Nintendo DS

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Nintendo DS
Manufacturer Nintendo
Product family Nintendo DS
Type Handheld game console
Generation Seventh generation era
First available United States Canada November 21, 2004
Japan December 2, 2004
Australia February 24, 2005
European Union March 11, 2005
People's Republic of China July 23, 2005
CPU One 67 MHz ARM946E-S ( ARM) and one 33 MHz ARM7TDMI
Media GBA cartridges
Nintendo DS Game Cards
System storage Cartridge save, 4MB RAM
Connectivity Wi-Fi
Online service Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
Units sold 27 million
(all versions worldwide)
Top-selling game Nintendogs
Predecessor Game Boy Advance SP(original)- technologically; The DS is not the successor to the Game Boy line
Successor Nintendo DS Lite (concurrent)

The Nintendo DS (ニンテンドーDS Nintendō DS ?, sometimes abbreviated NDS or DS, and as iQue DS in China) is a handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo, which was released in 2004. The console features a clamshell design, with two LCD screens inside - one of which is a touch sensitive screen. The Nintendo DS also features a built-in microphone and supports wireless IEEE 802.11 ( WiFi) standards, allowing players to interact with each other within short range (10–30 m, depending on conditions) or online with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. The system's code-name was "Project Nitro," which explains the NTR in the codes written on the backs of game cards and the system itself.

The console's name officially refers to Dual Screen, the system's most obvious feature, and Developers' System, in reference to the new game design the system was meant to inspire.

On March 2, 2006, Nintendo released the Nintendo DS Lite in Japan. It is a redesign of the Nintendo DS. It was later released in North America, Europe and Australia in June 2006. The DS Lite is a slimmer and lighter version of the Nintendo DS and has brighter screens.

Design and specifications

Input and output

The Nintendo DS stylus used for games played on the touch-screen
The Nintendo DS stylus used for games played on the touch-screen

The lower display of the Nintendo DS is overlaid with a pressure-sensitive touch screen, designed to accept input from the included stylus, the user's fingers, or a curved plastic rectangle attached to the optional wrist strap. The touch screen allows players to interact with in-game elements more directly than by pressing buttons; for example, in Trauma Centre: Under the Knife, the stylus may be used as a scalpel to cut an incision in a diseased patient, or as a writing tool in the included chatting software, PictoChat.

Traditional controls are located on either side of the touch screen. To the left is a D-pad, with a narrow Power button above it, and to the right are the A, B, X, and Y buttons, with narrow Select and Start buttons above them. Shoulder buttons L and R are located on the upper corners of the lower half of the system. The overall button layout is similar to the controller of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

The Nintendo DS features stereo speakers providing virtual surround sound (depending on the software) located on either side of the upper display screen. This is a first for a Nintendo handheld, as the Game Boy line of systems has only supported stereo sound through the use of headphones or external speakers.

A built-in microphone is located below the left side of the bottom screen. It has been used for a variety of purposes, including speech recognition ( Nintendogs), chatting online between gameplay sessions some games (but not during gameplay) ( Metroid Prime Hunters), and minigames that require the player to blow or shout into the microphone ( Feel the Magic: XY/XX, Mario Kart DS etc).


  • Mass: 275 grams (9.7 ounces).
  • Physical size: 148.7 x 84.7 x 28.9 mm (5.85 x 3.33 x 1.13 inches).
  • Screens: Two separate 3-inch TFT LCD, resolution of 256 x 192 pixels, dimensions of 62 x 46 mm and 77 mm diagonal, and a dot pitch of 0.24 mm. Note The gap between the screens is approximately 21mm, equivalent to about 92 "hidden" lines. Controversially, some games include this space in the play field, whilst others ignore it existance. The lowermost display of the Nintendo DS is overlaid with a resistive touch screen, which registers pressure from one point on the screen at a time, averaging multiple points of contact if necessary.
  • CPUs: Two ARM processors, an ARM946E-S main CPU and ARM7TDMI co-processor at clock speeds of 67 MHz and 33 MHz respectively, with 4 MB of main memory which requires 1.65 volts.

Card Size

  • Data size: Up to 1 gigabit ( = 1024 Mb or 128 MB).
  • Physical size: 33.0 × 35.0 × 3.8 mm
  • Weight: About 4 grams

The system's 3D hardware performs transform and lighting, texture-coordinate transformation, texture mapping, alpha blending, anti-aliasing, cel shading and z-buffering. However, it uses Point ( nearest neighbour) texture filtering, leading to some titles having a blocky appearance. The system is theoretically capable of rendering 120,000 triangles per second at 60 frames per second and the pixelfillrate is 30 million pixels per second. Unlike most 3D hardware, it has a limit on the number of triangles it can render as part of a single scene; this limit is somewhere in the region of 4000 triangles. The 3D hardware is designed to render to a single screen at a time, so rendering 3D to both screens is difficult and decreases performance significantly.

