Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A DS redesign in 2008: Could it happen?

There's been a lot of talk lately regarding a new DS design being revealed soon. There are various signs pointing at both ends of the argument, and each camp has it's fair share of validity. I'm going to take a look at the arguments presented by both sides and figure out just how likely a redesign at this point would be.

Why it could happen

The DS Lite has been out for over two years. When it comes to Nintendo's redesigns, this is a fairly long time to go without any word. It's no secret that Nintendo likes re-releasing their consoles in smaller, brighter packages, and they usually do so in a fairly frequent manner, three models per era. For example, take a look back at the Game Boy Advance generation. The original model was released in 2001, followed by the Game Boy Advance SP in 2003, and the Game Boy Micro in 2005. See a pattern? This trend seems to be continuing, with the original DS being released in 2004, followed by the DS Lite in 2006. If Nintendo's past releases are any indication, we will see a new DS model in 2008.

All this redesign talk came out of nowhere. Didn't the same thing happen right before the DS Lite was revealed? And didn't Nintendo react with the same "no, it's not true" back then, too? Things have been sounding a little familiar lately.

Demand for the DS Lite in Japan is dropping fast. Weekly sales have dropped by about 20,000 since November, and things don't look to be turning around any time soon. If Nintendo wants to sustain a steady flow of sales in Japan, it only makes sense to get a new design out the door. And as we all know...

Nintendo starts developing the successor the second a console is finished. As of right now, the Wii's successor is in development, and the same goes for the DS Lite's redesign. This was never a secret, folks, and there's no reason why tradition would change.

Why it can't happen

Aside from Japan, the DS Lite is still selling like mad. The only real reason things are slowing down in the handheld's home country is because almost everyone in Japan has one by now! But in North America, Europe and Australia, there are so many more people who want a DS Lite but don't have one yet. While redesigning the console now would make sense for helping sales in Japan, it isn't the right time yet elsewhere in the world.

Too many models will confuse the casual consumer. When a casual gamer sees a DS Lite on a store shelf, they instantly identify it as the console they've seen in commercials and such. But if they saw the DS Lite and some new-fangled design sitting next to it, they'd likely become confused. And the casual gamers that already have a DS Lite could be confused by the new model, wondering if their console is now obsolete. Unless Nintendo put out some ad campaign explicitly stating that they're both the same system, I don't think the casuals would react to it all that well.

The GBA redesigns came quickly and uniformly, but the original generation was quite different. The original Game Boy came out in 1989, and the first redesign (Not counting the "Play it Loud!" coloured systems) wasn't available until 1996, in the form of the Game Boy Pocket. The Game Boy Light (Japan Only) was released the next year, and the Game Boy Color debuted the year after that. The redesigns in the original generation were quite sporadic, and just because the Advance series was predictable doesn't mean the DS will be the same. And who knows? Perhaps there just won't be another redesign this generation! The number of rereleases has dropped progressively each generation. The original Game Boy series had four models, the Advance had three, and perhaps the DS will have only two. You never really know. History isn't always the best indicator.

Looking at the various arguments flying around, I'd have to say that no, we won't be seeing a new design this year. But really, Nintendo was never known for being predictable. Speculation and probability mean nothing to Iwata! Nothing!

So then, what do you think of all this recent redesign jibber-jabber? Have your say in the comment section, or in this forum thread.

The Duck Has Spoken.

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