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Nintendo DS

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Nintendo DS, sometimes abbreviated NDS or DS, is a handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo, and first released in 2004. The console features a clamshell design, with two LCD screens inside - one of which is a touch-sensitive screen.

The DS can stand for "Dual Screen," and Developers' System, from Nintendo's belief that the system "gives game creators brand new tools which will lead to more innovative games for the world's players." [9]

On March 2, 2006, Nintendo released the Nintendo DS Lite in Japan, a redesigned system which is slimmer and lighter with brighter screens, a longer and thicker stylus for the touch screen, and a relocated microphone. It was released later the same year in North America, Europe and Australia.

Design and specifications

Input and output

The lower display of the Nintendo DS is overlaid with a touch-sensitive screen, designed to accept input from the included stylus, or a curved plastic thumb tab attached to the optional wrist strap. The touch screen allows players to interact with in-game elements more directly than by pressing buttons; for example, the stylus is used in Trauma Center: Under the Knife as a scalpel to make an incision in a diseased patient, in Pokémon Ranger to capture pokemon, and as a writing tool in the included chatting software, PictoChat.

Traditional controls are located on either side of the touch screen. 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.

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.

The Nintendo DS stylus used for games played on the touch-screen
The Nintendo DS stylus used for games played on the touch-screen

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), chatting online between gameplay sessions (but not during gameplay) in some games (Metroid Prime: Hunters), and for minigames that require the player to blow or shout into the microphone (Feel the Magic: XY/XX, Wario Ware: Touched, etc).

Hardware Specifications

  • Mass: 275 g (9.7 oz.)
  • Physical size: 148.7 x 84.7 x 28.9 mm (5.85 x 3.33 x 1.13 inches).
  • Screens: Two separate 3-inch TFT LCD screens, resolution of 256 x 192 pixels each, with dimensions of 62 x 46 mm and 77 mm diagonal, and a dot pitch of 0.24 mm. Note that the gap between the screens is approximately 21mm, equivalent to about 92 "hidden" screen lines. Some games take this separation into account and treat the missing screen area as part of the play field, while others ignore its existence. This fact has created some controversy over which method is best. The lower display is overlaid with a resistive touch screen, which allows for touch contact with the screen (either with the included stylus, the player's finger, or the wrist strap's thumb pad) to be registered. The system is only capable of measuring one point on the screen at a time; pressing in multiple locations will result in a point in the middle of all the locations being registered.
  • CPUs: Two ARM processors, an ARM946E-S main CPU and ARM7TDMI co-processor at clock speeds of 67 MHz and 33 MHz respectively, with 4 MB of main memory which requires 1.65 volts.

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 120,000 triangles per second at 60 frames per second and the pixel fill rate is 30 million pixels per second. Unlike most 3D hardware, it has a limit on the number of triangles it can render as part of a single scene; this limit is somewhere in the region of 4000 triangles. 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 system has two 2D engines, one per screen. These are similar to (but more powerful than) the Game Boy Advance's 2D engine.

The unit has built-in Wi-Fi functionality, which allows communications with a standard access point to access the Internet, and with other DS units through a modified WiFi protocol created by Nintendo and partially secured using RSA security signing. The latter is used by the built-in wireless drawing and chat program, by games in non-online multiplayer mode, and to download game demos or multiplayer game software (used for DS Download Stations and multiplayer gaming with only one game card). The Internet capability is used to access the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, where users can compete with other users playing the same Wi-Fi compatible game and access other services.

Media Specifications

Nintendo DS games are on small, thin "game cards", as opposed to the larger cartridges used by the Game Boy line and other previous Nintendo systems.
Nintendo DS games are on small, thin "game cards", as opposed to the larger cartridges used by the Game Boy line and other previous Nintendo systems.
  • Data size: Up to 1 gigabit ( = 1024 Mb or 128 MB).
  • Physical size: 33.0 × 35.0 × 3.8 mm
  • Weight: About 4 g

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 1 gigabit[10] in size. The cards always have a small amount of flash memory or an EEPROM to save user data, for example progress in a game or high scores. The game cards are 33.0 × 35.0 × 3.8 mm, and weigh around 3.5 g (1/8 ounces).