The system has two 2D engines, one per screen. These are similar to (but more powerful than) the Game Boy Advance's 2D engine.

Games use a proprietary solid state ROM "Game Card" format resembling the memory cards used in other portable electronic devices such as digital cameras. It currently supports cards up to 1 gigabit in size. The cards always have a small amount of flash memory or an EEPROM to save user data, for example progress in a game or high scores. The game cards are 33.0 × 35.0 × 3.8 mm, and weigh around 3.5 grams (1/8 ounces).

The unit has built-in Wi-Fi functionality, which allows communications with a standard access point to access the Internet, and with other DS units through a modified WiFi protocol created by Nintendo and partially secured using RSA security signing. The latter is used by the built-in wireless drawing and chat program, by games in non-online multiplayer mode, and to download game demos or multiplayer game software (used for DS Download Stations and multiplayer gaming with only one game card). The Internet capability is used to access the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, where users can compete with other users playing the same Wi-Fi compatible game and access other services.


Nintendo's own custom firmware boots the system (first requiring the player to read health information): from here, the user chooses to run a Nintendo DS or Game Boy Advance game, use PictoChat, or search for downloadable games. The latter is an adaptation of the Game Boy Advance's popular "single cartridge multiplayer" feature, adapted to support the system's wireless link capabilities (players without the game search for content, while players with the game broadcast it. The game host is able to set the rules of the game).

In November 2004, Nintendo announced that there could be some sort of "download kiosk" that would transmit a signal for a Nintendo DS in the area to pick up, and download a demo of a game (Just like the "Download Play" feature that it in fact, uses). As of 2006, there are now download kiosks placed in select EB Games, GameStop, Game Crazy, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, and Target stores.

The PictoChat program, which is permanently stored on the unit, allows users to communicate with other Nintendo DS users within range over the wireless network by text, handwriting, or drawings, using the DS's touch screen and stylus for input, or a small visual keyboard on the screen.

The DS's main menu also features an alarm clock and the ability to set preferences for boot priority (booting to games when inserted, or always booting to the main menu), Game Boy Advance game screen usage (top or bottom), and user information (name, date of birth, favorite colour, time, etc.)

Download Play

Selected titles (Including and not limited to) Mario Kart DS, New Super Mario Bros. and Meteos)), it is possible to play multiplayer games with other Nintendo DS users using only one game card. The distance for this to be effective is about 60 feet. The Nintendo DS unit downloads the necessary data from another unit running the game. There is also a multiplayer Wi-Fi feature. At certain hotspots, or Wi-Fi enabled areas, you can hook up and play with DS owners around the world. Also, many stores that sell DS games have DS Download Stations where a player can download demos of games (although the demo is not permanent).


The Nintendo DS is compatible with Game Boy Advance (GBA) cartridges; the smaller Nintendo DS cartridges fit into Slot 1 on the top of the system, while Game Boy Advance games fit into Slot 2 on the bottom of the system. The Nintendo DS is not compatible with games for the Game Boy Colour and the original Game Boy, due to a slightly different form factor and the absence of the Zilog Z80-like processor used in these systems.

The handheld does not have a port for the Game Boy Advance Link Cable, so multiplayer or GameCube-Game Boy Advance link-up modes are not available in Game Boy Advance titles.

The Nintendo DS only uses one screen when playing Game Boy Advance games. The user can configure the system to use either the top or bottom screen by default. The games are displayed within a black border on the screen, due to the slightly different screen resolution between the two systems (256 × 192px (approx. .05 megapixels) for the Nintendo DS, and 240 × 160px (approx. .04 megapixels) for the Game Boy Advance).

Nintendo DS games inserted into Slot 1 are able to detect the presence of specific Game Boy Advance games in Slot 2. In many such games, extra content can be unlocked or added by starting the Nintendo DS game with the appropriate Game Boy Advance game inserted. Also available are expansion paks, such as the Rumble Pak released by Nintendo that rumbles the system during a rumble-compatible game, and the Nintendo DS Memory Expansion Pak, which supplies extra RAM for certain games as well as for the Nintendo DS Browser.

Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection

The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is an online service run by Nintendo to facilitate free Internet play in compatible Nintendo DS and Wii games through the use of Wi-Fi connection. The service was launched in North America on November 14, 2005 with the release of Mario Kart DS, Tony Hawk's American Sk8land, and on December 5, 2005, Animal Crossing: Wild World. The new release of the nintendo DS browser which is the size of a regular game card allows the user to browse regular web pages through a Wi-Fi connection.

