If you want to start talking sales figures for gaming platforms then you might start with the so-called "next gen" consoles.
You could, for example, confidently state that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ended last year with worldwide sales of 28.5 million and 21.3 million respectively. These are pretty impressive figures - if you were to lie every Xbox 360 ever sold end-to-end, they'd stretch from Auckland to Sydney. Then back to Auckland. Twice.
Not to take anything away from Microsoft or Sony, but Nintendo have been quietly demolishing their sales figures with the DS. As of December 2008, they've sold 96 million. That's nearly 25 for every person in New Zealand. So when Nintendo started working on an upgraded DS unit in late 2006, industry pundits watched closely to see how the company could improve on a handheld gaming device that was already at the front of the pack.
We caught up with Nintendo's PR team in Auckland this afternoon to get some hands-on time with the revised DS, which now sports an additional "i" in the title. The DSi is thinner than the old DS Lite by 2.6mm, and boasts screens 6.3mm larger. That might not sound like much of a change, but when placed next to a DS Lite, the difference is clear.
Perhaps the most obvious addition however are the two integrated 0.3 megapixel cameras, one on the outside and one placed between the dual screens facing the user. These cameras allow you to take video footage that the on-board photo software can manipulate in real-time. There are eleven different lens effects that can be applied to the video to morph the output, and these were demonstrated with predictably hilarious results by the events MC Kerri Woodham. This technology isn't exactly new, there are many cellphones that have similar editing software included, however coupled with face recognition that allows real-time modification of facial features, there's a heap of entertainment on offer.
Although the DSi has dropped the GameBoy Advance cartridge slot, meaning the likes of Guitar Hero On Tour will no longer work, Nintendo have worked in an SD slot that enables you to store music and photos for playback on the device. This becomes a whole lot more interesting when you factor in the comprehensive sound editing and mixing facilities the DSi will come equipped with - you can distort, loop and even change the speed and pitch of any song during playback, not to mention remove the vocals if you'd like to practise your karaoke skills. Most of this manipulation is done via the stylus - you simply use the touch-screen to slide the speed and pitch up or down. Just as well they've improved the speakers too.
If you get bored with video and sound manipulation, you can simply use the DSi as a digital photo frame, as it can display images in a slideshow. Photos taken can be categorised on the built-in calendar too, meaning each photo is associated with a particular date. Of course, all the data you store locally can also be shared across the integrated wireless connection to other DSi users.
In addition to the numerous hardware and software modifications, Nintendo will drive sales of the DSi by enabling direct access to the Nintendo DSi shop, where you can download exclusive Nintendo DSiWare in exchange for Nintendo points. Again, not exactly a new concept, but coupled with the integrated web browser the DSi will provide users with far more ways to stay entertained.
The DSi has already been on sale in Japan since late last year, but will finally be available on NZ shelves on April 2. If you've been considering picking up a DS then you'd be best to wait for the DSi, while existing DS users that don't have any pressing desire to retain Gameboy Advance compatibility will no doubt appreciate all the new features Nintendo have included.
Don't forget, Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is about to hit the shelves, so if you're in the market then the timing couldn't be any better!