Comments attributed to Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto in this week's Famitsu magazine indicate that the company is planning to bring its systems online within a three to four year timescale, with DS leading the way.
Miyamoto, credited as the design genius behind key Nintendo franchises including Zelda and Mario, told the magazine that online gaming will reach the mainstream within three to four years, and that Nintendo will be moving in that direction as a result.
In the current generation of console hardware, only Nintendo has shied away from providing online gaming services on their system - arguing that online play is not of interest to the majority of consumers as yet.
However, a translation of Miyamoto's comments in Famitsu which has been posted on the Internet reveals that he expects the Nintendo DS to get online games in the near future, which would lead Nintendo's movement into the online space.
DS online functionality would presumably use the system's wireless LAN capabilities to hook up to the Internet. At present, these functions can be used to communicate between DS units for wireless multiplayer or chat.
Intriguingly, Miyamoto implied that Nintendo is working with Square Enix on developing the online system for the DS. Square Enix formerly developed the PlayOnline system for the PlayStation 2, which was used as a launcher for Final Fantasy XI but had the capability to be used as a more comprehensive online gaming system.
Square Enix has confirmed that it is working on titles for the Nintendo DS, with a handheld version of its GameCube multiplayer RPG title, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, expected to launch next year. As yet the publisher hasn't commented on the possibility of this title having online functionality.
Elsewhere in the interview, Miyamoto also confirmed that a new Mario title, which is still being called Mario 128, is still in development for the GameCube - not for the company's next-generation Revolution console, as had been rumoured previously.
He also mentioned that Nintendo is working with "strong allies" to create a new Pokemon title for the Cube, but could not reveal further details of what this title would be.
Famitsu Weekly via the GameSpot Forums