The is a dual-screen handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It was released in 2004 in Canada, the United States, and Japan. The console features a clamshell design, similar to the Game Boy Advance SP, with two LCD screens inside - with the bottom one being a touchscreen. The Nintendo DS also features a built-in microphone and supports wireless IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) standards, allowing players to interact with each other within short range (10–30 m, depending on conditions) or online with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service, which launched later in the console's lifespan. This was the first Nintendo console to be released in North America prior to Japan.
The system's code name was Nitro, and this can be seen in the model number that appear on the unit (NTR-001). The console's name officially refers to "Developers' System", in reference to the new game design the system was meant to inspire, and "Dual Screen", the system's most obvious and distinct feature.
On March 2, 2006, Nintendo released the Nintendo DS Lite, a redesign of the Nintendo DS, in Japan. It was later released in North America, Europe, and Australia in June 2006. The DS Lite is a slimmer and lighter version of the Nintendo DS and has brighter screens. Nintendo of America refers to the older model as the "original style" Nintendo DS. On October 2, 2008, Nintendo announced the Nintendo DSi, another redesign of the Nintendo DS, at the Nintendo Press Conference. The DSi is thinner, has bigger screens than the DS Lite, no Game Boy Advance cartridge port, AAC playback capability, and two cameras.
On September 20, 2004, Nintendo announced that the Nintendo DS would be released in North America on November 21, 2004 for US$149.99. It was set to release on December 2, 2004 in Japan and in the first quarter of 2005 in Europe and Australia. The console was released in North America with a midnight launch event at Universal CityWalk EB Games in Los Angeles, California. The console was launched quietly in Japan compared to the North America launch; one source cites the cold weather as the reason. In January 2005, the Australia release date of February 24, 2005 and the Europe release date of March 11, 2005 were announced. Regarding the European launch, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said:
Europe is an extremely important market for Nintendo, and we are pleased we can offer such a short period of time between the US and European launch. We believe that the Nintendo DS will change the way people play video games and our mission remains to expand the game play experience. Nintendo DS caters for the needs of all gamers whether for more dedicated gamers who want the real challenge they expect, or the more casual gamers who want quick, pick up and play fun.
The lower display of the Nintendo DS is overlaid with a touchscreen, designed to accept input from the included stylus, the user's fingers, or a curved plastic tab attached to the optional wrist strap. The touchscreen allows users to interact with in-game elements more directly than by pressing buttons; for example, in the included chatting software, PictoChat, the stylus is used to write messages or draw.
Traditional controls are located on either side of the touchscreen. To the left is a D-pad, with a narrow Power button above it, and to the right are the A, B, X, and Y buttons, with narrow Select and Start buttons above them. Shoulder buttons L and R are located on the upper corners of the lower half of the system. The overall button layout is similar to the controller of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super Famicom in Japan).
The Nintendo DS features stereo speakers providing virtual surround sound (depending on the software) located on either side of the upper display screen. This is a first for a Nintendo handheld, as the Game Boy line of systems has only supported stereo sound through the use of headphones or external speakers.
A built-in microphone is located below the left side of the bottom screen. It has been used for a variety of purposes, including speech recognition (Nintendogs, Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!), chatting online between and during gameplay sessions (Pokémon Diamond and Pearl), and minigames that require the player to blow or shout into the microphone.
The system's 3D hardware performs transform and lighting, texture-coordinate transformation, texture mapping, alpha blending, anti-aliasing, cel shading, and z-buffering; however, it uses point (nearest neighbor) texture filtering, leading to some titles having a blocky appearance. The system is theoretically capable of rendering about 120,000 triangles per second at 60 frames per second, which is comparable to the Nintendo 64. Unlike most 3D hardware, it has a set limit on the number of triangles it can render as part of a single scene; the maximum amount is about 6144 vertices, or 2048 triangles per frame. The 3D hardware is designed to render to a single screen at a time, so rendering 3D to both screens is difficult and decreases performance significantly. The DS is generally more limited by its polygon budget than by its pixel fill rate. There are also 512 kilobytes of texture memory, and the maximum texture size is 1024x1024 pixels.
