Much Ado About Nitro

Yesterday, Nintendo’s website targeted at external developers added a section about the new double screen handheld, calling it ‘Nitro’ on the freely accessible front page. The webmaster was quick to change it to ‘Nintendo DS’ — Nintendo of Europe claimed it was an old working title and Nintendo of America simply denied the existence of the name. At the same time, though, an e-mail sent out to developers clearly mentioned ‘Project Nitro’ as the new and official code name.

While it’s a bit too eighties retro for my tastes, Project Nitro is a much better code name than ‘Dual-Screen’ in my opinion. The latter focuses entirely on the twin LCD factor, conveying something like: “This is like Game Boy Advance, but with an extra screen!” Not the best way to convince the public that your invention is the first in a unique and, er, explosive new product line.

At the Japanese side of things, a document was apparently leaked, detailing more precise technical specifications of the new device. For starters, it should include 802.11-style wireless networking, linking up to 16 players, as well as a mike-in port and touch screen capabilities on at least one display. Besides the usual directional button, A, B, Start and Select, there might be X and Y buttons as well.

Furthermore, the handheld will supposedly have near Nintendo 64 quality 3D graphics on one screen and slightly better than GBA quality 2D graphics on the other, each sporting a resolution of 256 x 192 pixels compared to GBA’s 240 x 160. Apparently, the device will be backward compatible with GBA — which doesn’t sound like a smart move if Nintendo want this to be their ’third pillar’.

The general reaction to these new specs is something like: “It’s so much better than I thought it would be!”. This confirms my philosophy that it’s better to wait for more info instead of jumping to conclusions.

It also questions how smart it is for Nintendo to reveal only partial information, though while it’s easy to forget the initial opinion about the Nintendo DS, it’s not easy to forget how silly so-called experts sometimes make themselves look. Anyway, you’ll read my opinion on Nintendo’s new device during or after the E3 expo