Japan goes big for the DS Lite

DS popularity continues to be red-hot in Japan; new, smaller model sells out within hours.


TOKYO--The launch of Nintendo's DS Lite in Japan today was a ferocious display of the power of the portable. The redesigned handheld generated far larger crowds than the launch of the original, and as expected, units sold out within hours of its morning release.

As usual, Yodobashi Camera had an extremely long line, prelaunch.

More than 60 customers had started to line up by midnight, and the line nearly doubled by 8:30 a.m., when the store opened its doors.

In 2004, the original DS only had about 40 customers waiting on line at the launching hour. And back then, the line dissipated in about 10 minutes, with consumers able to pick up the handheld at lunchtime or even a day later without a reservation.

This time, it was different. Employees tending the lines for the DS Lite were seen with "Sold Out" signs posted before the stores opened.

Yodobashi was originally scheduled to open 30 minutes earlier than its usual 9:30 a.m., but given the long line of customers, the store moved its schedule up an hour earlier. The line wasn't as bad as it was for Sony's PSP, but it still extended to across the street and over the block, curving at the corner and still continuing.

Similar crowds assembled at other stores across the city as well. The Shinjuku Bic Camera had an even larger crowd than Yodobashi, with about 300 people waiting in line. Its lines were so long that they were separated into two sections, with each snaking into three rows.

An even longer line was said to have formed at Akihabara's Yodobashi Camera, which is rapidly becoming one of the favorite locations for gamers to buy their wares.

One of the interesting aspects of the launch was the wide range of ages seen in lines--from teens to the elderly. Usually with new game systems, the lines consist predominantly of males in their teens and twenties, but it was very apparent that the Nintendo DS attracted a much more diverse crowd.

Nintendo has consistently targeted the DS towards a more general audience with its "Touch! Generations" series of games, a selection which includes Nintendogs and Big Brain Academy. Today's lines proved that the company's plans have been a success.

In an official statement, Nintendo announced that it will ship over 450,000 DS Lite units and 200,000 regular DS units during the month of March.

Previous predictions of 1 million DS Lite units being in the retail channel were revised last week when Nintendo announced that two of its color models, the Ice Blue and Enamel Navy, wouldn't be released until March 11.

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