When Nintendo first released its much-anticipated handheld game device, the DS, last year, it excitedly promoted many things about it. The dual screens, for example. The stylus. The fact that it was released before Sony's mini-wonder, the PSP.
But one thing it didn't talk too much about was that the DS has built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, and in fact one of the basic DS games, "Pictochat," incorporates that feature so that many players can play together wirelessly when in close proximity.
But even as Nintendo was staying largely mum about Wi-Fi on the DS, a lot of other people were thinking about it. Hackers, for example, were busy racing against each other to try to find ways to let people not only play wirelessly, but also play across the Internet.
Then a group of young geeks from Los Angeles decided to put the Wi-Fi capabilities of the DS and the PS through their paces. Among many more mundane things they tried: playing games wirelessly from car to car, or even from subway car to subway car, they also found they could play "Super Mario Brothers" while falling from the sky.
In any case, Nintendo has finally decided to promote the DS' Wi-Fi features. So the company has a commercial, "The Sad, Agonizing Tale of Bhuvan Ganguly," playing in movie theaters these days which, while not entirely straightforward, nonetheless is all about pushing Wi-Fi on the DS.
News.com had a chance to ask Nintento vice president of marketing and corporate affairs Perrin Kaplan about the promotion, and here's how it went:
News.com: What is Nintendo trying to promote with these ads?
Kaplan: The early ads are designed to build buzz about (the) Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection itself, to let people know that it's coming soon and that it will be easy to use. The...ad shows how one action can have instant and dramatic consequences, even thousands of miles away. And the use of the banana (in the ad) is a nod to gamers who know that one of the first games for Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection will be "Mario Kart DS." This ad will appear in over 5,000 theaters nationwide.
Q: What kind of games will Nintendo be promoting that have Wi-Fi capabilities?
A: We have announced that the first two games to use Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection will be "Animal Crossing DS" and "Mario Kart DS." Both of these games share a few key elements that make them ideal for Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. First, they are community games. Certainly anyone could start a town in "Animal Crossing" or enter a solo race in "Mario Kart," but the real fun comes from playing with friends or challenging your skills against others. That's the kind of interaction that Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection will provide. Both these games also share an easy pick-up-and-play quality.
Q: The DS has been out for quite some time, and has had the Wi-Fi capabilities all along. Why is Nintendo promoting this now?
A: While Nintendo DS has always had the potential for Wi-Fi games, only now have all of the various elements been put in place to make the service a seamless reality. Nintendo recently partnered with the leader in online gameplay, IGN Entertainment, to use IGN's GameSpy Technology as the infrastructure. Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection will remove many of the traditional barriers to online gameplay by having easy setup procedures and no added service fees for connecting. The service will expand online gaming and open up portable gaming to a whole new audience.