The system has 656 kilobytes of video memory and two 2D engines (one per screen). These are similar to (but more powerful than) the Game Boy Advance's single 2D engine; however, the cores are divided into the main core and sub core. Only the main core is capable of vertex 3D rendering.
The Nintendo DS has compatibility with Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11. The unit also supports a special wireless format created by Nintendo and secured using RSA security signing (used by the wireless drawing and chatting program PictoChat for the DS). Wi-Fi is used for accessing the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, where users can use the internet or compete with other users playing the same Wi-Fi compatible game.
Nintendo DS games use a proprietary solid state ROM "game card" format resembling the memory cards used in other portable electronic devices such as digital cameras. It currently supports cards up to 2 gigabit (2048 Mb or 256 MB) in size (with ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat being the first DS game to use a 2 gigabit card), which is four times the amount of memory that the largest Nintendo 64 cartridge was able to store (512 Mbit or 64 MB). The cards always have a small amount of flash memory or an EEPROM to save user data such as game progress or high scores. The game cards are 33.0 mm × 35.0 mm × 3.8 mm (approximately half the width and half as thick as Game Boy Advance cartridges) and weigh around 3.5 g (1/8 ounce).
Based on an IGN blog by the developer of MechAssault: Phantom War, larger (such as 128 MB) cards have a slower data transfer rate than the more common smaller (such as 64 MB) cards; however, the specific rates were not mentioned.
The system's code-name was Nitro, resulting in the letters "NTR" appearing in the serial number written on the back of game cards and the system itself. NTR-XXX indicates the model numbers found on the original style Nintendo DS and its accessories.
The firmware also features an alarm clock, several options for customization (such as boot priority for when games are inserted and GBA screen preference), and the ability to input user information (such as name, birthday, favorite color, etc.) that can be used in games.
To sustain battery life in the midst of a game, users can close the Nintendo DS system, putting the DS in sleep mode that also pauses the game that is being played; however, closing the lid while playing a Game Boy Advance game will not put the Nintendo DS into sleep mode; the game will continue to run normally, including the back light. Certain DS games (such as Animal Crossing: Wild World) also will not pause but the backlight, screens, and speakers will turn off. When saving the game in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Zoo Tycoon DS, SimCity DS, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, or Mega Man Battle Network 5, the DS will not go into sleep mode.
The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is a free online game service run by Nintendo. Players with a compatible Nintendo DS game can connect to the service via a Wi-Fi network using a Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector or a wireless router. The service was launched in North America on November 14, 2005 with the release of Mario Kart DS. Various online games, and a web browser (see below) are now available.
Some Nintendo DS retailers features DS Download Stations that allow users to download demos of upcoming and currently available DS games; however, due to memory limitations, the downloads are erased once the system is powered off. The Download Station is made up of 1 to 8 standard retail DS units, with a standard DS card containing the demo data. On May 7, 2008, Nintendo released the Nintendo Channel for download on the Wii. The Nintendo Channel uses Nintendo's WiiConnect24 to download Nintendo DS demos through the Nintendo Channel. From there, a person can select the game demo they wish to play and, similar to the Nintendo DS Download Stations at retail outlets, download the demo (temporarily) to their DS.
PictoChat allows users to communicate with other Nintendo DS users within local wireless range. Users can enter text (via a small on screen keyboard), handwrite messages or draw pictures (via the stylus and touchscreen). There are four chatrooms (A, B, C, D) in which people can go to chat. Up to sixteen people can connect in any one room.
The handheld does not have a port for the Game Boy Advance Link Cable, so multiplayer or GameCube-Game Boy Advance link-up modes are not available in Game Boy Advance titles. Only single player mode is supported on the Nintendo DS.
