Nintendo DS

From Academic Kids

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First color of Nintendo DS
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"Electric Blue" Nintendo DS, the newest color released in America
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New Mew themed DS for Japan

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 horizontal 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. As such, Nintendo has placed the DS outside of its highly successful Game Boy line, which is targetted at the pre-existing gaming market. Some have suggested that this was a precautionary measure to ensure the Game Boy name remained untarnished if the DS were to fail commercially, but given the sales of the handheld to date, the issue is rather academic.

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. The system's promotional slogans revolve around the word "Touch": in the US, Australia, and New Zealand, Touching is Good; in Japan, and China, Touch!; and in Europe, Touch me!.



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 (see Accessories). 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 2005, no games have implemented online functionality, but several are reportedly in development, including versions of Mario Kart and Animal Crossing.

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.

Battery Life

The Nintendo DS has a battery life about the same as the Game Boy Advance SP. The only problem with the backlight is it can either only be turned off on the main screen or you can turn it off in the options menu in some Nintendo DS games. The only way to get to the main screen is to turn off the system, then turn it back on. With the light off, the DS has a battery life of approx 15 hours. With the light on, about 9 hours.


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 same time as the system's first release (December 2, 2004).

In the launch period, the following titles were released.


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 Catalogue; 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. As of March 14, the DS had sold 600,000 in Europe, setting a sales record for a handheld.

The European version of the DS, like the US release, is packaged with a Metroid Prime: Hunters - First Hunt demo.

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.

The first week of sales for the system broke all current Australian launch sales records a console. 19191 units were sold from Thursday 24th February to close of business Sunday 27th February.

Australian/New Zealand launch games


"iQue DS", which the name of official Chinese Nintendo DS, is going to be released in China on July 1, 2005. The price of iQue DS is 1400 RMB (about $169 USD). The iQue DS is compatible with all of the language versions of every game.

Chinese launch games

  • Zhi Gan Yi Bi(Chinese version Polarium) (Nintendo/iQue)
  • Muomuo Waliou Zhizao(Chinese version WarioWare Touched!) (Nintendo/iQue)

Design and specifications


The handheld unit has a mass of approximately 275 grams. It features two separate 3-inch TFT LCD screens, each with a resolution of 256×192. 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 megabytes) 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

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A Nintendo DS beneath a Sony PSP for comparison.

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 while harkening back to the N64 "three-part" digital, analog, and button scheme. 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. Nintendo has released Nintendogs in Japan, which uses the microphone and speech recognition as a means to command and train a virtual dog to perform tricks or other actions. Nintendo has also suggested will be used for communication over a wireless network. At E3 2005, Nintendo showed off a demo of a Nintendo DS being used as a wireless VoIP Phone.

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 theatres 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 Jam With the Band. (A similar download kiosk was at Nintendo's booth at E3 2005, and had downloadable demos 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 June 2005, this project has successfully executed a 2.6 kernel, sash shell, some text games, and added touchscreen support.


GBA game slot on GBA (above) and DS (below). Legacy GB software will not fit in the DS.
GBA game slot on GBA (above) and DS (below). Legacy GB software will not fit in the DS.

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 E 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 like 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, reportedly be possible between the DS and Nintendo's successor to the GameCube, currently known as the Revolution.


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 Hotspots

Nintendo has mentioned that special DS Wi-Fi hotspots would be available by the end of 2005. These hotspots would be located at public venues, such as coffee shops and libraries. A home Wi-Fi connection would also be usable. The Wi-Fi hotspots would expand multiplayer (exclusively for games designed for online gaming) capabilities beyond the range of 30–100 feet, allowing users at the hotspots to interface with each other from around the world. Titles currently scheduled for such online compatibility include Animal Crossing DS, Mario Kart DS, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles DS, and Tony Hawk's American Wasteland.

Current/Future Games

The following games are to be released in 2005 or in the future.

To see a complete list of upcoming games, scroll down to the List of Nintendo DS Games article. Some of these titles may be temporary.


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

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Turquoise blue

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Graphite black

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Candy pink

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, and a Red colored DS is scheduled for released on August 8, 2005. No date for North America has been confirmed by Nintendo.

Also, a special blue DS was released at Pokepark 2005. The Pokepark Logo is on the front of the DS, and a silhouette of a Pikachu is over the right stereo.

See also

Other handhelds

External links

es:Nintendo DS fr:Nintendo Dual Screen fi:Nintendo DS ko:닌텐도DS nl:Nintendo DS ja:ニンテンドーDS pl:Nintendo DS pt:Nintendo DS sv:Nintendo DS zh:任天堂DS


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