Codex Gamicus
Nintendo DS
Logo ds
Basic Information
Handheld Console
Game Boy Advance
Nintendo DSi
PlayStation Portable
Unit(s) sold
Over 18.7 Million Worldwide
New Super Mario Bros.
Technical Information
Nintendo DS Lite
Supported Media
DS Game CardGBA Game Pak
Save Capabilities
Save to game card
Touch screen, voice recognition
European Union European Release
March 112005
CanadaUnited StatesMexico North American Release
November 212004
Australia Australian Release
February 242005
Japan Japanese Release
December 22004
New Zealand New Zealand Release
February 242005
Awards | Covers | Credits | Gallery | Help
Patches | Reviews | Screenshots | Videos

The Nintendo DS is a dual-screen portable handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. The name "DS" is short for Dual Screen, although Nintendo has also promotionally said it to be short for Developer's System, due to the manufacturer's claim of the "sheer joy" of developing games for the handheld. Its code name was Project Nitro. The DS has a vertical clamshell design, similar to some Game & Watch video games, and the Game Boy Advance SP.

The handheld is unique in that it has two screens (almost all games consoles have one) and also that it incorporates a touch screen (the first console to feature this since Tiger's Nintendo hopes that the new features present in the machine will provoke unique game development, attract developers, appeal to both older gamers and non-gamers alienated by normal input methods, and allow Nintendo to retain its status as leader of the handheld game console market.

Nintendo is currently competing against Sony with their PlayStation Portable, although representatives from both companies have denied this, stating that each system targets a different audience. The Nintendo DS is currently the leader of the two in total unit sales.

On June 11, 2006, Nintendo released a sleeker, smaller, lighter and brighter variant/upgrade of the DS called the Nintendo DS Lite. This variant retailed for $129.99 USD, and it is similar in design to the Game Boy Advance SP.

Functionality[ | ]

The Nintendo DS's primary function is as a video games console; no multimedia support is included, although Play-Yan, a special Game Boy Advance cartridge that can read an SD memory card and play movies and music, is available in Japan. The system is hoped to provoke more original development of titles in an industry that Nintendo perceives as being stagnant. Nintendo believes that the unit's unusual dual screen format will inspire creative game design by developers, both its own and third parties. While the most obvious unique selling point is the pair of screens, the system also includes some unexpected input devices: a microphone and touch screen functionality on the lower screen. To date, many games have used the touchscreen to emulate analogue joystick or mouse. The DS also supports wireless connectivity, using 802.11b (Wi-Fi) [1]. As of March 2008, a few games have implemented online functionality, including Mario Kart DS and Animal Crossing: Wild World.

Developing software for the DS[ | ]

Nintendo only accepts official companies with a game development team, and sufficient experience in certain areas for their official developer support program. Additional information is available here. An alternative method is to use publicly available knowledge from sites such as this one and use the tools available to create your own programs. This development route requires a method for running programs not digitally signed, such as a PassMe chip (which plugs in to the DS slot with the main DS cart sticking out underneath), a modified firmware or WiFiMe, a downloadable application.

Releases[ | ]

North America and Japan[ | ]

The system was launched in North America for $149.99 USD on November 21, 2004, in Japan for 15,000 yen ($135) on December 2. Well over three million preorders were taken in North America and Japan; preorders at online stores were launched on November 3, and ended the same day as merchants had already sold their allotment. Initially Nintendo planned to deliver one million units combined at the North American and Japanese launches; when it saw the preorder numbers, it brought another factory online to ramp up production. Nintendo originally slated 300,000 units for the US debut; 550,000 were shipped, and just over 500,000 of those sold through in the first week.

Both launches proved to be successful, but it is interesting to note that Nintendo chose to release the DS in North America prior to Japan, a first for a hardware launch from the Kyoto-based company. This choice was made to get the DS out for the largest shopping day of the year in the US ("Black Friday" a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving). [2] Perhaps partly due to the release date, the DS met unexpectedly high demand in the United States, selling 1 million units by December 21, 2004. As of the end of December, the total number shipped worldwide was 2.8 million, about 800,000 more than Nintendo's original forecast. [3] At least 1.2 million of them were sold in the US. Some industry reporters are referring to it as "the Tickle Me Elmo of 2004". [4] In mid-December 2004 Nintendo raised its estimates of sales by March 31, 2005 (the end of the company's fiscal year) to 5 million units worldwide.