The Nintendo DS only uses one screen when playing Game Boy Advance games. The user can configure the system to use either the top or bottom screen by default. The games are displayed within a black border on the screen, due to the slightly different screen resolution between the two systems (256 × 192px (approx. 0.05 megapixels) for the Nintendo DS, and 240 × 160px (approx. 0.04 megapixels) for the Game Boy Advance).
Nintendo DS games inserted into Slot 1 are able to detect the presence of specific Game Boy Advance games in Slot 2. In many such games, either stated in the game during gameplay or mostly explained in the games' instruction manuals, extra content can be unlocked or added by starting the Nintendo DS game with the appropriate Game Boy Advance game inserted. Some of the content can stay permanent, even when the GBA game has been removed after content has been added.
Some Wi-Fi enabled games (e.g. Mario Kart DS) allow the selection of opponents by region. The options are "Regional" ("Continent" in Europe) and "Worldwide", as well as two non-location specific settings. This allows the player to limit competitors to only those opponents based in the same geographical area. It is unknown whether this is based on the region code of the console in use, the region of the game card, or geolocation of the IP address.
Although the secondary port on the Nintendo DS does accept and support Game Boy Advance cartridges (but not Game Boy, and Game Boy Color 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 Game Boy Advance compatibility titles being a logical extension.
In Europe, the rumble pack was first available with the game Actionloop, and later Metroid Prime Pinball. It is also possible to buy the rumble pack straight from Nintendo.
The Guitar grip controller comes packaged with the game Guitar Hero: On Tour and is plugged into the GBA game slot. It features four colored buttons just like the ones that can be found on regular Guitar Hero guitar controllers for the stationary consoles, though it lacks the fifth orange button found on the guitar controllers. The DS Guitar Hero controller comes with a small "pick-stylus" (which is shaped like a guitar pick, as the name suggests) that can be put away into a small slot on the controller. It also features a hand strap. The game works with both the DS Lite and the original Nintendo DS as it comes with an adapter for the original DS. Will not be compatible with the DSi, due to the lack of GBA slot.
Since the release of the Nintendo DS, a great deal of hacking has occurred involving the DS's fully rewritable firmware, Wi-Fi connection, game cards that allow SD storage, and software use. There are now many different emulators for the DS such as: NES, SNES, Sega Master System, Sega Megadrive, Neo-Geo Pocket, Neo-Geo (arcade) as well as many other older consoles like Game boy Color. Due to the processor power and RAM limitations, the DS cannot emulate Nintendo 64, Playstation, PS2, Dreamcast, Gamecube, Xbox, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii or Xbox 360.
There are a number of cards which either have built-in flash memory, or a slot which can accept an SD, CompactFlash, or MicroSD cards. These cards allow the user to play music, movies and load homebrew and commercial games.
In South Korea, many video game consumers exploit illegal copies of video games, including for the Nintendo DS. In 2007, 500,000 copies of DS games were sold, while the sales of the DS hardware units was 800,000.
On October 3, 2006 Nintendo announced a 20.5% raise in net profit forecast partially attributed to strong DS sales. The company also raised its estimated DS sales forecast by 18%.
On July 25, 2007 Nintendo announced in its first quarter financial report that it had increased DS hardware shipments from 22 million to 26 million. Nintendo also raised its DS software sales projection from 130 million units to 140 million. On October 26, 2007, Nintendo announced an increase in DS hardware shipments to 28 million and software to 165 million.
As of September 26, 2007, the Nintendo DS has sold over 50 million units and is the fastest-selling handheld game console of all time. On October 30, 2007, Chart-Track reported DS sales of over 4 million in the United Kingdom. In November 2007, Media Create reported DS sales of 20 million in Japan.
During the week of November 18 to November 24, Nintendo of America set a new Nintendo sales record by selling over 653,000 DS units in one week, breaking the previous record held by the Game Boy Advance, which sold 600,000 units.
