NTT Docomo in talks to provide 3G to handheld gaming systems

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Constant wireless connectivity was one of the more mysterious points of the Nintendo 3DS announcement. It has WiFi, but of course requires an external internet connection to get online and download high scores, extra levels, and so on. But the “constant connection” aspect of the device made everyone a bit curious: if Nintendo is interested in constantly updated content and connectivity like this, could they be considering 3G?

As it turns out… it’s still not clear. But NTT Docomo, Japan’s biggest wireless provider, has confirmed that they are in talks with unnamed “players” on this very subject. Their president, Ryuji Yamada, put it this way:

Videogame makers know that in order for portable game machines to take the next step forward, they need wireless communication. We are discussing this with various players.

Seems pretty clear to me. They declined to mention who they’re talking to and whether those parties are interested, but I think it’s clear from Nintendo’s increased reliance on inter-console traffic that they’re probably at least considering it. Could we see a dual release this holiday season — the 3DS and the 3GDS?

Sony is the other big player, obviously; the PSP Go, which they have tried to pass off as a grand experiment, fell on its face and the original PSP, while still a fairly strong platform, is getting rather long in the tooth. With Nintendo poised to utterly annihilate it come 3DS time, Sony needs an ace. Could serious online play be that ace?

Either way, it’s significant that it’s NTT Docomo going to whichever company and not vice versa. The worst case scenario (more likely than I’d prefer) is that there will be a Japan-only add-on or edition. It’d be a sticky business managing wireless partners internationally for a device like the 3DS, and Nintendo might just (as it often does) just wait and see.

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