Nintendo DS and Game Boy Remain Brand's Best Selling Consoles
Can you guess the top two selling consoles for Nintendo of all time? That's right: the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Game Boy. The DS franchise, has three versions of the console, and the original DS topped 154 million units sold worldwide by itself. The Game Boy? 118 million. That was before smartphones and the term millennials existed. Surprised that Nintendo's golden boys are handhelds? Perhaps that's why the Nintendo Switch offers both a home console and handheld experience?
When the Game Boy debuted in 1989, it wasn't spectacular by any means. It didn't have a backlit screen. In fact the screen was even a bit dull, with a greenish/yellow color screen and simple black line design for gameplay. The casing was a simple off-white color scheme, four buttons and a directional pad. It didn't exude the same gaudiness like other industry competitors were touting. Shortly after the Game Boy arrived on the scene, Sega released the Game Gear that was twice as large, offered a horizontal design that seemed like a portable television to many users and glowed a beautiful color screen display that lit up your entire living room when playing at night. Per usual, Sega's approach was to do exactly what Nintendo was not doing, trying to appeal to a new audience ready to embrace change and move on from the conventional Nintendo experience.
The Game Boy's dot-matrix display, similar to a calculator, came from developer Gunpei Yokoi observing a business man playing games on a calculator while he traveled on a train. Yokoi and his team first developed a series of stand alone handheld games called Game & Watch before the Game Boy took the next leap and introduced interchangeable cartridges.
The Nintendo DS debuted in 2004, in a time where cell phones were common place, even if they only had Snake on them. The idea of a handheld device was pedestrian to many people, however, the race for smaller, faster and sleeker was in full swing on the electronics battlegrounds. Although the Game Boy was wildly successful, Nintendo didn't want to run the risk of introducing a console that made consumer "meh" when debuted so they created a device with two screens, one with touch functionality, a built-in microphone and Wi-Fi compatibility. Nintendo knew that the next generation of gamers would expect a device that matched their nomadic tendencies and was ready to play at any time, any place.
There are likely a myriad of good reasons why these two handheld devices soared above the competition but here are a few that stand out. These include competitive pricing, substantial battery life and effective marketing. But above the technical specs and powerful advertising, the reason Nintendo continues to stay relevant in a competitive marketplace is its iconic software. Millions of children obsessed over Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur. Aging youth kept buying new adventures for Mario, Link, Kirby and Samus. Old school gamers found Atari ports and relived their favorite classics in Asteroids, Space Invaders and Galaga. And to boot, Tetris was always there to steal the hearts of original Game Boy fans. If Nintendo has learned anything from their consumers, it's that handhelds are king. The future is likely to be mobile for the brand. Prepare yourself.