On November 27, 2007, Nintendo announced that the DS has set a new weekly hardware sales record in the UK, with over 191,000 units sold, according to Chart-Track; breaking the previous record held by the PSP, which sold 185,000 units in its first week of availability in the UK.
As of December 27, 2007, the DS has sold over 1 million units in South Korea, according to Nintendo of Korea.
In 2007, the DS was the best-selling game console in the US and Japan with 8.5 million and 7,143,702 units sold respectively, according to the NPD Group and Enterbrain. In Europe, the DS sold 6.4 million units in 2006 and 8.7 million in 2007, according to estimates by Electronic Arts.
On January 24, 2008, Nintendo Europe has revealed the DS has sold over 20 million units in Europe.
On January 30, 2008, Nintendo Australia announced the DS has sold over 1 million units in Australia.
As of March 30, 2008, the Nintendo DS has sold 22,169,761 units in Japan according to Famitsu/Enterbrain.
As of September 2008, the Nintendo DS has sold 7.1 million units in the UK, according to GfK Chart-Track.
Many special editions and promotional packages have been available for the Nintendo DS, starting with the first Nintendo DS bundle of a Metroid Prime Hunters demo version, which was included in the first line-up of US shipments. Other adjustments have been made to the DS / DS Lite including color and laser engravings made for promotional events. For example, during the release of Mario Kart DS in North America, a "Red Hot DS Bundle" was available, which was a red colored Nintendo DS, with the game Mario Kart DS packaged along with it.
The first Nintendo DS Lite promotional package was released in a very limited run as a promotional item at the world premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End on May 23, 2007. This package included a DS console with pirate graphics on the case, and the game pack of the same name. The first Nintendo DS Lite retail bundle became available in North America on August 21, 2007; it included Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day!, a DS Lite carrying case, and an exclusive color DS Lite. The DS Lite has a crimson top outer casing, and the rest of the DS is matte black.
The Nintendo DS Lite is a slimmer, more lightweight redesign of the original Nintendo DS model. It was announced on January 26, 2006, more than a month before its first territorial launch in Japan on March 2, 2006.
The features and capabilities are the same as the original style DS, but the DS Lite has four levels of LCD screen brightness; however, the four levels do not include a level where the backlight is off. Despite having four brightness levels, even the lowest brightness setting on the Nintendo DS lite is in fact brighter than the Nintendo DS' original style screen, which had one brightness setting and an off setting. Unlike the casing of the original style DS, the DS Lite has a shiny glossy semi-transparent outside casing. The LED battery and charging light indicators have been moved to the upper right-hand corner of the unit, making it viewable regardless of whether the system is open or closed. The "start" and "select" buttons have been moved to the lower right-hand side of the touchscreen, the microphone has been moved to the direct center of the opened device, and the A, B, X, Y, and D-Pad seem to have been designed to match the Wii and Game Boy Micro. The power button above the D-pad was removed and replaced with a switch placed on the right side of the unit. Another improvement is the longer and thicker stylus, significantly reducing the amount of hand cramps as its users use it extensively throughout game play; the stylus holster was moved from the top of the unit to the right side. Although a loop for a wrist strap was retained on the top of the unit, the DS Lite does not ship with a wrist strap. Along with the other advancements, the Game Boy port of the DS Lite is shorter than the original style DS's port. When inserted, the Game Boy Advance cartridge protrudes out approximately 1 cm from under the unit. Also, the charger connector is smaller, so a different charger must be used. Although the connector is similar in form factor to the Game Boy Micro, their AC adapters are not cross compatible. It also comes with a dust-protector for the GBA slot which also provides a seamless surface.
Alternatively, anyone can use publicly available knowledge from sites such as NDSTech, and tools to create their own programs. There are two development routes. One requires a method for running Nintendo DS programs from the Game Boy Advance port. At least five methods are available for this option: PassMe, PassMe2, WiFiMe, FlashMe, and NoPass. The second option is to use second-generation flashcards, which are simply either writable DS game cards or DS game cards with Micro-SD slots.