Battery life

The Nintendo DS contains a rechargeable lithium ion battery. The expected battery life ranges from 6 - 10 hours on a full four-hour charge. Battery life is affected by multiple factors including speaker volume, use of one or both screens, back lighting, and use of the built-in WiFi. The biggest effect on battery life is caused by using the backlight, which can be turned off in the main menu screen, or on selected games (such as Super Mario 64 DS).

The battery is designed to be removed only when it expires and should be replaced. It is removable with the use of a Phillips-head screwdriver. Removing the battery will cause the Nintendo DS to prompt the user to re-enter all of the unit's settings (user's birthday, user's name, etc.), but it will not affect saved data on Nintendo DS Game Cards or Game Boy Advance Game Paks.

To sustain battery life in the midst of a game, users can close the Nintendo DS system, which will then put the DS in sleep mode with the game you were playing paused. A system in sleep mode can run for several hundred hours without completely draining the battery. However, closing the shell while playing a Game Boy Advance game will not put the Nintendo DS into sleep mode; the game will continue to run normally including the back light. Certain DS games (such as Animal Crossing Wild World) also will not pause but the backlight, screens and speakers will turn off.

Regional division

The Nintendo DS is region free in the sense that any console will run a Nintendo DS game purchased anywhere in the world; it is the same system everywhere. However, the Chinese version games can only be played on the Chinese iQue DS, whose larger firmware chip contains the required Chinese character glyph images. Nintendo DS of other regions cannot play the Chinese games, while iQue DS can play games of other regions. Also, as with Game Boy games, some games that require both players to have a Nintendo DS Game Card for multiplayer play will not work together if the games are from different regions (e.g. a Japanese Nintendo DS game may not work with a North American Nintendo DS game, though some titles, such as Mario Kart DS, are mutually compatible). With the addition of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, certain games can be played over the Internet with users of a different region game.

Some Wi-Fi enabled games (e.g. Mario Kart DS) allow the selection of opponents by region. The options are Continent and Worldwide, as well as two non-location specific settings. This allows the player to limit competitors to only those opponents based in the same geographical area. It is unknown whether this is based on the region code of the console in use, the region of the cartridge, or geolocation of the IP address.


Nintendo DS price history: (United Kingdom)

  • March 11 2005 - October 2005 £100
  • October 2005 - June 2006 £95
  • June 2006 - December 2006 £90

Nintendo DS price history: (United States)

  • November 2004 - November 2005 $149.99
  • November 2005 - September 2006 $139.99
  • September 2006 - current $129.99
  • Black Friday 2006 - $99.99


Game Boy Advance game slot on Game Boy Advance (above) and Nintendo DS (below).
Game Boy Advance game slot on Game Boy Advance (above) and Nintendo DS (below).

Although the secondary port on the Nintendo DS does accept and support Game Boy Advance cartridges (but not Game Boy, and Game Boy Colour cartridges), Nintendo has emphasized that its main intention for its inclusion was to allow a wide variety of accessories to be released for the system, the Game Boy Advance compatibility titles being a logical extension.

Nintendo announced at E³ 2005 that it would launch "Headset Accessories" for VoIP enabled games. (This will plug into the VoIP plug next to the Ear Phone jack, not the Game Boy Advance slot.)

Rumble Pak

The Rumble Pak was the first official expansion slot accessory. In the form of a Game Boy Advance cartridge, the Rumble Pak vibrates to reflect the action in compatible games, such as when the player bumps into an obstacle or loses a life. It was released on October 24, 2005 and bundled with Metroid Prime Pinball. It can be used in games such as Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, Star Fox Command, Elite Beat Agents, and Metroid Prime: Hunters and is sold as a separate accessory. A specially designed Rumble Pak was released in Japan in late May, 2006 for the Nintendo DS Lite The cartridge is about 1cm shorter to prevent it from protruding out of the Nintendo DS Lite as standard Game Boy Advance cartridges do. A North American version of the accessory is assumed following the June 11, 2006 release of the system.

Nintendo DS Headset

The Nintendo DS Headset is the official headset for the Nintendo DS. It plugs into the headset port (which is a combination of a standard 3.5mm headphone connector and a proprietary microphone connector) on the bottom of the system. It features one earphone and a microphone, and is compatible with all games that use the internal microphone. It was released in Japan on September 14, 2006.

Opera internet browser

On February 15, 2006, Nintendo announced a version of Opera, a cross-platform web browser, which will take advantage of the dual screens for either zooming in on certain sections of a website or having a longer vertical view. The browser went on sale in Japan on July 24, 2006, for JP¥3,800 (approx. $33). It was released in Europe on October 6, 2006, for £29.99. An American version is expected for release some time in December.

Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector

This USB-flash-disk-sized accessory plugs into a PC's USB port and creates a miniature hotspot, allowing up to five Nintendo DS units to connect to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service through the host computer internet connection. Currently this device is only compatible with Windows XP.

Nintendo MP3 Player

On November 22, 2006, Nintendo confirmed an MP3 player accessory for the DS will launch in Europe on December 8, 2006. No price has been released by Nintendo, but many sources suggest a €30 price tag. The add-on will use SD cards and will use an odd 8-bit style GUI.


Throughout the years the Nintendo DS has been released, a great deal of hacking has occurred involving the DS's firmware, Wi-Fi, game cards, and software use. Nintendo DS emulators are also in early stages of development, and only few commercial games are playable thus far.

Marketing and sales

On January 5, 2006, Nintendo issued a formal apology after the Nintendo DS sold out throughout Japan, as no Nintendo system had ever sold out in Japan before.

Nintendo announced on February 15, 2006 that in Japan the Nintendo DS reached 5 million units sold in less than 13 months after its launch, which marks the fastest-ever pace for a video game system in Japan.

Sales of Nintendo DS and DS Lite (as of September 30, 2006):

  • Worldwide: 27 million
    • Japan: 11.52 million
    • America: 7.51 million
    • Pal Region: 7.79 million

(Sales figures include Nintendo DS Lite units, which totaled 9.06 million worldwide.)

On November 21, 2006, Nintendo announced that the Nintendo DS had reached over 7 million units sold in Europe.

The system's promotional slogans revolve around the word "Touch" in almost all countries, with the US slogan being "Touching is good."

The Nintendo DS is currently seen by many analysts to be in the same market as Sony's PlayStation Portable, although representatives from both companies have said that each system targets a different audience. At the time of its release in the United States, the Nintendo DS retailed for $149.99 USD. The price dropped to $129.99 USD on August 21, 2005, one day before the anticipated North American releases of Nintendogs and Advance Wars: Dual Strike.

Eight official colors of the Nintendo DS were available through standard retailers. Titanium (silver and black) was available worldwide, Electric Blue was exclusive to North and Latin America. Graphite Black, Pure White, Turquoise Blue and Candy Pink were available in Japan. Mystic Pink and Cosmic Blue were available in Australia and New Zealand. Japan's Candy Pink and Australia's Cosmic Blue were also available in Europe and North America through a Nintendogs bundle, although the colors are just referred to as pink and blue. However, these colors were only available for the original Nintendo DS model; a different and more-limited set of colors have been used for the Nintendo DS Lite.

As of June 2006, Nintendo announced that it would no longer sell / provide the original and would replace it with the Nintendo DS Lite.

On October 3, 2006 Nintendo announced a 20.5% raise in net profit forecast partially attributed to strong DS sales. The company also raised its estimated DS sales forecast by 18%.

Special editions / Promotional Packages

Many special editions and promotional packages have been available for the Nintendo DS, starting with the first Nintendo DS bundle of a Metroid Prime: Hunters demo version, which was included in the first line-up of US shipments. Other adjustments have been made to the DS / DS Lite including colour and laser engravings made for promotional events. For example, during the release of MarioKart DS in North America, a "Red Hot DS Bundle" was available, which was a red colored Nintendo DS, with the game MarioKart DS packaged along with it.

Nintendo DS Lite

The Nintendo DS Lite (sold as the iQue DS Lite in China) is a dual-screen handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It is a slimmer, more lightweight redesign of the earlier Nintendo DS model; aesthetically sleeker to complement Nintendo's Wii, and to appeal to broader commercial audiences. It was announced on January 26, 2006, more than a month before its first territorial launch in Japan on March 2, 2006 due to overwhelming demand for the original model.The Nintendo DS Lite is currently available in three different colors: black, pink, and white.

Software development

Nintendo only accepts official companies with a game development team, and sufficient experience in certain areas for their official developer support program. Additional information is available from the Nintendo Software Development Support Group.

An alternative method is to use publicly available knowledge from sites such as NDSTech, and to use the tools available to create one's own programs. This development route requires a method for running Nintendo DS programs from the Game Boy Advance port. There are five methods available: PassMe, PassMe2, WiFiMe, FlashMe, and NoPass. However, there will eventually be rewritable DS cards along with DS-to- SD adaptors for other rewritable cards.


The Donkey Kong version of the Game & Watch.
The Donkey Kong version of the Game & Watch.
  • The Nintendo DS bears a striking resemblance to Nintendo's first handheld, the Game and Watch, specifically the Donkey Kong version.
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