The news has dropped from Nintendo - their upcoming new device is a portable with two screens, the "DS" (double-screen).
This is unexpected, but brilliant. How many times playing Final Fantasy Tactics have I wanted to see my party's stats on a separate screen as I picked troops for a battle? Or wanted to look over the equipment list as I'm picking a character's weapons and abilities? How about Star Wars KOTOR - having a map on another screen at all times? Maps and stats - a second screen is the perfect RPG/Adventure game accessory.
I am more enticed by the prospect of Double-Screen information more than immersion.
Besides the self-contained action on Nintendo's own Game and Watch series, the Dreamcast VMU was the first device I saw where a second, albiet tiny, screen complemented the action on the TV. And then Nintendo's GameBoy/GameCube linkup. Supposedly the GC version of Splinter Cell will display a level map on your GameBoy if you play that console game through your portable.
I recently played Deus Ex: Invisible War on a computer with two monitors and I wasn't able to pull up any extended action, let alone extended stats. Even if the second screen had just run advertisements for NG Resonance or Pequod's Coffee it would have added to the ambience. Fallout? Director's cuts of games you love - while you play on one screen, fake advertisements and concept sketches flash by. Yum.
These are computer game fantasies. Ninendo's device is designed for portable play. And the first wave of titles have not yet been announced. Let's see what Miyamoto has in mind. And let's hope this innovation doesn't go the way of the Virtual Boy, an aborted gaming platform that's become a curiosity and collector's item.
My GBA SP, even chicken-style, it's eminently portable. Will most people want to add a second screen to their pocket-load?
For now I'm thinking of this as a conceptual revolution - that Nintendo is helping spread the idea that games are going to take over your devices, across devices, across screens. I was at the Consumer Electronics Show this year and there were flat-panel TVs everywhere, with little PDA-type controllers. Let's hope Nintendo proves that games can use multiple panes of information, pushing the envelope for interface and information density in games.
(More analysis from GameSpy, if you click on the "commentaries" link at the end of that news story)