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3DS eShop detailed: Virtual Console, DSiWare, demos, and the absence of 'Points'

Along with a push into the third-dimension, Nintendo appears to be using the 3DS to make a stronger push into the digitally distributed space on its handhelds. The DSi (and its big brother, the DSi XL) both started the company down the path popularized by Apple's hyperkinetic App Store – and emulated by everyone from Sony to Google to Microsoft. The 3DS will support DSiWare (whose name was, perhaps, just a smidge shortsighted) and, while Nintendo of America Product Marketing Manager Bill Trinen couldn't provide any details during an interview today with Joystiq, he did confirm that users will be able to transfer any DSiWare games they've already purchased to the 3DS. "There will be a function that will allow you to transfer games from your Nintendo DSi to the 3DS," Trinen said. "As we go into greater detail about the Shop, we'll go into detail about that specific function."

But 3DS isn't just supporting what the DSi already supports; Nintendo is taking several cues from its Wii-based Shop Channel and Nintendo Channel playbooks, bringing Virtual Console to the handheld market in the form of Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, availability of demos, the ability to rate games, and even check out screenshots and videos for retail games. After losing backwards compatibility with Game Boy games with the DSi, we're especially happy about having that feature back in the 3DS; however, it won't be coming to the DSi. "Those will be on the eShop," Trinen told us, "which is specific to the 3DS." But what about the other carts the DSi design sent to retro heaven? Trinen says Game Boy Advance support isn't part of this announcement. "Basically we're focusing on Game Boy and Game Boy Color. If we decide to introduce [GBA games] at a later date, we'd announce later if we did."

"Whatever Points you have on [Wii or DSi] won't be able to be converted into cash on the Nintendo 3DS." - Bill Trinen

What about a digital push for retail DS and 3DS games, should consumers wish to resist the urge of the 3DS' Activity Log, Play Coins and StreetPass functions and stay inside? "The system's obviously backwards-compatible, so you can just play [DS games] off the cartridge," Trinen said. And 3DS games too are retail-only for now. "I think, right now for us, the digital shop content is focusing on growing the digital ... distinguishing from the retail content in terms of what it offers."

We imagine, much like Europe's content deal with EuroSport, Aardman and Sky and Japan's content deal with Fuji TV, we'll be hearing about the availability of some kind of 3D content for the handheld, likely to be distributed digitally, but Nintendo's not sharing anything for its North American consumers today. "We're just not at a point where we're ready to talk about what kind of content will be available," Trinen admitted. It's obvious 3D video is an important part of the 3DS' strategy to entice non-gamers, so it's disappointing that nothing's been lined up yet.

Much like the streamlined Friend Code system in the 3DS, Nintendo is looking to remove confusion in the digital purchasing realm. The cumbersome "points" system used on both the DSi and Wii is being replaced with the "cash" system preferred by the PS3 and PSP. While Nintendo's points were always easy to convert in the States ($0.01 = 1 point), we're always in favor of calling a buck a buck, as it were. "One of the main benefits of going to a cash system is that it's much more clear to the consumer what they're spending their money on, and what that exact value is," Trinen said.

Just like the (unfortunate) distinction between Nintendo points when converted to Wii points or DSi points on their respective shops, any extra Nintendo credit purchased will be tied to the 3DS eShop. Trinen told us, "Whatever Points you have on either of those systems won't be able to be converted into cash on the Nintendo 3DS."

While the 3DS certainly seems to be more connected than any previous Nintendo effort, it sounds like the eShop won't be ready for the March 27 launch date. "In terms of specific announcements or when it's going to actually be available," Trinen said, "we'll go into more detail on that as we get closer to the launch date." With regular system updates planned for the console – and the passive, WiFi-sniffing SpotPass feature helping ensure users access those features whether they're aware of them or not – we're hopeful that Nintendo is finally taking this whole internet thing seriously.

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