The system's code-name was "Project Nitro," which is where the letters NTR in the serial number written on the back of game cards and the system itself come from.


Nintendo's own custom firmware boots the system. First, the user is presented with a "Health and Safety" reminder screen which must be bypassed with a button press or by touching the lower screen. Afterwards, the system (by default) boots into a custom touch screen interface, giving the player access to run either a Nintendo DS or Gameboy Advance game, use the built-in Pictochat software, or search for software to download via DS Download Play or (is selected) the DS can boot straight to a game (if inserted)

The PictoChat program, which is permanently stored on the unit, allows users to communicate with other Nintendo DS users within range over the wireless network by text, handwriting, or drawings, using the DS's touch screen and stylus for input, or a small visual keyboard on the screen.

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), Game Boy Advance game screen usage (top or bottom), and user information (name, date of birth, favorite color, time, etc.)

Download Play

Main article: DS Download Play

In selected titles (Including but not limited to Mario Kart DS, New Super Mario Bros. and Meteos), it is possible to play multiplayer games with other Nintendo DS users using only one game card. The maximum distance for this to be effective is about 60 feet. The Nintendo DS unit downloads the necessary data from another unit running the game. There is also a multiplayer Wi-Fi feature. At certain hotspots, or Wi-Fi enabled areas, you can hook up and play with DS owners around the world.

DS Download Play is an adaptation of the Game Boy Advance's popular "single cartridge multiplayer" feature, adapted to support the system's wireless link capabilities; players without the game search for and download content, while players with the game broadcast it. Some games also use this feature to transmit a playable demo of the game to players who do not own a copy. The downloaded data is available as long as the DS is turned on.

Also, in November 2004, Nintendo announced plans to make download kiosks available to certain retail stores and other public places that would transmit a signal for a Nintendo DS in the area to download a demo of a game using the DS Download Play feature. As of 2006, there are now download kiosks placed in select EB Games, GameStop, Game Crazy, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, and Target stores. As with normal Download Play, the downloaded demo(s) are not permanent, and will be deleted when the system is shut down. Nintendo has also said that they may begin providing downloadable demos or other content directly from a user's Wii console system using the online store channel built into the system.


The Nintendo DS is compatible with Game Boy Advance (GBA) cartridges; the smaller Nintendo DS cartridges fit into Slot 1 on the top of the system, while Game Boy Advance games fit into Slot 2 on the bottom of the system. The Nintendo DS is not compatible with games for the Game Boy Color and the original Game Boy, due to a slightly different form factor and the absence of the Zilog Z80-like processor used in these systems. There is also Wi-Fi mode on some GBA games.

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.

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. 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. .05 megapixels) for the Nintendo DS, and 240 × 160px (approx. .04 megapixels) for the Game Boy Advance).

Some 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, extra content can be unlocked or added by starting the Nintendo DS game with the appropriate Game Boy Advance game inserted. Also available are "Option Paks", namely the Rumble Pak that vibrates when used with compatible games, and the Nintendo DS Memory Expansion Pak, which supplies extra RAM for the Nintendo DS Browser.

Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection

Main article: Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection

The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is an online service run by Nintendo to facilitate free Internet play in compatible Nintendo DS and Wii games through a wireless internet connection. The service was launched in North America on November 14, 2005 with the release of Mario Kart DS and Tony Hawk's American Sk8land, and later in Europe and Japan. The Nintendo DS Browser, a version of the Opera browser, allows the system to be used to read web sites.

Battery life

The Nintendo DS contains a rechargeable lithium ion battery. The expected battery life ranges from 6 - 10 hours on a full four-hour charge.[11] After five hundred charges, the battery life drops to seventy percent. It is recommended that the battery be replaced after five hundred charges. Battery life is affected by multiple factors including speaker volume, use of one or both screens, back lighting, and use of the built-in Wi-Fi. The biggest effect on battery life is caused by using the backlight, which can be turned off in the main menu screen, or within selected games (such as Super Mario 64 DS).

