Monday, June 11, 2007

DS vs PSP: Casualties and victories in the handheld war

It's been over two years since Sony's PSP hit the market, effectively starting the current handheld war with Nintendo's DS. This article shall chronicle what is most likely the most brutal handheld war yet.

When the Nintendo DS was first unveiled at E3 2004, many people thought Nintendo had finally and truly lost it. Touch screen? Microphone? All of this was so weird.

When the PSP was unveiled, however, people loved it! Music, movies, amazing graphics, web browsing, it had it all! People truly believed that Nintendo had finally been dethroned as the leader of handhelds.

November 19th came and went. The DS sold a decent amount of systems, but there wasn't much quality software available. The best game there (By many opinions) was Super Mario 64 DS, and even that wasn't totally spectacular.

The PSP's launch line-up of games included hits such as Wipeout Pure, Metal Gear Ac!d and Lumines. Sony managed to ship a record-breaking 10 million PSPs by October 21st of the same year. Things were surely looking grim for Nintendo.

That is, until August 2005, when Nintendo launched their secret weapon, Nintendogs. To call this game a hit would be a hideous understatement. 250,000 units were sold in the first week of availability on the North American market. Needless to say, this also caused many DS consoles to fly off the shelves as well. In Japan, DS sales increased by over 400% the week the dog-simulator came out! This was the beginning of Nintendo's turn-around.

Another major event for Nintendo occurred a few months later, with their first foray into online gaming, Mario Kart DS. Many game sites, such as IGN and GameSpot gave this game a score of 90% or higher. In January 2006, Nintendo announced that Mario Kart DS had sold over 1 million copies in North America alone. Another DS game going online at the same time was Tony Hawk's American Sk8land, by Vicarious Visions. Tony Hawk's first DS outing was well received, garnering a score of 8.8/10 from IGN, with a press average of 8.5/10 and a user rating of 8.7/10. Sadly, despite the glowing reviews, this game sold rather poorly.

Where was the PSP in all this? Well, it's kind of hard to say. The PSP wasn't really well advertised after it's launch, and I don't hang around any PSP news sites. This is one place where Sony made a mistake: Not enough advertising. Sure, you'd see the occasional bus stop ad and maybe a Mexican fuzzball commercial or two, but these didn't do much for the product. It seems like Sony felt the PlayStation name alone was enough to make it sell.

From that point on, the Nintendo DS did nothing but pick up steam. The amazingly unique Brain Age software was released in early 2006, and it gathered some decent scores and sales. This, like Nintendogs, helped draw in non-gamers to the Nintendo DS.

But that doesn't mean Nintendo was ignoring the core gamer! Oh, no no no! Some great games for the more hardcore set were released around that time, such as Metroid Prime Hunters, Mario VS Donkey Kong 2, Tetris DS and Star Fox Command. Nintendo had truly mastered drawing in all kinds.

Another boon to the DS was released to the public in mid-2006 in the form of the redesigned Nintendo DS Lite. Lighter and brighter, the Nintendo DS Lite was 2/3 the size of the original model, and sported 4 different brightness settings, all of which much brighter than the one brightness setting of the first DS. The screen was also much clearer, and the stylus was much thicker and slightly longer, too, allowing for a much firmer grip. The DS Lite was a huge hit in Japan when it was released in March, being sold out for over a month afterwards! Demand was also very high in North America, but not proportionately as high as in Nintendo's home country.

The PSP had fallen on harder times around then, though. UMD movie support was rapidly decreasing, and the big name games seemed to be coming further and further apart. There were a few spots of ingenious gaming, such as Locoroco and EXIT, but the PSP still saw a larger assortment of half-baked ports than anything else.

And that brings us to the present. How are things standing as of now? As of April 2007, Nintendo has announced that the DS and the DS Lite combined had sold over 40 million units worldwide. Most of these sales were in Japan (16 million), followed by the United States (Nearly 12 million) and the rest of the world (About 12 1/2 million).

According to the website, the PSP has sold over 21.5 million units worldwide, less than half than the DS/DS Lite. Most units were sold in North America (8.3 million), followed by Japan (Nearly 5.6 million). The cumulative sales for the rest of the world amount to about 7.75 million.

The best selling games for the DS and the PSP are Nintendogs (All versions combined) and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, respectively.

How are things looking in the future? In the DS' case, there are many high-profile games on the horizon, such as Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, Dragon Quest IX, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Planet Puzzle League, Phoenix Wright 3, Sonic Rush Adventure and Final Fantasy IV.

The PSP's lineup isn't quite so fleshed out, however. There are a few high-demand games such as a Final Fantasy VII spin-off and Locoroco 2, as well as a few rumoured titles such as God of War PSP, but not much else.

So, in the end, there is a pretty clear-cut winner in this war, and it's name is Nintendo! Sony put up a pretty good fight, really, especially since this is their first ever handheld. But, ultimately, it wasn't enough to take away Nintendo's everlasting handheld superiority.

So I say good luck to Sony with their next endeavor! I hope to see something great from them in the coming years. If done right, they could really do some damage to Nintendo's handheld army. Time will tell, I suppose.

The Duck Has Spoken.


Alexander said...

You bet, it's really sony that is respondible for the PSP failure, while Nintendo did the right thing with the DS and put all hands on deck!

Cory said...

I enjoyed the article.