Nintendo Takes DS Online

The Nintendo DS, the dual-screen gaming handheld from the Japanese gaming giant, comes with built-in 802.11b for some head-to-head gaming — and now that wireless ability is going to be put to serious use in online gaming.

Nintendo has announced plans to build a network of 1,000 free hotspots in Japan to be used by gamers (and, it would appear, any other Wi-Fi equipped device). Charges could be incurred only through the third-party game publishers, ostensibly for enjoying more high-bandwidth pastimes such as massively-multiplayer role-playing games, for example.

In the United States, Nintendo is teaming up with IGN to use its GameSpy technology for easy links into Wi-Fi hotspots or home networks, with minimal configuration changes. Nintendo will, again, not charge end users any subscription charges for using the DS while online. Third-party publishers will still be able to layer on extra fees.

The GameSpy middleware technology is used by PC and console games (usually Sony’s PlayStation2) for fast game “matchmaking” to make it easy to find online opponents around the world, as well as for overall networking and administrative duties in some game systems. It can even by used for creating moderated, online user forums. IGN acquired GameSpy Industries in early 2004.

Right now, the only announced game to support global online play over Wi-Fi connections on Nintendo DS is the upcoming Animal Crossing, which is being developed in-house by Nintendo.

At a keynote speech at the Game Developer’s Conference this week, Nintendo president Santoru Iwata said that the Nintendo next generation console with the code name of “Revolution” is on schedule. It will be backward-compatible with the Nintendo GameCube, and will have built-in Wi-Fi support on home networks.

More details on the DS’s future hotspot exploits —including possible info about DS going online at hotspots in Europe— are expected later this month during the E3 gaming expo and conference in Los Angeles.

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