The battery is designed to be removed only when it expires and must be replaced. It is removable with the use of a Phillips-head screwdriver. Removing the battery will cause the Nintendo DS to prompt the user to re-enter all of the unit's settings (user's birthday, user's name, etc.), but it will not affect saved data on Nintendo DS Game Cards or Game Boy Advance Game Paks.

To sustain battery life in the midst of a game, users can close the Nintendo DS system, which will then put the DS in sleep mode with the game being played paused. A system in sleep mode can run for several hundred hours without completely draining the battery. However, sleep mode does not function with Game Boy Advance games; 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.

Regional division

The Nintendo DS is region free in the sense that any console will run a Nintendo DS game purchased anywhere in the world; it is the same system everywhere. However, the Chinese version games can only be played on the Chinese iQue DS, whose larger firmware chip contains the required Chinese character glyph images. Nintendo DSes from other regions cannot play the Chinese games, but the iQue DS can play games of other regions. Also, as with Game Boy games, some games that require both players to have a Nintendo DS Game Card for multiplayer play will not work together if the games are from different regions (e.g. a Japanese Nintendo DS game may not work with a North American Nintendo DS game, though some titles, such as Mario Kart DS, are mutually compatible). With the addition of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, certain games can be played over the Internet with users of a different region game.

Some Wi-Fi enabled games (e.g. Mario Kart DS) allow the selection of opponents by region. The options are Continent 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. This is generally determined through the internal region of the software (i.e. Japanese releases will automatically search for other users of the Japanese version, and so forth).


Main article: Nintendo DS accessories
Game Boy Advance game slot on Game Boy Advance (above) and Nintendo DS (below).
Game Boy Advance game slot on Game Boy Advance (above) and Nintendo DS (below).

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.

Nintendo announced at E³ 2005 that it would launch "Headset Accessories" for VoIP enabled games. (This will plug into the VoIP plug next to the Ear Phone jack, not the Game Boy Advance slot.)

Rumble Pak

Main article: Rumble Pak

The Rumble Pak was the first official expansion slot accessory. In the form of a Game Boy Advance cartridge, the Rumble Pak vibrates to reflect the action in compatible games, such as when the player bumps into an obstacle or loses a life. It was released in North America and Japan in 2005, as a separate accessory and bundled with Metroid Prime Pinball [12] A specially designed Rumble Pak was released in Japan in late May 2006 for the Nintendo DS Lite[13] The cartridge is about 1 cm shorter to prevent it from protruding out of the Nintendo DS Lite as standard Game Boy Advance cartridges do.

Nintendo DS Headset

The Nintendo DS Headset is the official headset for the Nintendo DS. It plugs into the headset port (which is a combination of a standard 3.5mm headphone connector and a proprietary microphone connector) on the bottom of the system. It features one earphone and a microphone, and is compatible with all games that use the internal microphone. It was released in Japan on September 14, 2006.[14]

Opera internet browser

Main article: Nintendo DS Browser

On February 15, 2006, Nintendo announced a version of the cross-platform web browser Opera for the DS system.[15] . The browser can use one screen as an overview, a zoomed portion of which appears on the other screen, or both screens together to present a single tall view of the page.[16] The browser went on sale in Japan[17] and Europe [18] in 2006. Releases in other regions are expected in 2007.

Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector

Main article: Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector

This USB-flash-disk-sized accessory plugs into a PC's USB port and creates a miniature hotspot, allowing up to five Nintendo DS units to connect to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service through the host computer internet connection. Currently this device is only compatible with Windows XP.

Nintendo MP3 Player

Main article: Nintendo MP3 Player

On November 22, 2006, Nintendo confirmed an MP3 player accessory for the DS will launch in Europe on December 8, 2006. No price has been released by Nintendo, but many sources suggest a €30 price tag. The add-on will use SD cards and will use an odd 8-bit style GUI. The cause for such a low bit GUI is that to run MP3s the DS is forced to use the ARM9 processor, which is also used for running the GUI and most of the game code. Running MP3s on the ARM9 will use about 95% of it. [19] Other non-Nintendo brand compact flash (CF) memory card readers which claim to turn the DS into a "multimedia powerhouse" have been released and are avaible at retail stores such as Walmart. The CF readers can view MPEG4 videos and play WMA and MP3 music files. They retail for $40.

