The Nintendo DS is the nation’s best-selling system of all time, selling 47 million units since its release in November of 2004, according to a Nintendo of America press release.
Beyond all the corporate speak about “the best video game system of all time,” there are some interesting things going on. The DS — and this is counting its various iterations throughout the years, from that chunky, dimly-lit first edition to the upcoming 3DS — was created for and marketed to almost anyone. Whether you were young or old, male or female, new to gaming or a seasoned veteran, the DS had (and still has) a lot to offer. You have the touch screen, the easy portability, the family-friendly Nintendo brand, recognizable and fun franchises, and intuitive gameplay. It all adds up to a very successful handheld system.
Nintendo has made a killing creating systems with new and innovative features, and its effect on the market is clear. Microsoft built and released its “Kinect” add-on for the already fairly successful 360 system; Sony built and released its Wii-like “Playstation Move” in a hurry to match Microsoft’s release date. Both are motion-controlled add-on systems that copy the unique movement-based control of the Nintendo Wii. Nintendo’s willingness to be the “innovator,” rather than play it safe, has paid off, solidifying their position as a major force to contend within the gaming industry.
Another element that Microsoft and Sony may have missed out on was Nintendo’s ability to attract developers of games that appeal to people of all ages. Educational games, for example, are found almost exclusively on Nintendo consoles. The Nintendo DS’s stylus control system lends itself to educational video games, of course, and Nintendo has done a fine job of marketing itself as the “family” video game brand. With a variety of educational games for DS available, it is no wonder the system has been so popular among parents with younger children.
Perhaps the biggest lesson from this generation of video games is that there is much to be gained by selling video games and systems to everyone, rather than just “gamers.” The Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii’s unprecedented success in America ought to be a strong predictor for the future of video games.
While the traditional players have responded with answers for the Wii’s unique control scheme, they haven’t come out with a handheld device to challenge or emulate the success of the Nintendo DS. Sony’s PSP, marketed towards more hardcore gamers, exprienced nowhere near the success of the DS. Meanwhile, however, the multi-use devices from Apple (like the iPad or the iTouch) and phones with enough juice to surf the web and play games (like the iPhone or the Android) are catching up–and catching up quickly–with the Nintendo DS.
Nintendo seems to recognize and concede this in having developed and begun marketing the Nintendo 3DS — a 3D gaming system that won’t require any special eyewear like cinema and television 3D systems. When a market begins to dry up, Nintendo finds a way to stay relevant. They keep innovating where other companies emulate, and for that reason, Nintendo will always be a player in the video game world.