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Nintendo DS outstrips Sony PSP.

DS LiteDespite being a far inferior piece of hardware, the Nintendo DS continues to outsell the Sony PSP by a factor of 6. The PSP has a bigger, more beautiful screen. It’s got more sophisticated controls. It supports removable memory cards and works pretty decently as a video and audio player. And its graphics kick the Nintendo DS’s chunky 90s-era pixelvision into the gutter. When we reviewed the two platforms a year ago in Mobile, it was obvious which was the better choice. The PSP was revolutionary, cutting-edge, and inspiringly designed. The DS, by contrast, was a clunky, unlovely package of retread technologies.

So why can’t Sony get ahead in the market? Nintendo’s massive installed base of Gameboy players, huge library of Gameboy Advance games (which are playable on the DS), and a bigger library of DS-specific titles. Also, it helps that the DS is cheaper and more durably built. Considering Nintendo’s huge pre-existing lead in the handheld market, it’s amazing Sony is doing as well as it is.

It’s a story that you see again and again in the tech market. An inferior technology with a lot of content or applications and an early start easily trounces superior technology with little content. Betamax vs VHS. Mac vs PC. OS/2 vs Windows. MP3 vs Ogg, AAC, or WMA.

Still, I can’t help but hope that Nintendo has the sense to come out with a handheld that has decent graphics and a screen that’s a bit larger than a Post-It Note. Not likely, though–this company has its sights set on making everything smaller.

See how it happened: Graph of PSP vs DS sales through the end of 2005


  1. quanta

    The thing to understand is that technology has always played an auxiliary role in game console success. For example: The rusty PlayStation 2 continues to outsell the brand new Xbox 360.

    The primary thing has always been the games – and as you noted, the NDS has bucketloads. But it’s quality too – unique, intuitive, inexpensive and exclusive software. The touchscreen helps in this regard; Nintendo is now organically growing their market of touchscreen applications, such as ebooks and interactive cooking lessons; “Brain Age” is just the beginning.

    Meanwhile, the PSP tries hard to be the jack of all trades but remains a master of none. Very poor game selection and 30-40% more expensive hardware and software remains a problem.

    As for mindshare, in their fear of piracy Sony has zealously denied its users features; Sony has released several firmware updates which do nothing but prevent the more intrepid gamers from playing homebrewed games and emulations of old NES titles. Sony even blocked Internet access to the built-in web browser for eight months.

    Want to watch a movie? You can spend $30 on a proprietary UMD of “Out of the Blue” and others of similar calibre from their meagre movie library, or buy a proprietary $120 memory stick and spend time hacking and transcoding your own material. Music? You have to use Sony’s proprietary (and arguably clunky) SonicStage software.

    Throw in the build design issues – easy to scratch screen, dead pixels out of the box, short battery life, low LCD screen response causing “ghosting”, and its obvious weight and size, and its no wonder Nintendo remains on the top of the heap.

  2. Bulletking

    Yeah I have to agree with the response from quanta. I know alot of people that have PSPs and they are infinitely frustrated at the selection of games. What’s a portable gaming system without a decent selection of games?

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