Look for unplanned potential within the Nintendo DS, an upcoming handheld videogame system. It uses wi-fi, as well as a proprietary Nintendo wireless format, to let a player compete and communicate with another in the same room, or with a potentially infinite number of other players via connections to the Internet through wi-fi hotspots. The New York Times says the unit will go on sale in the U.S. November 21 for $149.
Nintendo’s marketing, the press, and the weblogs all seem fixated on the fact that this unit has two screens, and the fact that it will let people play the same old types of multiplayer games in mobile settings.
But I think a special combination of attributes make this a potential source of compelling new smartmobbish applications and behavior:
(1) Not only does it provide wireless networking capabilities, it’s built around using wi-fi in an ad-hoc person-to-person manner — regardless of whether wi-fi hotspots are nearby.
(2) When an open wi-fi hotspot is nearby, it can be used to connect from the field with servers on the Internet.
(3) Kids will use it, and kids aren’t locked into narrow wireless communication paradigms.
(4) It’s not too expensive, which might encourage a critical mass of these things in urban areas. (Compare it with Sony’s upcoming $300+ wi-fi-enabled PSP game device.)
Imagine the sociolocative fun that this might enable — if Nintendo doesn’t block out nonlicensed developers.
(Thanks to Matthew Rothenberg for the tip!)