Nintendo DS to Get Web Browser, TV Tuner

Japanese fans of Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s dual-screen DS portable game machine may soon be able to surf the Web and watch high-definition television programs on their devices in addition to playing games.

Taking another step in its strategy to develop features that will appeal to more than just hardcore game fans, the Japanese company said on Wednesday it plans to begin selling a Web browser in June and launch a card with a digital television receiver by the end of the year.

"These products propose a different use for the DS in entirely new fields," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told a news conference.

The company declined to give specific details on the television feature, but it said a card with an antenna will enable owners to watch television programs for mobile devices, which Japanese broadcasters are expected to begin offering from April 1.

The Web browser, developed with Norway's Opera Software, will be sold as a DS card in June for 3,800 yen ($32).

Users will be able to insert the card into the DS, which has Wi-Fi wireless networking capability, to browse the Internet in areas with connectivity.

["This is a breakthrough," Opera co-founder and chief executive Jon S. von Tetzchner told The Associated Press. "This is the first time we have provided a browser for a game device."]

A Nintendo spokesman said it was considering a similar browser product in its overseas markets.

Nintendo, known for games featuring characters such as Mario, Donkey Kong and Pokemon, has enjoyed a strong holiday season, particularly in Japan, due to the popularity of its DS portable game machine and games such as "Nintendogs," "Animal Crossing" and "Mario Kart."

An industry survey by Japanese game magazine publisher Enterbrain found that the momentum has continued for Nintendo in January as eight of the top 10 best-selling games in Japan were DS games. Seven were by Nintendo.

The company's strategy in recent years has been to try to expand its player base by creating a variety of innovative games that appeal to non-traditional gamers such as girls, young women and older people.

Nintendo, which has sold 14.4 million DS units worldwide including 6 million in Japan, aims to reach sales of 10 million DS devices in Japan alone by the end of 2006, Iwata said.

"Software sales have traditionally been dominated by console games, but the situation changed dramatically toward the end of the year and games for portable devices overwhelmed console games," said Iwata, adding that bigger-than-expected demand for DS devices had resulted in a shortage.

Iwata also unveiled Nintendo's planned lineup of software for Japan, such as a foreign language guide for travelers, a reference guide in Japanese and English, training software to improve penmanship in Japanese and a cooking guide giving step-by-step voice instructions for recipes.

The spring lineup will include "Tetris DS," featuring familiar characters such as Mario and Donkey Kong, as well as games by third-party developers such as Square Enix Co. Ltd., Namco and Pokemon Co.

"We hope that our user base will become even wider with our software lineup, which we believe has enough teeth for experienced players," Iwata said.

The company said last month it planned to launch a thinner, lighter version of the DS device, called "Nintendo DS Lite," in Japan on March 2 for 16,800 yen ($143), compared with the current model's retail price of 15,000 yen ($128).

Nintendo is widely expected by analysts to raise its earnings forecast for the full year to March 31 after its third-quarter results in late January showed it has already nearly achieved its current annual estimate.