Nintendo is moving closer to eReader and iPad territory with the launch of a large-screen version of its DS handheld console.

Cammie Dunaway (pictured), head of American sales and marketing, unveiled the Nintendo DSi XL to a US audience at a “media summit” in San Francisco on Wednesday.

The XL went on sale in Japan on November 21 and Reggie Fils-Aimé, head of Nintendo in the US, told me it had been selling quite well there and had sold out at Christmas.

“Based on the performance [in Japan], we have very high expectations,” he said.

He had been playing on the Japanese version since November and said he couldn’t go back to the smaller DSi model.

I found the XL chunkier, but still very pocketable, and liked the classy Burgundy or Bronze finishes to the casing.

The XL seems designed to appeal to an older audience that appreciates the larger stylus and the extra touchscreen space for less agile fingers and easier reading. The choice of games that comes with the XL also suggests Nintendo will pitch to the top end of the demographic initially – it will have Brain Age TM Express: Arts & Letters, Brain Age Express: Math and Photo Clock, as well as two free applications: the Nintendo DSi Browser and Flipnote StudioTM pre-installed.

Two arcade-style games I tried on the device looked impressive on the bigger screen though and the XL should have wide appeal.

Other than the larger size with its bigger dual screens – they are 93 per cent larger than the DS Lite – the console seems pretty much identical in features to existing versions and Nintendo did not show any games that were designed specifically for the bigger format.

However, the release of 100 Classic Books, a $20 title launched on June 14, should allow users to put the XL through its paces as an eReader.

The iPad comparisons come with the bigger screen and the same wider viewing angle feature as Apple’s tablet. This will probably better enable two-player games and encourage activities such as sharing photo-viewing.

However, the XL is still smaller scale than the iPad in both its physical size and functionality. Going on sale at $190 on March 28, it will appeal to a very different audience than the iPad, which costs a minimum of $500.

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