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Is a 3G Nintendo or Sony game system in the works?

July 8, 2010 |  2:12 pm


Nintendo's 3DS doesn't come out until next year, but could a 3G DS be far off?

Japan's largest wireless carrier, NTT DoCoMo, is talking with video game console makers about building 3G wireless Internet connectivity into their systems, the company's president told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

"Video game makers know that in order for portable game machines to take the next step forward, they need wireless communication," NTT DoCoMo President Ryuji Yamada told the Journal. "We are discussing this with various players."

Two of the largest forces in the industry are right in Yamada's neighborhood.

Sony makes the PSP, which sold 59,400 units in the U.S. in May. Meanwhile, Nintendo's DS sold 383,700 in that same period.

Nintendo stole the show at the E3 expo in Los Angeles last month with the 3DS, a hand-held game system with three-dimensional effects that doesn't require the user to wear special glasses. The 3DS, along with its predecessor and the PSP, is equipped with Wi-Fi for Internet-enabled multiplayer gaming, but none of those consoles can directly connect with cellular networks.

In the U.S., AT&T and T-Mobile operate on wireless data networks similar to NTT DoCoMo's. Those carriers sell gadgets with 3G chips, including Amazon's Kindle e-reader, Apple's iPad tablet and several netbooks. Some of the products carry a reduced price tag if the buyer agrees to a contract with the carrier.

And then there are smartphones, which have quickly become very capable gaming machines.

Sony makes phones -- well, Sony Ericsson does. Nintendo does not, but company President Satoru Iwata has referred to Apple as the "enemy of the future."

As that supposed enemy prepares to launch an online gaming network called Game Center, Nintendo and Sony have a strong incentive to get their players connected.

-- Mark Milian

Photo: Brand ambassadors show off the forthcoming Nintendo 3DS portable gaming consoles at the E3 expo in Los Angeles. Credit: Mike Nelson / EPA