Tokyo Nintendo Co. Ltd. and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) showed the first working prototypes of their new portable gaming systems at the 2004 Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) in Los Angeles last week. Each platform stretches the consoles in new and distinct directions.
Nintendo said its Nintendo DS, or double-screen system, will provide a novel form of game entertainment. Nintendo holds the lion's share of the portable-game market, with about 50 million Game Boy Advance units sold by the end of last year.
But SCEI is making a full-fledged assault on that market. It touts the PSP, or Playstation Portable, as a more-versatile system that does double duty as a game and audio and video platform.
Though the DS and PSP differ somewhat, both feature a wireless-communications function based on IEEE 802.11b. Nintendo DS is additionally equipped with a proprietary wireless capability that will enable up to 16 DS systems to be connected in a range of about 10 meters.
Nintendo plans to introduce the DS in both the Japanese and U.S. markets by year's end and in Europe by next March. SCEI will introduce PSP in Japan by the end of this year, with a first-quarter 2005 rollout planned for the U.S. and European markets.
The DS platform itself is a two-piece hinged, PDA-sized unit that folds open to reveal a 3-inch LCD display on each of its two parts. One of its two displays has touchsceen input capability. The system also has some voice recognition capability.
Nintendo DS is powered by two processors an ARM9 and ARM7 and its two screens can display 3-D images. It is equipped with two slots, one of which handles the new DS game cartridges. The cartridges will employ semiconductor memory with more than 1 Gbit of capacity.
When the PSP's main specifications were unveiled last July, SCEI president Ken Kutaragi called it "the Walkman of the 21st century," designed for audio and video entertainment as well as games.
SCEI has introduced an optical disk for the PSP that holds 1.8 Gbytes on a 60-mm-diameter platter. The disk will contain PSP game titles, audio compressed by ATRAC3plus and PCM codecs, and video compressed by an MPEG-4 AVC. PSP also has slots for Memory Stick Duo and USB 2.0.