Nintendo DS Lite Review

I finally decided to give up my dinky silver Nintendo DS and buy a brand new white DS
Lite! Without risking of being called a “fan boy”, the Nintendo DS franchise is fast becomming one of the most amazing gaming coups out there. Why? Even after the Sony’s multi-media Play Station Portable (PSP) was touted to topple Nintendo’s long time dominance in the hand-held gaming industry? Its an amazing story of refusing to conform, and believing in yourself.
Product Strategy Analysis
First off and main factor of why I like this product. Its a product based on pure INNOVATION. The product’s configuration was something not seen nor expected in an industry so pre-occupied in the cutting edge computing and graphics power. When compared to the “superior” Sony PSP, the critics blasted its small screen, under powered CPU, and wierd screen orientation.
Before we continue, lets look at little background history first.

Nintendo is, some say was, the king of hand held gaming. They have had this throne since they launched their first Gameboy in the 80’s. If you like a short history lesson it goes like this; Game and Watch, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Advance SP, Game Boy Micro and now Nintendo DS.
Reciently however Nintendo had to defend its position from both increasingly powerful PDAs and from a new challenger, Sony’s Play Station Portable. So what did it do? Knowing that they dont have the financial muscle for marketing like Sony, they decided to adopt and innovative direction instead.
They created a hand held gaming product design form factor that was different from what is accepted out there (ie PDAs or mobile phones). They decided to create a gaming system that had a dual screen, and not only that, in my opinion their secret weapon, the bottom screen is a touch screen interface. Wow think about it. You can now interact with this gaming machine in a way unheard of!
Nintendo’s basically also said that they are not going to compete in this small very saturated market (Sony Playstation, Microsoft Xbox). What they decided are going to do instead is to focus on the gaming experience. Also what can you do as a market leader to gain more market share? Either steal market share from your competitors or make the pie bigger. Nintendo decided that they are going to make the pie bigger by focusing on the non-game and the social gamer. Innovation applied not only on the product but on a strategic corporate level. According to my friend who works for Koei, the Nintendo DS and the up and comming Wii is creating a huge buzz withing the development community. Developers can now add a huge range of different elements to create a gaming experience never before thought possible.

So what is a social-gamer? Thats the rest of us. The non-gamers, the ladies, the moms and dads. Social-gamers focus on enjoyment, easy of use and that they can understand. They dont want products screaming “geek” or “gamer” at them. They want a product that allows them to play in short spurts because they have a lot of other things to do other than gaming. The Nintendo DS was designed with this market in mind and has with a slew of little features for pick up and go situations. Some include a touch screen interface, instant on, play to paues/standby function by just closing the lid.
Closed or the initial view

The first impression i had for this product was that it looks really attractive and comfortable. The design reflects the current popular consumer electronics trend of a minimal aesthetic that the iPod made popular.
However if we look at the bigger picture, Nintendo has actually developed, what we in industry call, a design language. Basically as part of a branding initiative, Nintendo has created a look and feel that is unique and distinct to the brand. Basically if you look at it from a distance you can tell that its a Nintendo product. (More on that later)
I also like the incorporation of the DS logo, 2 vertical rectangles, molded into the front glossy housing. Its a nice elegant detail, that is made more attractive with a back sprayed white UV paint. Actually thats incorrect, from the look of it its seems to have 3 housings. A face, a middle plate with the white paint, and a clear high gloss acrylic cover. Now that is amazing, I’ll have to do more research on how the product is constructed.

The proportions of the DS Lite looks really good and well calculated. Its a lot tighter in the corners and the buttons and D pad look large enough. I dislike the position of the start/select buttons. I understand the vertical position of the buttons is logical, however in the heat of battle and you need a breather, I can picture myself fumbling to hit the select/pause button. However aethestic and mechanical wise its difficult to put the buttons else where. This is probably due to PCB layout and button tree issues, as a result of a smaller footprint.
There is a slight ridge around the bottom screen. Also if you look carefully there is a inwards pillowing around the top and bottom edge of the housing and together with the ridge it prevents the top housing from rubbing against the buttons as well.
The DS Lite’s overall control layout has all the characteristics of the Wii’s design and its controller.
Wii controller
Clean geometrical lines, clear buttons and controls, obvious screen positioning, a truly nice ordered layout.
Personally this is a good thing, after looking at the mish-mash of colors and shapes from Gameboy, GB:Advance, GBSP, DS, Micro and Game cube. Nintendo probably took a hard look at their product line up, and felt a great sense of dis-unity.
I think Nintendo really wants to be a serious player in this console battle, and nothing helps it along better than a good design. Also in terms of the detailing, this is not a Sony product and should not be compared to a Sony product. I believe, as Nintendo wants their product to have a greater market appeal to both male and female social gamers, they adopted a “honest” form. Instead of the usual “agressive” gaming looks like Microsoft’s X-box. Furthermore I dont think they want to scare people away with little knobs and sliders and buttons. Ah-lah Sony. But the gadget look will still does have some appeal to the more tech minded lot of us. So those that like the Sony look will probably not go for this new DS Lite.
This product is also a lot smaller than the original DS and the built quality is fantastic and solid. Holding it in your hand the product does not flex in anyway like cheap consumer electronics products. Together with its size, hopefully that is going to stop “are you happy to see me?” jokes when you put in you front pants pocket.
In conclusion, I’m sure people are still going to compare the both PSP and the DS Lite to each other. But unlike Sony, Nintendo opted a different product sales strategy. Sony strangly decided to build a product that was a loss leader in the bid to sell more software. Sell the product cheap and at a loss, and make the money back in the games software sales. However they failed to realised that they had inherent problems with the games software as their target market, the hard-core gamer, were already playing the exact same game on there larger more powerful TV gaming consoles. So why would they buy a stripped down version for a handheld? As a result, Nintendo were not losing money but building the resources to quickly innovate, and bring this newer design into the market to protect their market share. As a result this is going to put Nintento back at the top as the king of portable gaming, far ahead than their closest worthy competitor the PSP.

1 Comment
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