Quiet UK launch for DS Lite

Nintendo's redesigned handheld went on sale in the UK today, offering gamers a choice of colors--but will it Lite up the cash registers?

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The Nintendo DS Lite launched today in the UK to a rather muted response, with no major retailers holding midnight opening events. The console, which is available in both black and white in the UK, costs £99.99 ($179), although most retailers have been offering discounted bundles with games and accessories.

At GAME's flagship Oxford Street store in London, around 40 people lined up for the 8 a.m. opening, although most of them had already paid the £20 deposit to ensure they'd get hold of a console. Despite reports that Nintendo had suffered a theft of a shipment of DS Lites bound for the UK, GAME fulfilled all preorders, and even offered customers the chance to change colors if they so desired.

Those that did make the effort to visit the store early on were rewarded with various gifts that included posters and a Brain Training (known as Brain Age in the US) T-shirt, which, oddly enough, came in a bag that featured an image of the Game Boy Advance SP.

When GameSpot staffers spoke to customers that were buying a DS Lite, most said they had opted for bundles that offered the console and two games for £130, with almost an even split of those opting for the white and black colors. However, the most popular games of the day were Tetris DS and Metroid Prime: Hunters, both of which sold out within half an hour.

Other Oxford Street stores were making much less fuss over the launch. A tiny poster in the window of Currys Digital advertised the new console, while Virgin Megastore's window was too occupied with a big sale to devote any space to the DS Lite. Many customers who opted to buy online from GAME have reported consoles arriving a day early, while both Play.com and Amazon.co.uk had the console in stock as of press time.

We spoke to Mike Barnes, manager of GAME's Oxford Street store, to hear his take on the launch.

GameSpot UK: With the massive success of the DS Lite in Japan and the US, what were your expectations for the console in the UK?

Mike Barnes: We had great expectations for this particular console, especially considering that the previous console was so successful on launch and through its life span. We'll still be selling the previous version for the foreseeable future, but we expect that this will then dwindle off and that Nintendo will move over to producing just the DS Lite.

GSUK: How many people were at the front of the store when it opened this morning?

MB: Probably about 40 people, and the first 10 received an Atari Classics Game Boy Advance game. We have done midnight openings in the past, most recently with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation Portable, but the demographic of the DS is very much focused on kids, especially with games such as Nintendogs, Over the Hedge, and [Super] Princess Peach. We felt it was inappropriate for kids to come in and stand outside the store, especially in London. We made the decision to open early on the day of launch instead.

GSUK: Nintendo suffered a theft of thousands of DS Lite consoles bound for Europe, but the company promised this wouldn't disrupt the launch. Has GAME received its expected allocation?

MB: All preorders have been fulfilled and there is also free sales stock in selected stores. Anyone who comes into the Oxford Street store is likely to be able to buy a console off the shelf today, but in other stores there might not be quite so much free stock. Most of the people here today have paid a £20 deposit to order the console, which guarantees them a machine for 48 hours from the launch today. We've also got a really good incentive program, where you can trade in your old console and get the DS Lite for £59.99, which is £40 off the RRP.

GSUK: The console has been out since March in Japan. With the simultaneous worldwide release of the Xbox 360 and the PS3, do you think that this will be the last time the UK will see such a wait for a console?

MB: Absolutely, I think it will be the last time. The UK and European market has become much more important to the games industry, and going forward we expect simultaneous launches to become standard, and they certainly are for the consoles coming out later in the year.

GSUK: What sort of split has there been between the white and black DS Lite models, bearing in mind that the black version is exclusive to Europe?

MB: So far it's about 50/50. We received more models of the white unit than we did the black one, but actually in terms of preorders and people buying today, many people have changed their minds at the checkout today and it's worked out at about an even split.

GSUK: With the sleek redesign of the console and the "Touch Generations" line of games, Nintendo is quite clearly aiming for a mainstream market. Has this theory panned out at retail?

MB: It's too early to tell, but early indications are that this is how this is going to work. As I said, the DS is traditionally seen as a kids' console. At this time of year, it sells to kids who are going away on holiday and need something to play in the car, but as you can see in the store today, the majority of people in the queue look a little bit older. Therefore, with the new look and the games that are specifically designed for an older market like Brain Training, hopefully they will appeal to an older market.

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