Nintendo DS launch brings out light crowds

The highly touted handheld from Nintendo goes on sale in Japan; reaction is mostly subdued.

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TOKYO--Less than a week after the frenzy surrounding the launch of Dragon Quest VIII hit Japan, gamers had yet another reason to queue up in the morning cold. Yes, lines once again formed outside electronics and games stores, this time in anticipation of the Nintendo DS launch--but they were substantially shorter than those that formed for Dragon Quest.

Stores opened up around 7am, or a bit earlier, to give sufficient time for people to pick up the handheld before going to their day jobs. To see how things were heating up, GameSpot first checked out the lines again in Akihabara, the mecca of electronics and games in Japan.

Akihabara was expectedly quiet at 6:40am, since most shops usually don't open until 10am or 11am, but we could hear promotional music advertising the DS playing from a distance when we exited the silent train station. Following the music led us to Laox, one of the major stores in the area.

Laox was one of the stores GameSpot visited prior to the Dragon Quest VIII this past Saturday. There were about 70 people lined up for that launch, but today, the line was shorter, with no more than 40 people waiting for the store to open. We walked around the other stores in Akihabara, but it seems that Laox was the only retailer willing to open early. Sofmap, one of Laox's rivals, didn't open until 9am (although that's still an hour earlier than normal).

Leaving Akihabara behind and heading to Shinjuku, where the crowds are more casual, we stopped first at Yodobashi Camera. The store was already open, but the crowds had dispersed. According to the store's staff, over 100 people had lined up before the store opened.

Similar to opening-day sales of Dragon Quest VIII, the lines for the Nintendo DS in the morning weren't exceptionally long. However, it's important to keep in mind that this was a normal workday, and those who had preordered the DS could just as easily pick up their units after work.

With Nintendo shipping half a million units in Japan (200,000 more than the company initially had planned), there were plenty of DS units available. It was possible to find units on sale throughout the day, preorder or not.

It should be interesting, however, to see how long the lines will be for Sony's PSP launch, 10 days from now. Few retailers have accepted preorders, as the PSP is expected to be in much shorter supply at launch.

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