TOKYO Nintendo Co. Ltd. has invested $15 million in Matrix Semicondcutors Inc., which has developed a non-volatile 3D memory, Matrix said this week.
The investment in Matrix was made quietly last year by Nintendo. Observers said it shows Nintendo's interest in the company's memory technology. "We are always looking for good solutions for our mobile game" devices, a Nintendo spokesman said. "Matrix's 3-D memory is one such possibility."
Matrix announced development of its 3-D memory in December 2001. The memory's structure is based on stacked cells, giving it greater capacity than the conventional memories in the same space. Matrix said it can fabricate the 3-D memory using standard materials, equipment and processes. Products using its 3-D memory will hit markets soon, accoriding to the company.
Nintendo's mobile Game Boy family uses mask ROM as the standard media for its game titles. The size of most game titles, even for the latest-model Game Boy Advance, is less than 64 Mbits. "For present game titles, the standard mask ROM is the most cost effective, but we may have strong needs for larger capacity for future enrichment of software or much quicker time-to-market. Matrix 3-D Memory will be one of the possible solutions," the Matrix spokesman said.
As an alternative memory for mask ROM on the Game Boy platform, 3-D memory will have to compete less expensive memories such as P2ROM supplied by Oki Electric Co. Ltd.
Oki started supplying P2ROM for Nintendo's game cartridge in November 2001. It is an EEPROM in plastic package. The package has no window, so the memory cannot erase by ultraviolet light after data is written. Thus, the memory functions as if it were mask ROM. Oki approach is to write customers' data onto the P2ROM before shipping them. This approach means "short turn- around time of just two days at the shortest, which is much shorter than two to three weeks for mask ROM," an Oki spokesman said.
Oki offers a variety of capacity from 4-Mbit to 128-Mbit devices and plans to add a 256-Mbit device by this summer.