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Nintendo Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution (and a Micro Too)

With Microsoft and Sony unloading their plans for next-generation game consoles this week, we were expecting Nintendo to make a big splash with its own console, the Revolution. That didn't quite happen: Nintendo officials were indeed on hand this week at Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles to briefly preview the Revolution but made few details available. Instead, Nintendo talked up a new, smaller GameBoy device called the GameBoy Micro, which will ship this fall and won't feature any new technology. Has this company lost it?

Not completely, as it turns out. Despite seeing its current-generation console, the Game Cube, get a thorough drubbing in the market at the hands of the more capable Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) and Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo believes it still knows what its customers want in a next-generation game machine. The Revolution, the company says, will be a game machine only and won't offer any digital hub functionality.

"The consumer wants a pure gaming device, rather than us forcing a less elegant solution on them," Nintendo Executive Vice President for Sales and Marketing Reggie Fils-Aime said. The Revolution is certainly cool looking. It's a tiny black obelisk sitting in a white base, and the whole unit is about the same size as three stacked DVD cases. It will use a proprietary CD-like format but will also play all Game Cube titles. Like the Xbox 360 and PS3, the Revolution will use wireless controllers.

From a technical perspective, details on the Revolution are vague, and it's still unclear how this machine will stack up against the powerful PS3 and Xbox 360 devices that Sony and Microsoft will ship, respectively, in the next 12 months. The device will feature 512MB of flash RAM, Nintendo says, and use a new IBM microprocessor and an ATI-based graphics processor. It will include networking features, a first for a Nintendo console. Nintendo didn't publicize technical details about Revolution or show off any game play, suggesting that the device is still at least a year away from shipping.

It's not all bad news, however. The Revolution will be able to play DVD movies using an added cost adapter of some kind. And in a bold move, Nintendo will let Revolution owners download every console game Nintendo has ever made, from any console it's ever shipped. That's right, NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 fans: The games from your past are about to make a comeback. What's not clear, however, is whether Nintendo will charge for this feature.

Meanwhile, most of Nintendo's preshow press conference concerned a new GameBoy device, dubbed the GameBoy Micro. Measuring just 4" wide by 2" tall and weighing only 2.8 ounces, the GameBoy Micro is to the GameBoy line what the iPod Mini was to the iPod line of MP3 players--a smaller device with identical functionality. Going on sale in third quarter 2005, the GameBoy Micro will play all GameBoy Advance and GameBoy games but will offer no new features (other than its size). The device will be sold alongside its GameBoy Advance SP and Nintendo DS stable mates.

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