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Go DS, Go DS, Go DS!

This is from GameDaily's James Brightman:

The Nintendo DS is the new king of consoles in Japan, stripping the scepter and the crown from the almighty PlayStation 2, according to a report in the latest issue of Famitsu (as translated by GameSpot).

With 4 million units sold, the DS was the top-selling console in Japan last year and DS software seemed to dominate the weekly charts on a regular basis. While the portable market here in the U.S. has been cited as one of the reasons why the industry set a new record at $10.5 billion, in Japan the Nintendo DS almost single-handedly spurred growth for the first time in years and revived a slumping video game market.

DS software in Japan easily outsold PS2 software during 2005. The dual-screen handheld had three games that sold one million copies or more; the PS2, meanwhile, only had one title that passed the million mark, Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts II. With four of the top five selling titles, DS games accounted for 41.4 percent of game sales in the country, while the PS2's share fell to 36.2 percent. By comparison, Sony's console claimed 55.4 percent of game sales in 2003 and 57.1 percent in 2004—what a difference a year can make!

And it doesn't appear that Japanese gamers' interest in the Nintendo DS is waning at all. A recent Famitsu poll indicated that many consumers are looking forward to the new DS Lite redesign, which goes on sale March 2nd in three colors: Crystal White, Ice Blue, and Enamel Navy. 63.4 percent of poll participants answered that they are pleased with the new look and they're glad to finally get a brightness control for the handheld. 8.8 percent said that they're already satisfied with the current design and aren't impressed by the new look; some also said they believe it's an excuse to raise prices. Another 27.8 percent remained neutral or said that they would need some hands-on time with the new unit before making a decision.

A closer look at the poll, however, reveals that while 63+ percent may be looking forward to the new DS Lite, only 29.3 percent thus far are actually committed to purchasing the handheld. 34.6 percent said they don't plan to buy it and 36.1 percent said that they haven't made up their minds yet.

Still, looking back at all the rampant skepticism when the DS was first announced, it's remarkable to see how popular the handheld has become despite facing tough competition from Sony's PSP.

I love this news. It's exciting to me that something as innovative as the DS has taken the forefront in Japan. My take on the DS is that it is innovative and new, not just better graphics or some sort of stepwise eveolution. The DS is rewriting the book on how we think about mobile gaming. Maybe not so much here, but definitely in Japan. Nintendogs and these Brain Training games have taken Japanese society by storm. Everyone is playing these things. A smaller DS can only mean larger adoption. That's my main criticism of the unit, that it is too heavy and bulky to carry around all the time.

It's interesting to think about what is different between here and Japan. Firstly, we don't have the Brain Training games here yet. They're coming in April. But so many people here are really impressed with the PSP purely because of its screen. It's got a greater bling factor. I always travel with the DS because of its sturdy clamshell design, but I carry the PSP around NYC, primarily as a Virtua Tennis machine. Could it be that the Japanese want the best game and the American want the best technology? For us, the gaming machine is most important and the game comes next, but for the Japanese a great game is a great game regardless how many pixels the screen is. I'd say I'm in the latter group. I've always felt that simply using better tech to bring me a game doesn't make it a better game. I've always said that I like the DS better than the PSP because it is more innovative and will drive more creativity on the part of game developers. With the success of Nintendogs, it now depends on the coming popularity of the Brain Training games for us to see how the DS fares in America.

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