As is normal for electronics, some were reported as having problems with dead pixels (the correct term for this is "fixed pixels", as they "fix" themselves on a single or select group of colors) in either of the two screens. Return policies for LCD displays vary between manufacturers and regions, however in North America, Nintendo has chosen to replace a system with fixed pixels only if the owner claims that it interferes with their gaming experience. There are currently two exchange programs in place for North America. In the first, the owner of the defective DS in question must provide a valid credit card number and, afterwards, Nintendo will ship a new DS system to the owner with shipping supplies to return the defective system. The second is as follows: the owner of the defective DS in question must ship his/her system to Nintendo for inspection. After inspection, Nintendo technicians will either ship a replacement system or fix the defective system. The first option allows the owner to have a new DS in 3-5 business days. Policies followed by Nintendo in Japan are believed to be somewhat stricter.

North American launch games[ | ]

The following games were released within the system's launch period (the 30 days starting from November 21, 2004).

At launch there was one pack-in demo, in addition to the built-in PictoChat program: Metroid Prime: Hunters - First Hunt (published by Nintendo). It is no longer bundled with the system as of May 2005.

Japanese launch games[ | ]

The following games were released at the same time as the system's first release (December 2, 2004).

During the launch period, the following titles were also released.

Europe[ | ]

The DS was released in Europe on 11th March 2005, for £99.99 in the United Kingdom and €149 in the rest of Europe. Prior to this, a limited supply of DS units were available in a package with a promotional T-shirt, Metroid Prime: Hunters - First Hunt, a WarioWare Touched! demo, and a pre-release version of Super Mario 64 DS, through the Nintendo Stars Catalog; the bundle was priced at £129.99 for the UK and €189.99 for the rest of Europe, plus 1000 of Nintendo's 'star' loyalty points. On January 24, 2008, Nintendo Europe has revealed the DS has sold over 20 million units in Europe.

European launch games[ | ]

Australia/New Zealand[ | ]

The DS launched in Australia and New Zealand on the 24th of February. It retailed in Australia for $199 AUD and in New Zealand for $249 NZD. Like the American launch, it includes the Metroid Prime: Hunters - First Hunt demo.

Australian/New Zealand launch games[ | ]

Design and specifications[ | ]

Technology[ | ]

The handheld unit has a mass of approximately 275 grams. It features two separate 3-inch TFT LCD screens, each with a resolution of 256 x 192. The lowermost display of the DS is overlayed with a touch screen, utilizing a stylus or the user's fingers, a first for a games console. The DS has a wrist strap that doubles as a thumb cover for use in place of a stylus. The console uses two separate ARM processors, an ARM9 main CPU and ARM7 coprocessor at clock speeds of 67 MHz and 33 MHz respectively, with 4 MB of main memory. The system's 3D engine is theoretically capable of drawing 120,000 polygons per second, with a fill-rate of 30 million pixels per second.

Games utilize a proprietary solid state flash card format resembling the memory cards used in other portable electronic devices such as digital cameras; this semiconductor technology is said to be far cheaper than conventional cartridges and can be used within a system without moving parts to jar out of place when dropped. It is currently capable of supporting cards of up to 1 gigabit (128 MB) in size. The unit features wireless networking capabilities for multiplayer games or chat using Wi-Fi. The current software does not use IP, therefore preventing Internet play features and use of Wi-Fi routers with the DS. Future online games will presumably implement an IP stack to make their online game modes possible.

Inputs and outputs[ | ]

The DS is the first portable console from Nintendo to incorporate stereo speakers. In addition to the touch screen, the DS has, to the left of the lower display, a traditional four-way control pad (with a narrow Power button above it), while to the right are four action buttons (with narrow Select and Start buttons above) A B Y X, following in the footsteps of the SNES controller. On the back there are the L (Left) and R (Right) buttons, also following the style of the SNES controller. Perhaps the most innovative use of the touch screen is for the emulation of other controls. For example, with use of the previously mentioned "thumb stylus", it can emulate an analog joystick, or with the conventional stylus, its behavior can replicate a computer mouse. The system also includes a built-in microphone. While it has only been used for simple volume measurements, Nintendo has suggested will be used for communication over a wireless network and controlling games programmed for speech recognition.

Operating system[ | ]

Nintendo's own custom firmware boots the system: from here, the user chooses to run a DS or Game Boy Advance game, use PictoChat, or search for downloadable games. The latter is an adaptation of the Game Boy Advance's popular "single cartridge multiplayer" feature, adapted to support the system's Wi-Fi link capabilities: players without the game search for content, while players with the game broadcast it. In November 2004, Nintendo announced its entry into the feature animation business, suggesting that theaters showing these features could install kiosks to broadcast game content to Nintendo DS units via this same feature. In March 2005, Nintendo tested broadcast kiosks in Japan, allowing players to download a demo of Meteos or extra songs for Daigasso: Band Brothers. (A similar download kiosk was at Nintendo's booth at E3 2005, and had downloadable demos and trailers.). On February 9 at the DICE 2006 summit, Nintendo announced that the wireless broadcast kiosks will be introduced in North America, allowing players to access demos, videos and trailers.

