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The Evolution of the Nintendo DS:

Written By: J. Castle


Out of the Shadows

In the period of time before the Nintendo DS was unveiled, the gaming public was full of wild speculation.  It was an era of great uncertainty, not only for Nintendo fans, but also for the gaming public at large.  No one knew what to expect from the dual screen wild card.  What would it look like?  How would developers utilize the 2nd screen?  What the hell was Nintendo thinking?

When you look back on it now the concept is so simple and so obvious.  However, before the curtains were parted and the Nintendo DS was revealed, the gaming public just didn’t have a clue.  The system was a great unknown.   


This picture is one of my favorites.  Skeptics everywhere used this image to mock Nintendo and its plans.  This image was everywhere. It even made its way into a couple of magazines.  This picture epitomizes the ignorance of the gaming public at that time.  People just could not grasp the idea behind the Nintendo DS, or in this case, they just didn’t want to.  We have come a long way since this little number hit the web.  Sometimes, I wonder what the artist thinks of it now.

I even wonder, “Does he (or she) own a Nintendo DS?” The answer is probably “yes.”  

The Long and Winding Road

Over four years later and it seems like the World has turned upside down.  The System everyone thought would fail is now a tremendous success.  The Nintendo DS went from being the object of ridicule to being one of the most successful products in video game history.  The Nintendo DS is second only to the current reigning champ, the PlayStation 2. 

Come with us now as we trace the meteoric rise of the Nintendo DS.   I will show you its heritage and I will predict its ultimate destiny.  You will discover its unusual origins and its murky connections to several other unique gaming devices.   All the secrets will be reveled.  

I will cover every topic from the ups and downs of the game library, collectible styli (one of which is very adult), the extreme danger of piracy, and even the alleged “hidden message” contained in one controversial game.  Also, did Nintendo steal the idea for Nintendogs from one of its former competitors?  You will find out the truth.

And what’s that you say? You are a big fan of Gunpei Yokoi?  We have you covered as well.  In this article you will learn more about the man some people call the true father of the Nintendo DS. You will see living proof that Gunpei's vision drives Nintendo even to this day.

Be ready. Once you’re done reading, you will know everything there is to know about Nintendo’s greatest portable.

Nintendo DS from Mockery to Massive Success

A few years ago if you told anyone you thought the Nintendo DS would be the market leader they would have laughed in your face.  Most of the “experts” in the mainstream press were busy writing obituaries for the system well before its launch.  The press simply did not hold a favorable opinion of the system.  Unfortunately many Nintendo loyalists felt the exact same way.  

Even the legendary Hiroshi Yamauchi had his doubts.  Of course he was more than happy to share his feelings with his usual dramatic flare.  Here is an excerpt from an article published in 2004.   When asked about the Nintendo DS he responded:

“If the DS succeeds, we will rise to heaven, but if it fails we will sink to hell.  The next two years will decide Nintendo's fate.”  - Hiroshi Yamauchi

Anyone who thinks Yamauchi was exaggerating is dead wrong.  If the DS experiment had failed it would have devastated Nintendo.  Worse yet, if the DS pillar crumbled, the Game Boy pillar could soon follow.  This fact alone may have been Nintendo’s greatest concern.

The Real Cash Cow

The Game Boy franchise was Nintendo’s most valuable asset.  It saved them through the tough times of the Game Cube era.  It also helped them withstand Microsoft’s entry into the crowded video game market.  When Game Cube sales were low Nintendo could always point to the success of the GBA.  The Game Boy franchise kept Nintendo at the forefront of the gaming industry.  It made the company relevant in the eyes of many consumers who might not own a Nintendo product otherwise.  

Cannon Fodder?

So this brings me to my first point.  Why was the Nintendo DS released?  Was it really to expand the video game market as Nintendo claims?  Or did they do it to protect their beloved cash cow, the Game Boy franchise? Quite honestly, I think it’s a little bit of the first and a lot of the second. 

In my opinion, the DS was created to absorb the hit taken by Nintendo during Sony’s entry into the portable market. It would provide a market share "buffer zone" between the PSP and the GBA.  The public would focus on the DS vs PSP war while ignoring the obvious market leader.  And much to everyone’s surprise, GBA sales remained strong almost two years after the release of the Nintendo DS. This despite fierce competition from not one, but two extremely powerful rivals. Unfortunately for GameBoy fans, that prosperity wouldn't last forever....

NEXT TIME: Critical Doubt, The Portable GameCube Myth, Project Nitro and much, much more!