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McDonald's and Nintendo in Wi-Fi Deal
New York Times, 10/18/05

Would you like Mario with that Big Mac?

Nintendo of America is expected to announce today that it will offer free wireless Internet access for its Nintendo DS portable game system at McDonald's restaurants. Customers will be able to play select DS games with other players around the world.

McDonald's offers wireless Internet, or Wi-Fi, access to laptop users for a fee in 6,000 restaurants nationwide, but the free Nintendo arrangement will permit the DS machines to play without a laptop.

The DS is the latest game system to offer online play. Both Sony and Microsoft have long promoted the online game-playing features of their game consoles.

Sony's PlayStation Portable, the main competitor to the Nintendo DS, also offers wireless online play.

"This is such an interesting direction for McDonald's," said Anita Frazier, an entertainment industry analyst with the NPD Group, a research firm. "This could encourage kids to go to McDonald's to play games. It is like the kids' version of Starbucks' wireless hot spots." As with the toys that have long been packaged with McDonald's food, the relationship will help draw customers to the restaurants, she said.

Released in November, the Nintendo DS has sold 2.2 million units in the United States, NPD says. Sony's PlayStation Portable, available since March, has sold two million.

Wireless access for the DS will be provided by Wayport of Austin, Tex., which supplies Wi-Fi to McDonald's. Nintendo will pay Wayport an undisclosed fee for the service.

Wayport expects to have Wi-Fi in around 7,000 McDonald's outlets in America by June, said Dan Lowden, Wayport's vice president for business development and marketing.

The online game service will begin next month with two titles: Mario Kart DS and Tony Hawk's American SK8Land. Two other games, Animal Crossing: Wild World and Metroid Prime Hunters, will be available by the end of the year.

While DS users can now send text messages and pictures wirelessly to other users, "we have no plans to move that into Wi-Fi," said Perrin Kaplan, a vice president at Nintendo of America . "There are so many other ways that people can chat."


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