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3DS getting content downloads, online features

Nintendo's slow embrace of online gaming features is moving another inch forward today, as the company releases five high-profile, free game demos for its 3DS portable starting today — in Japan, that is.

Japanese 3DS owners will be able to download and try limited versions of musical fantasy game "Theatrhythm Final Fantasy," stealth-action re-release "Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D," rhythm title "Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Theater," dating simulation "New Love Plus," and horror shooter "Resident Evil: Revelations" through a new Demos section of the 3DS eShop today.

There's no word yet on whether North American and European 3DS owners will also be getting downloadable demos.

The announcement, which came during an online video presentation from Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, came a day after Japan's Nikkei news service reported Nintendo would also be making its first steps into the downloadable add-on content market. Upcoming RPG "Fire Emblem 3DS" will be the first game published by Nintendo to offer such content, the report said, though Nintendo has not officially commented on the matter.

Iwata also announced that the upcoming 3DS revamp of NES-era cult classic "Kid Icarus" will include a multiplayer mode that lets players in the same room or across the Internet team up for joint brawls.

Nintendo has historically lagged behind its competitors in offering a full suite of online features for its systems. Only a small selection of Wii and DSi games have had associated free demos, for instance, compared to robust demo offerings on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Nintendo's systems also don't offer a unified online social gaming service that works across multiple games like Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, or even the iPhone's Game Center.

The 3DS struggled to meet sales expectations during its worldwide launch earlier this year, but the system has now sold an estimated 4 million units in Japan, including over half a million in just the week before Christmas. Those 3DS buyers have been scooping up Mario games as well —both "Super Mario 3D Land" and "Mario Kart 7" have each sold over 1 million copies in Japan, according to Famitsu.

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