February 28, 2007

Nintendo DS: Japanese Cultural Phenomenon

Filed under: Cool stuff, DS Lite, Gaming, Japan, Nintendo, Thoughts, YouTube — Daniel @ 11:12 pm

Japan Lines up for DS

Should you ever take a trip to Japan, chances are you’ll see more than a few Nintendo DS portable game systems being played. Not just by children or gaming adults, but by anyone, young or old. They’re everywhere. It’s common to see people playing them on the train on their way to work, during lunch breaks, or, ironically, in the long queues that form when another shipment of DS Lites arrive at a store. That’s right. Such is the success and widespread appeal of Nintendo’s portable, it’s almost impossible to purchase one without lining up for hours in advance, even now, 2 years after they were officially launched.

I’ll try not to bore you with numbers, but it should be noted that to date, the Nintendo DS (both original and Lite versions) have amassed global sales in advance of 35 million. Well over 15 million of those sales were in Japan. Routinely, the DS sells over 100,000 units each week.

So what is it about the DS that appeals so much to the Japanese? Video games have been a staple of Japanese society for over 20 years now, but what does the DS offer that makes it sell out as soon as new stock arrives? How is it that a handheld gaming device is set to become the highest selling gaming system of all time in the country?

It’s all down to Nintendo’s vision, strategy, and change of focus.

Lining up for Nintendo DS

Nintendo knew that the video game industry in Japan was shrinking. People were getting tired of the same games. Nintendo realised that it needed to bring in new gamers, people who had never played a video game before. They had to appeal to casual gamers who play a game every now and then, but don’t play for long. To achieve this, Nintendo sought to break down the barriers that separate gamers from non-gamers. The main barrier, it was decided, was the controls – non-gamers often felt intimidated by the number of buttons on game controllers. In response, Nintendo created the DS with two screens, aligned one above the other, the lower of the two being a touch-screen that you can interact with by using a stylus, or even your finger.Nintendo DS Lite

The outcome, was games that were ordinarily not possible on a gaming platform, with the added bonus of ease of use. Titles such as Nintendogs, in which you raise a virtual puppy by interacting with it by touch or by yelling commands into the DS’ built in microphone proved instant hits, especially with the female demographic. Brain Training, a ‘game’ that tests the player with a series of mental challenges, before calculating their ‘Brain age’, was marketed towards the older citizens to great effect. Brain Training and it’s sequel have thus far sold around 8 million units in Japan.

But it’s not all about the games. The DS is home to software of other types, such as Shaberu! DS O-Ryouri Navi , which translates to ‘Talk! DS Cuisine Navigator'(a virtual cookbook), and ‘Easy Input Kanji Dictionary’. DS’ are also used in museums as portable guides. Such a diverse array of software is testament to the versatility of the DS and the foresight of Nintendo.

The Nintendo DS is a Japanese cultural phenomenon. 2 years after launch, and still going strong, with no signs of sales slowing down. Not even the release of the PlayStation 3 and wildly popular Wii have made any effect. It seems the only thing standing in the way of the Nintendo DS in Japan, is the ability of stores to keep them in stock.

Singer Hikaru Utada advertises the original Nintendo DS:

Non gaming DS uses (spanish):

Shaberu! DS O-Ryouri Navi commercial:

Another Nintendo DS line


Pokemon DS


Nintendo DS Lite - Closed



Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, and Nintendo President Satoru Iwata

Nintendo DS - It Prints Money!

See also:

Japan Still Lining Up For DS Lites (Yes, STILL!)

Japan Still Re-importing US DS Lites (Yes, STILL!)

Five Things Nintendo Did Right in 2006



  1. I can’t wait to get my hands on a DS Lite.:)

    Comment by The Bear — March 1, 2007 @ 12:55 am

  2. […] Cultural Phenomenon (thanks Bonanza!) […]

    Pingback by Go Nintendo » Blog Archive » Nintendo DS: Japanese Cultural Phenomenon- What are you waiting for? — March 1, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

  3. […] Cultural Phenomenon (thanks Bonanza!) […]

    Pingback by Nintendo DS: Japanese Cultural Phenomenon | Nintendo Wii News and Information — March 1, 2007 @ 10:11 pm

  4. You’re turning into a star!:)

    Comment by The Bear — March 2, 2007 @ 6:08 am

  5. […] Nintendo DS: Japanese Cultural Phenomenon […]

    Pingback by Video: Hikaru Utada will pwn you at Tetris « MeepleMorph — March 4, 2007 @ 10:06 pm

  6. […] games became huge hits in Japan, creating a strong demand for DSes that persists to this day1, 2. To a large extent, this success at bringing in new gamers was made possible by reaching out to […]

    Pingback by health care » Blog Archive » Does “Everybody” Vote? — December 6, 2008 @ 11:18 am

  7. I read your article and I find it very interested. I bookmark your blog to my favourite websites.

    Comment by Ashlyn Copp — November 24, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: