June 26, 2007 A Nintendo in every pocket? The phenomenally successful Nintendo DS handheld gaming console is comprehensively trouncing the more powerful Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) around the world - but nowhere is Nintendo mania more alive than in Japan, where on current sales and penetration figures, a key industry analysis firm has forecast that 89% of Japanese households will have a Nintendo DS by the year 2011. What a stunning figure!
As reported by Gamsutra, industry analysts at Screen Digest have made this prediction based on the DS's existing market share of around 41 million units in Japan, combined with sales figures that more than double those of the PSP and seem to just keep rising. In fact, Nintendo would be selling significantly more DS Lite units if they didn't keep selling out every production run.
It's an amazing result for a gaming platform that, like its bigger brother, the Wii, seems to go directly against all the current gaming trends. Nintendo's strategy from day one has been to build affordable, rugged units with a long battery life and only license G-rated, cartoonish, family-friendly games to encourage parents to buy them for their kids. Contrast this with Microsoft and Sony, who have locked horns in a battle over processing power, high definition 3D graphics and a broad range of games that tend more towards the violent and realistic.
Nintendo's success with game titles has doubtless driven its console penetration rates, and games like 'Nintendogs' and 'Professor Kawashima's Brain Training' have been surprise breakthrough additions to an incredibly strong franchise line-up including the various Mario Bros and Mario Kart games and the massively popular Pokemon series.
The Nintendo DS is not only popular in Japan - it's the dominant portable gaming platform in the USA and outsells competitors across all PAL territories as well. With figures from Japan, America and the PAL territories combined, the DS's installed base is roughly double that of the PSP.
Perhaps one insight into the amazing success of the DS is to look at its consumer demographics. While all other video game consoles have a primarily male user base, 54% of DS owners in Europe are female. And only 28% of Sony PSP users are under 14 years old, compared with 52% of DS owners - which suggests that the "make games that parents will buy for their kids" model has been a powerfully successful one.
Still, for any gaming device to reach an 89% household penetration rate would be a simply phenomenal achievement. By comparison, Nintendo's own Game Boy peaked at 56% in Japan. We wish the best of luck to the benign grandaddy of the gaming world.