http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...516157268.htmlTOKYO—Japanese wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo Inc. is in talks with videogame-device makers about adding 3G network connections to the next generation of hand-held consoles in a push to expand connected-game play.
"Videogame makers know that in order for portable game machines to take the next step forward, they need wireless communication," NTT DoCoMo President Ryuji Yamada said in an interview Wednesday. "We are discussing this with various players."
Mr. Yamada declined to identify the specific companies.
NTT DoCoMo's Ryuji Yamada, shown in Tokyo Wednesday, said his firm is discussing providing 3G connections for hand-held game consoles.
Nintendo Co.'s DS and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation Portable (PSP), two popular portable game devices on the market, are both Wi-Fi compatible, but neither console has the ability to connect to a 3G network, which offers higher bandwidth for gaming and other multimedia applications.
The companies declined to comment on whether they are in talks with NTT DoCoMo, Japan's biggest wireless carrier by subscribers.
An increasing number of devices such as Amazon Inc.'s Kindle e-book reader and Apple Inc.'s iPad tablet computer have added 3G connections to allow users to access Web-based content or services even in places without a Wi-Fi connection.
Adding 3G to devices has been an additional way for wireless carriers to generate data revenue and could allow console manufacturers to push important software and security patches to a hand-held without relying on users to initiate the updates.
Mr. Yamada said videogame makers could build in a component to access NTT DoCoMo's 3G network or possibly use one of the company's routers that use a 3G connection to create a local Wi-Fi network.
Kyoto-based Nintendo has said one of the new features for its forthcoming 3DS portable game machine will be improved wireless connectivity over existing models to allow the device to automatically link to other 3DS machines or access the Internet even when it isn't in use. It hasn't specified how that connection will take place.
The Nintendo 3DS hand-held, which will play videogames in 3D without the need for special glasses, is the successor to its current DS portable game system.
The DS is the best-selling hand-held game system of all time with 128.9 million units sold since launching in 2004, according to Nintendo. The company has said it expects to introduce the new game machine sometime before March 2011.
At last month's Electronic Entertainment Expo, the videogame industry's annual trade show in Los Angeles, Nintendo touted the "seamless" wireless connection of the 3DS, an improvement on the DS, which allows users to share data but only upon request and in close proximity with one another.
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Hideki Konno, a Nintendo manager who is heading up the 3DS development team, said during the show that there will "probably be discussions" with carriers in the future but wouldn't elaborate further.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said at an analyst briefing last year that he found it interesting how Amazon built the 3G wireless capability into the Kindle and then bundled the wireless connection cost into the price of the content instead of requiring consumers to sign up for a monthly fee from a carrier.
Meanwhile, Sony is developing a portable device that shares characteristics of hand-held game machines, e-book readers and netbook computers, according to people familiar with the matter. Some Sony e-book readers already come with 3G connections but it isn't clear if a new wireless gadget will use carrier networks.
Sony hasn't announced any immediate plans to revamp its PSP hardware.
Last year, the company released a new version called the PSP Go, which played only downloaded games, doing away with the physical cartridges. While the device has sold poorly, the company has said it learned a lot about consumer behavior from the PSP Go.
Yusuke Tsunoda, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center, said talks of a carrier partnership are a sign that the videogame-hardware makers are feeling the pressure from smartphones, which are used to download and play simple games.
"The distinction between gaming devices and mobile communication devices, like smartphones, are blurring. And it may eventually disappear," said Mr. Tsunoda.
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