell you those things yet. (laughs) That’s the hard part. But I think it’s going to be a fun E3, and I think you guys are going to be excited when you see it.
Billy: I think Nintendo should bring back the “open door policy” they’ve always had with the flow of information.
Beth: Uh-huh, yes. And when did we have that? (laughs)
Billy: Ummmm. (laughs) I think Peter Main said it at E3 about 4 years ago. I don’t know.
Beth: Most of the stuff you really want to know will happen closer to E3, if not at E3.
Billy: Okay. Well thanks again for your time Beth!
Beth: You’re welcome.