Marketing and sales

On January 5, 2006, Nintendo issued a formal apology after the Nintendo DS sold out throughout Japan,[20] as no Nintendo system had ever sold out in Japan before.[21]

Nintendo announced on February 15, 2006 that in Japan the Nintendo DS reached 5 million units sold in less than 13 months after its launch, which marks the fastest-ever pace for a video game system in Japan.[22]

On November 21, 2006, Nintendo announced that the Nintendo DS had reached over 7 million units sold in Europe.[23]

On November 29, 2006, figures released by Chart-Track indicated that the Nintendo DS had sold over 2 million units in the UK as of November 12, 2006.[24]

On December 1, 2006 Nintendo of America released launch-to-date information indicating that the Nintendo DS had sold 6.63 million units in the United States.[25]

On December 18, 2006 Nintendo of France announced that DS sales in France had reached 2 million. [26] The system's promotional slogans revolve around the word "Touch" in almost all countries, with the US slogan being "Touching is good."

The Nintendo DS is currently seen by many analysts to be in the same market as Sony's PlayStation Portable, although representatives from both companies have said that each system targets a different audience. At the time of its release in the United States, the Nintendo DS retailed for $149.99 USD. The price dropped to $129.99 USD on August 21, 2005, one day before the anticipated North American releases of Nintendogs and Advance Wars: Dual Strike.

Eight official colors of the Nintendo DS were available through standard retailers. Titanium (silver and black) was available worldwide, Electric Blue was exclusive to North and Latin America. Fire Red, Graphite Black, Pure White, Turquoise Blue and Candy Pink were available in Japan featuring white outer hardware and white styluses, as opposed to black. Mystic Pink and Cosmic Blue were available in Australia and New Zealand. Pink and blue versions of the DS were available in Europe and North America through a Nintendogs bundle, although they differ from the Japanese pink and blue versions and feature black hardware and styluses. Japan's Fire Red also came to America as part of a Mario Kart DS bundle , but included optional flame stickers and an optional "'05" decal. However, these colors were only available for the original Nintendo DS model; a different and more-limited set of colors have been used for the Nintendo DS Lite.

As of June 2006, Nintendo announced that it would no longer sell / provide the original and would replace it with the Nintendo DS Lite.

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%.


Nintendo DS price history: (United Kingdom)

  • March 11 2005 - October 2005 £100
  • October 2005 - June 2006 £95
  • June 2006 - December 2006 £90

Nintendo DS price history: (United States)

  • November 2004 - November 2005 $149.99
  • November 2005 - Present $129.99

Special editions / Promotional Packages

Main article: Special versions of the Nintendo DS

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 MarioKart DS in North America, a "Red Hot DS Bundle" was available, which was a red colored Nintendo DS, with the game MarioKart DS packaged along with it.

Nintendo DS Lite

Main article: Nintendo DS Lite
A comparison between the DS Lite and the original DS
A comparison between the DS Lite and the original DS

The Nintendo DS Lite (sold as the iQue DS Lite in China) is a dual-screen handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It is a slimmer, more lightweight redesign of the earlier Nintendo DS model; aesthetically sleeker to complement Nintendo's Wii, and to appeal to broader commercial audiences. The DS Lite is also able to use the e-Reader, unlike its predecessor. It was announced on January 26, 2006, more than a month before its first territorial launch in Japan on March 2, 2006 due to overwhelming demand for the original model.[27] The Nintendo DS Lite is available in Japan in white, arctic blue, pink, black, and navy blue; in North and South America, as well as Australia, in white, black, and pink; and in Europe in black and white. A pink version was released in Europe on October 27, 2006.

Software development

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 from the Nintendo Software Development Support Group.[28]


Main article: Nintendo DS homebrew

Throughout the years the Nintendo DS has been released, a great deal of hacking has occurred involving the DS's firmware, Wi-Fi, game cards, and software use. Nintendo DS emulators are also in early stages of development, and few commercial games are playable thus far.


