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Nintendo Browser to support Flash?

22 May 2007

Nintendo browser boxSpeculation has been mounting for some time that the US release of the Nintendo DS Opera Browser will support Flash. Now the promo guff on the Nintendo website [link no longer available] advertises Flash support, which has been taken by many as official confirmation.

Those who have tried the European or Japanese releases of the browser find it hard to believe. The frame rate grinds to a crawl if you have a couple of animated GIFs on the page. It's certainly a far cry from the 'lightning fast' performance the Nintendo site claims Opera delivers. Perhaps the US release comes with an enhanced memory pack to help the browser render more quickly. Even so, that would be unlikely to have an impact on download times, which would be limited by the hardware's bandwidth. Pages that feature Flash tend to have a large total file size.

How much use would Flash be in the Nintendo DS browser? Not much, I suspect. The small screen rendering mode (which is the easier of the two modes to use) will not be able to strip anything meaningful from most Flash files. The overview mode involves a lot of scrolling around, which is likely to make it impossible to play most existing Flash games. I can live without all the Flash adverts and splash pages. And Youtube wouldn't be much fun without the sound.

Opera did a smart job of designing the original browser, though, so it might have some new tricks to solve these problems. Being able to magnify/shrink and centre Flash movies might be all it takes to make them usable, although obviously detail would be lost on the small screen. Sound would be a welcome addition, and would seem to be a prerequisite for meaningful Flash interaction.

I don't miss Flash on the current browser, but there is reason to be excited. If the US browser does support Flash, it will for the first time make it easy for people to develop games for the Nintendo DS. There is a thriving homebrew community, but getting unofficial software working involves quite a bit of hacking and some extra hardware. If people can just visit a website to play, that will make it much easier. Flash is a well understood development tool, with many game-writing tutorials available. The incorporation of Flash into a DS browser could be the catalyst the platform needs for homebrew to go mainstream.

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I'm posting from the US nintendo DS Browser and it does not seem to have Flash.
Thanks for testing it and letting us know, anonymous. It got confusing with Opera saying on a blog that 'to their knowledge' it didn't support Flash, while Nintendo was sending out customer service replies asserting it did. It was only on release, that we knew for sure.

I'm not surprised that Flash isn't supported, having seen how it struggles with animated GIFs. And I'm not sure we're missing much anyway, except for the opportunity to write our own games much more easily. For now, we'll have to stick with Javascript development, I guess.

I'll keep adding compatible browser games to my NDS portal, when I come across them.
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