The PictoChat program, which is permanently stored on the unit, allows users to communicate with other DS users over the wireless network by text, handwriting, or drawings, using the DS's touch screen and stylus for input; an on-screen keyboard partially covers the touch-sensitive area while using this mode, allowing for typed, as well as written, messages.

The DS's main menu also features an alarm clock and the ability to set preferences for boot priority (booting to games when inserted, or always booting to the main menu), GBA game screen usage (top or bottom), and user information (name, date of birth, favorite color, time, etc.).

There is currently an ongoing project aiming to bring the Linux operating system to the DS [5]. As of May 2005, this project had successfully mounted a Linux-based kernel and the sash shell.

Compatibility[ | ]

Initially, the console was reported to be incompatible with games designed for Nintendo's present Game Boy Advance (GBA) handheld, but details announced at the E3 trade show in Los Angeles in May 2004 revealed the opposite; while the new DS cartridges are smaller and fit in their own port, the machine has a separate cartridge port accepting Game Boy Advance games (including Majesco's Game Boy Advance Videos), although Game Boy Color and original Game Boy games are incompatible with the DS, due to a slightly different form factor and its lack of the Z80 processor used in these systems. This may be an attempt to separate the DS and Nintendo's established Game Boy line of handheld consoles; the GBA, for example, included the aging processor primarily to run legacy Game Boy games. It may also simply be to keep the DS's price down; including another chipset would likely have significantly added to the cost of producing the unit.

Though the DS no longer has the Z80 processor, several projects have started to emulate this platform. One such product is the freely available Goomba emulator[6].

The handheld does not have a port for the GBA Link Cable, so multiplayer or GBA-GameCube link-up modes are not available in GBA titles. Similar connectivity, using the DS's wireless capabilities, will, however, be implemented in the GameCube's succesor, Wii. It was officially announced with the game, Pokémon Battle Revolution, which can connect to the DS games, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.

Accessories[ | ]

Although the secondary port on the Nintendo DS does accept and support Game Boy Advance cartridges, Nintendo has emphasized that its main intention for its inclusion was to allow a wide variety of accessories to be released for the system, the compatibility to Game Boy Advance titles being only a logical complementation due to the similar architecture of the two systems. Theorized accessories include GPS receivers or television tuners, as well as a variety of accessories already included in certain Game Boy Advance cartridges such as tilt-sensors, solar-sensors, and vibration generators. The vibration generator has been said to have appeared with the E3 demo of Metroid Pinball. Nintendo has released the Play-Yan, an adaptor which will allow the Game Boy Advance SP and Nintendo DS to play MPEG-4 videos and MP3 music from SD memory cards. The adaptor bears a superficial resemblance to the AM3 player (which allowed playback of pre-recorded movie files from read-only memory cards on a GBA); the memory card slots into the right hand side of the adaptor, which then plugs into the cartridge slot of the parent console. The adaptor has its own integrated headphone port, but uses the parent console's power supply, controls, and display. It is estimated that it will offer over 15 hours of MP3 playback and 4 hours of MPEG-4 playback from a fully-charged GBA SP.

The adaptor will launch in Japan in February of 2005 for approximately 5,000 yen ($47.47). As of 2004, Nintendo did not announce plans to sell the unit outside of Japan.

Wi-Fi Connection[ | ]

Main article: Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection

To bring the DS online, Nintendo unveiled the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Users at public venues, such as coffee shops and libraries can connect at designated hotspots (such as WiFi enabled McDonalds) to connect online. Users at home can connect to the Wi-Fi Connection with most home wireless router or through Nintendo's USB Wi-Fi Adapter. Titles currently using for such online compatibility include Animal Crossing: Wild World, Mario Kart DS, and Tony Hawk's American Sk8land. In March 2006, Japan got an online RPG, Contact, in addition to Tetris DS and Metroid Prime: Hunters. As of August 2008, all three have been released outside of Japan.

Video Games[ | ]

Colors[ | ]

The Nintendo DS comes in six colors: Silver, Charcoal/Black, White, Turquoise, Pink, and Electric Blue. Silver is available worldwide. However, White is exclusive to Japan; and Electric Blue is exclusive to North America.

All of these new colors are similar to those for the Game Boy Advance SP.

In Japan, a Mew themed DS is expected to be released in June. No date for North America has been confirmed by Nintendo.

Price history[ | ]

  • US USD$149.99 (November 2004, Launch Price)
  • US USD$129.99 (August 21, 2005)
  • JP 15,000 yen
  • EU 149.99 euros

External Links[ | ]

See also[ | ]

Wikipedia-logo This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Nintendo DS. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Codex Gamicus, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 (unported) license. The content might also be available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.