Sold-out DS Lite available for heavy price

Japanese secondhand shops selling the double-screened handheld at more than double the retail price. Survey shows no signs of waning interest.

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Despite being just a redesign of an existing console rather than a new machine, the Nintendo DS Lite sold out quickly in Japan on its first day of release yesterday. Hundreds of customers were seen in line outside stores across the country, and the handheld sold out within hours of its morning release. When GameSpot checked out stores in Tokyo, employees were turning away patrons before the stores were even open for business, already having more people in line than handhelds to sell. The desire for the new DS wasn't limited to just Japan's tech-hungry capital; similar reports were heard from various other regions including Osaka, the second-largest city in the country.

Today, GameSpot went through a number of major shopping districts including Akihabara, Ikeburuko, and Shinjuku, but no retailer had any units available. However, secondhand shops were selling DS Lite units at nearly 40,000 yen ($343), which is more than double the handheld's official price of 16,800 yen ($144). Prices at online auction sites are lower, with deals closing around an average of 26,000 yen ($233).

Gamers who missed out on yesterday's launch will either have to pay a premium to purchase their DS Lite secondhand, or wait until Nintendo makes its next big shipment on March 11. On that date, Nintendo will release the Ice Blue and Enamel Navy color models of the DS Lite, which were delayed due to problems in manufacturing.

The popularity of the DS shows no signs of fading, especially with the new announcements that Nintendo made late last month. The company unveiled a number of new add-ons that will make the handheld function more as a multimedia device, including a Web browser and digital TV tuner.

The latest issue of Famitsu features a report of a survey taken from its official site, and it shows that gamers are looking forward to the handheld's extended capabilities.

When asked about the DS's Web browser, 245 surveyed gamers answered that they look forward to using it, doubling the 121 that had no interest. Among the reasons given by interested users were the use of the two screens for browsing (216 votes), convenient controls with the stylus (180 votes), and the handwriting-recognition software when browsing (155 votes). On the other hand, a significant number of users had no idea the DS's web browser will cost money (3,800 yen/$33--Sony's PSP comes with one for free).

When asked about the 1seg digital broadcast TV tuner, 38.2 percent of the surveyed gamers said they are looking forward to the TV tuner, while only 9.8 percent said they have no interest. A little over half (52 percent) still weren't sure about it. The 1seg broadcast service is still relatively new, with the general public mostly unaware of its capabilities.

For its final question, Famitsu asked gamers who don't own a DS whether they're now interested in picking one upon learning of the handheld's new functions. 58.1 percent said yes, 31.1 percent said they're still thinking, and 10.8 percent said no.

Nintendo has still not announced a release date for the DS Lite in North America.

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