Nintendo's hit DS portable machine will come with a digital camera that will allow players to mix images, scribble on photos and create new faces, the Japanese game maker said Thursday.
The Nintendo DSi will go on sale in Japan on Nov. 1 for 18,900 yen ($180), and will be available overseas next year.
Dates and other details for overseas plans will be announced later by the company's regional units later, President Satoru Iwata said.
Iwata said the revamped DS is meant to be the first toy camera for children and a tool for network-building and party fun for older people in the company's ongoing quest to make gaming popular with everyone — not just a niche crowd.
One in six Japanese already owns a DS, according to Kyoto-based Nintendo, which also makes Pokemon and Super Mario games. But the goal is to make the DS a must-have for every Japanese, Iwata said.
"We want to change the DS from something that's in every household to something that's for every person," he told reporters at a Tokyo gymnasium.
The improved DSi is thinner than the current DS model, and will have a bigger screen, he said.
The machine also comes with an audio player, to play sound stored in a memory card. Users will be able to change the speed of the sound.
In a demonstration, Iwata showed that players will be able to listen to a foreign language lesson at a slower speed, or distort music or voices to a shrill pitch for fun.
Nintendo also demonstrated new game software for its hit Wii home console, including "Wii Music."
Players just need to jiggle their remote controller to feel as though they are playing any of 60 musical instruments, including a drum set, sitar, saxophone and piano, although there are only 50 preprogrammed melodies.
Users will be able to make those tunes play electronically from their Wii machines at their own speed and whim — guaranteed to not sound a single incorrect note.
They will also be able to add personal touches, such as choosing accompanying instrumentation and genres such as jazz, reggae and rock.
Nintendo's star game designer Shigeru Miyamoto said he loves to practice guitar at home alone but he is intimidated about playing in front of an audience.
"This removes all those obstacles to a jam session," he said.
Nintendo has sold 77.5 million Nintendo DS handheld devices worldwide, nearly 23 million in Japan, far outselling Sony Corp.'s rival offering, the PlayStation Portable, at 41 million globally — 10 million in Japan.
Iwata acknowledged that the pace of DS sales have been dwindling recently, and Nintendo was determined to reverse that with new offerings like the Nintendo DSi.
Data show that the PSP has been challenging the DS lately — at least in Japan. For five months straight starting in March, PSP sales outpaced the DS in Japan, according to Tokyo-based Enterbrain, which publishes game magazines and tracks video game sales.
In home consoles, the Wii competes against the PlayStation 3 from Sony and the Xbox 360 from Microsoft.
Nintendo has sold 29.6 million Wii consoles worldwide so far. PlayStation 3 sales have lagged at fewer than half that at 14.4 million.
Microsoft Corp. doesn't disclose how many of the cumulative 20 million Xbox 360 machines sold worldwide were Japan sales. But it has been targeting reaching a million sold in Japan sometime soon.