The Donkey Kong version of the Game & Watch.
The Donkey Kong version of the Game & Watch.
  • The Nintendo DS bears a striking resemblance to Nintendo's first handheld, the Game and Watch, specifically the Donkey Kong version.
  • Time Magazine awarded the DS with a Gadget of the Week award.


  1. ^ CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS (PDF) 28. Nintendo Co., Ltd. (2006-10-26). Retrieved on 2006-10-26.
  2. ^ Kris Graft (2006-12-07). UPDATED: Nov. Game Industry Sales Up 34%. Retrieved on 2006-12-14.
  3. ^ Wii came, Wii saw and Wii conquered!. Nintendo Europe (2006-12-13). Retrieved on 2006-12-13.
  4. ^ Nintendo to add video, music to the DS. Ars Technica. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  5. ^ Nintendo DS sales figures in line with GBA launch. Eurogamer. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  6. ^ Nintendo DS Handheld Console Review. Impulse Gamer.
  7. ^ Nintendo DS Hands-On Preview. Underground Online. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  8. ^ Nintendo DS Summary. Star Pulse. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  9. ^ Nintendo DS Frequently Asked Questions. Nintendo. Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Nintendo DS Rechargeable Battery Frequently Asked Questions. Nintendo. Retrieved on 2006-04-02.
  12. ^ Nintendo Online Store. Retrieved on 2006-04-02.
  13. ^ Nintendo Japan Product Page. Retrieved on 2006-06-14.
  14. ^ Official DS Headset – Pics of New Must-Have. Spong. Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  15. ^ Opera Software (February 15, 2006). Giving gamers two windows to the Web: The Opera Browser for Nintendo DS™. Press release. Retrieved on 2006-04-02.
  16. ^ Hanson, Berit (2006-02-16). Opera for Nintendo DS. Berit's Blog. Retrieved on 2006-07-03.
  17. ^ Opera Software ASA (2006-06-21). Mark your calendars: Opera announces Nintendo DS browser release date in Japan. Press release. Retrieved on 2006-06-21.
  18. ^ Chris Playo. Japan: Nintendo DS Press Conference. Retrieved on 2006-04-02.
  19. ^ Nintendo confirms DS MP3 Player. Engadget. Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  20. ^ Nintendo Apology (Japanese). Nintendo of Japan. Retrieved on 2006-04-03.
  21. ^ Nintendo DS Lite Update: New Price, Japanese Release Info, Nintendo's Apology & Shipping Info. Lik Sang. Retrieved on 2006-08-16.
  22. ^ The Legend Builds: Nintendo DS Offers Bold New Features. Nintendo of America Inc. (2006-02-09). Retrieved on 2006-06-19.
  23. ^ Nintendo of Europe (2006-11-21). Nintendo DS touches the hearts of Europe. Press release. Retrieved on 2006-11-21.
  24. ^ Nintendo of Europe (2006-11-29). Nintendo leads the way in the UK!. Press release. Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  25. ^ Behrens, Matt (2006-12-01). Nintendo sales through end of November revealed. N-Sider. N-Sider Media. Retrieved on 2006-12-01.
  26. ^ Nintendo passe le cap des 2 millions de DS en France (French). JDLI. JDLI. Retrieved on [[2006-12-18]].
  27. ^ Rojas, Peter (2006-02-20). The Engadget Interview: Reggie Fils-Aime, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Nintendo (English). Engadget. Retrieved on 2006-06-01.
  28. ^ Wario World. Nintendo. Retrieved on 2006-04-03.

See also

  • Nintendo DS Lite
  • Comparison of handheld gaming consoles
  • History of video games
  • Nintendo DS launches
  • List of Nintendo DS games
  • List of Nintendo DS WiFi games
  • List of Nintendo DS Rumble Pak games
  • List of Nintendo DS downloadable games

External links

Official sites
  • Official Nintendo DS website - (English, Spanish and French) (requires Macromedia Flash Player)
  • Official Japanese Site
  • Touch! Generations
  • Official Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection website


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