Thursday, January 19, 2006

What Makes Nintendo DS So Popular?

After more than two weeks, my eight year-old daughter is still enamored with her new Nintendo DS and two games, Nintendogs and Animal Crossing: Wild World. This article in JoyStiq links to an interpretation of an article in Famitsu that explains five reasons why the DS is so popular in Japan.

1) Great Promotions

A famous Japanese actress, Nanako Matsushima, appeared on a recent commercial for More Brain Training, and for once the woman they dragged out to pose with a videogame actually seemed to be really enjoying herself.
2) Demo stations were plentiful
In any department store in Japan, there are DS demo stations. Usually the screens are scratched to high hell (I can't imagine what people are DOING with the stylus), and lately, there are a lot of games to choose from. On the launch day of Xbox 360, I recall seeing a line eight persons deep to play Super Mario Kart DS, and not one person even looking at the 360. This was in Shibuya Tsutaya, statistically the most foot-trafficked game retailer in all of Japan.
3) Appeal to non-gamers
This is the most obvious reason.
4) Wi-Fi game download stations
At any videogame store, there are DS download and play stations. In a rare and virtuous move, people actually seem to be using these download stations -- and Nintendo is supporting them wholeheartedly. Basically, you can walk up to the download station, take your own DS out of your backpack, turn it on, and choose "Download." You will then see a list of demos available on the stations. It's amazingly simple.
5) Great games sold the system
Nintendo has always prided itself in quality games and DS has been a shining example. The quality of the games has caused developers to think in new ways, or to find inspiration.
Obviously, some of the reasons are Japan-specific, but it's still easy to see why the Nintendo DS is picking up steam over here in the U.S. It appeals to traditional gamers and non-gamers alike, there are demo units at the local stores, and most importantly, there are a bunch of compelling games that take advantage of the DS's unique features and functions. Sony are you listening...