Adventures In Tech

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Adventures In Tech: Nintendo DS: When casual gaming got epic
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Adventures In Tech: Nintendo DS: When casual gaming got epic

4:01 /

Nintendo's dual-screened DS console levelled the playing field, and created a new philosophy for video games. Luke Westaway recounts its impressive history.

A new version of the Nintendo 3DS has us thinking back to the last generation of DS systems. The most popular handheld console line ever, this is the story of [INAUDIBLE] [MUSIC] Visual gamings true forerunner. [MUSIC] November 2003 and Nintendo has confirmed it's first loss since 1962. Sony was pummeling the Gamecube with its Ps2 and flossing the Playstation Portable Handheld [MUSIC] Which promised the power of a home console squashed into your pocket. With a high res screen. Ps2 style controls and the power to play movies. Nintendo needed a rival handheld but with the DS it took a very different approach. CEO Satoru Iwata claims that for gaming to grow there was a need to level the playing field and put gamers of all ability on equal footing. This radical thinking lead to a handheld that looked decidedly odd. Unveiled in 2004, the two screen DS looked like an 80's Game and Watch crossed with a PDA. Even packing that most unsexy of accessories, the stylus. Gamers worried that having two things to look at would prove distracting. Or that prodding with the stylus would take all the challenge out of tougher games. [NOISE] K.O.! What! What the hell? you can't use that, you gotta use the joystick like everyone else, that's just cheating. K.O. ! [MUSIC] The low powered hardware had its advantages though. CNet's test saw the DS's battery lasting more than twice as long as the PSP's, while the more basic tech [UNKNOWN] Nintendo's machine, which was also backwards compatible with Game Boy Advance games, sold $100 less than Sony. The quirky DS's biggest super power however was that it allowed for the broadest range of games ever seen, flexible hardware that enabled a breadth of titles. That would enable the DS to decimate the PSP. Selling nearly twice as many units over it's illustrious life span. Mario Kart DS and New Super Mario Brothers satisfied new and experienced gamers with gameplay that easily learned, but nightmarish to master. NintenDogs woos new gamers. As did Brain Training, a puzzle game based on a Japanese book that only made it to the DS because [UNKNOWN] managed to get a meeting with the author on the very day of the DS's official launch. Meanwhile, the DS has two screens, microphone, and touch interface, plus a slew of excellent adventure games. While non game software turned the DS into a cookbook and a portable library. It seemed like there was nothing it couldn't do. [MUSIC] A nobel peace price. A papal knighthood. OBE. Oscars. Tony's. And the first games console on Mars. Tell me DS. What's next? Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom. I think we can all learn a lot from DS. > >Over the years, Nintendo kept the DS fresh, introducing the DS Lite, the camera-toting DSi and the bigger DSi XL. Racking up total sales of over 150 million. And spawning a 3D sequel in the 3DS. The DS did more than just get Nintendo out of a tight spot though, it proved that leveling the playing field was a viable strategy. In 2006 Nintendo put the DS's DNA into the wildly popular Wii console, which further broke down the barriers to gaming. Having opened the flood gates however, today it's the makers of phones and tablets that are benefitting most from the DS's casual, friendly trailblazing. Nintendo's next move is unclear. But the DS is proof that from an unassuming pile of hardware something truly surprising can emerge. Do you still have your DS and what do you think Nintendo should do next? Let me know and check back next time for another Adventure in Tech.

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.