Portable market in hand for Nintendo

Company says nearly 4 million DSs have been sold in North America; Mario Kart and Nintendogs top 2005 software numbers.

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While most eyes are on the upcoming next-generation console war, Nintendo sent out a little reminder that the battle for handheld gaming is still raging. The Japanese company today revealed that nearly 4 million units of its DS handheld have been sold in the US. The latest numbers bring the total crop of DSs in customers' hands to more than 10 million. In Nintendo's home country, the DS has sold more than 5 million units, and in Europe, the number exceeded 1 million in June (new numbers have not yet been made available).

Perrin Kaplan, Nintendo of America's vice president for marketing and corporate communications, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that more than 3 million DSs were sold in the US in 2005, on top of the 1.2 million sold in just over a month in 2004. With both the DS and the three models of the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo claims to own 78 percent of the handheld gaming market in the US.

Nintendo also trumpeted the numbers being put up by a few of the dual-screened handheld's software titles. Sales of Mario Kart DS, released in mid-November, have already topped 1 million units in the US. Nintendogs, which revived sales of the system both in the US and Japan, has sold more than 1.5 million units in the US since its August release.

With more than 5 million units sold in Japan since its December 2004 regional launch, the DS has become the fastest-selling gaming machine in Japan's history. In another first, Japanese gamers have scooped up more than a million copies of four different titles within one year of a system's launch: Nintendogs, Animal Crossing: Wild World, Brain Age, and Brain Flex.

The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service, which allows gamers to play over the Internet, has seen 550,000 unique visitors since its debut in late 2005.

The sales numbers of Nintendo's main rival in the handheld market, the Sony PSP, differ depending on who is asked. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sony has sold 2.7 million PSPs in the US from its March launch through December 1. However, last month, Sony told Reuters that 3 million units of the handheld have been sold in the US through November. A third opinion yields a third number--NPD Funworld says 2.5 million PSPs were sold in America through November.

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