The Nintendo DS (ニンテンドーDS Nintendō DS?) is a dual-screen handheld game console developed and released by Nintendo. The device went on sale in North America on November 21, 2004. The DS, short for “Developers’ System” or “Dual Screen”, introduced distinctive new features to handheld gaming: two LCD screens working in tandem (the bottom one featuring a touchscreen), a built-in microphone, and support for wireless connectivity. Both screens are encompassed within a clamshell design similar to the Game Boy Advance SP. The Nintendo DS also features the ability for multiple DS consoles to directly interact with each other over Wi-Fi within a short range without the need to connect to an existing wireless network. Alternatively, they could interact online using the now-closed Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. Its main competitor was Sony’s PlayStation Portable as part of the seventh generation era.
Prior to its release, the Nintendo DS was marketed as an experimental, “third pillar” in Nintendo’s console lineup, meant to complement the Game Boy Advance and GameCube. However, backward compatibility with Game Boy Advance titles and strong sales ultimately established it as the successor to the Game Boy series. On March 2, 2006, Nintendo launched the Nintendo DS Lite, a slimmer and lighter redesign of the original Nintendo DS with brighter screens. On November 1, 2008, Nintendo released the Nintendo DSi, another redesign with several hardware improvements and new features. All Nintendo DS models combined have sold 154.02 million units, making it the best selling handheld game console to date, and the second best selling video game console of all time. The Nintendo DS line was succeeded by the Nintendo 3DS line in 2011.
On November 13, 2003, Nintendo announced that they would be releasing a new game product in 2004. The company did not provide many details, but stated it would not succeed the Game Boy Advance or GameCube. On January 20, 2004, the console was announced under the codename “Nintendo DS”. Nintendo released only a few details at that time, saying that the console would have two separate, 3-inch TFT LCD display panels, separate processors, and up to 1 gigabit (128 Megabytes) of semiconductor memory. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said, “We have developed Nintendo DS based upon a completely different concept from existing game devices in order to provide players with a unique entertainment experience for the 21st century.” He also expressed optimism that the DS would help put Nintendo back at the forefront of innovation and move away from the conservative image that has been described about the company in years past. In March 2004, the codename was changed to “Nitro” and a document containing most of the console’s technical specifications was leaked. In May 2004, the codename was changed back to “Nintendo DS” and the console was shown in prototype form at E3 2004. On July 28, 2004, Nintendo revealed a new design that was described as “sleeker and more elegant” than the one shown at E3 and announced Nintendo DS as the device’s official name. Following lukewarm GameCube sales, former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi stressed the importance of its success to the company’s future stating, “If the DS succeeds, we will rise to heaven, but if it fails we will sink to hell.”
President Iwata referred to Nintendo DS as “Nintendo’s first hardware launch in support of the basic strategy ‘Gaming Population Expansion'” because the touch-based device “allows users to play intuitively”. On September 20, 2004, Nintendo announced that the Nintendo DS would be released in North America on November 21, 2004 for US$149.99. It was set to release on December 2, 2004 in Japan (¥15000); on February 24, 2005 in Australia ($199.95); and on March 11, 2005 in Europe (£99.99/€149.99). The console was released in North America with a midnight launch event at Universal CityWalk EB Games in Los Angeles, California. The console was launched quietly in Japan compared to the North America launch; one source cites the cold weather as the reason. Regarding the European launch, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said:
Europe is an extremely important market for Nintendo, and we are pleased we can offer such a short period of time between the US and European launch. We believe that the Nintendo DS will change the way people play video games and our mission remains to expand the game play experience. Nintendo DS caters for the needs of all gamers whether for more dedicated gamers who want the real challenge they expect, or the more casual gamers who want quick, pick up and play fun.
The system’s promotional slogans revolve around the word “Touch” in almost all countries, with the North American slogan being “Touching is good.”
The Nintendo DS was seen by many analysts to be in the same market as Sony’s PlayStation Portable, although representatives from both companies have said that each system targets a different audience. At one point, Time magazine awarded the DS a Gadget of the Week award.
At the time of its release in the United States, the Nintendo DS retailed for US $149.99. The price dropped to US $129.99 on August 21, 2005, one day before the anticipated North American releases of Nintendogs and Advance Wars: Dual Strike.
The console’s North American slogan “Touching is good.” caused minor controversy, for its inappropriate expression, as “touching” is slang for rape. As a result, the slogan was changed to “Pick up and play!” in some countries.
Nine official colors of the Nintendo DS were available through standard retailers. Titanium (silver and black) were available worldwide, Electric Blue was exclusive to North and Latin America. There was also a red version of the DS which was bundled with the game Mario Kart DS. Graphite Black, Pure White, Turquoise Blue, and Candy Pink were available in Japan. Mystic Pink and Cosmic Blue were available in Australia and New Zealand. Japan’s Candy Pink and Australia’s Cosmic Blue were also available in Europe and North America through a Nintendogs bundle, although the colors are just referred to as pink and blue; however, these colors were available only for the original style Nintendo DS; a different and more-limited set of colors have been used for the Nintendo DS Lite.