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How DS created a new generation of girl gamers

The launch of DS Lite Pink is the latest step in expanding the audience for games

How DS created a new generation of girl gamers
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DS

If you're new to this games lark, even the names of the consoles are probably off-putting. What's a DS Lite for example? It sounds more like a battery or an energy drink than anything you'd expect to have fun with.

But don't judge a book by its cover, nor a console that can open and close just like a book, as you can your DS Lite. Indeed, as you'll discover if you read our DS Lite review there's plenty that's familiar about this console.

You can use a little pen-like stylus to interact with it, for example. It's got a microphone, which some games employ to encourage you to talk or even blow into. And just like that trashy chick lit novel you read on the Underground or bus, you can click your DS Lite closed when you reach your destination and pop it open when you're ready to go – long waiting times to get into the game aren't mandatory with this console.

It all adds up to a compelling package whatever your sex, but there's no doubt these features have helped Nintendo – the creator of the DS Lite – sell (we suspect) a greater percentage of its machines to females than any console before.

In fact, that 44 per cent of the 20-million odd DS and DS Lites sold have been to women is something that even Nintendo seems slightly suprised about. Certainly when it started out marketing its strange dual screen, touch sensitive device, the message had a definite masculine edge.

Does anyone now remember the suggestive TV adverts, where male DS gamers where asked by passing ladies if 'they could touch it?' Other adverts in more specialist magazines told you 'how to score with DS'.

Indeed, Nintendo's official marketing line back then was to sell DS to the 'full spectrum of hipsters, budding enthusiasts and hard-core gamers'. Not very female friendly.

There were two turning points. The first was puppy simulator Nintendogs, while the other was Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain?. When both launched in late Spring 2005 in Japan, there was no certainty either would go to be DS best-sellers: Nintendogs has since shifted over seven million units, while Brain Training has sold some 2.5 million units in Japan and over 700,000 in Europe.

Perhaps more important than sheer sales volume, the games proved to be exactly the type to appeal to an audience beyond that 'full spectrum of hipsters, budding enthusiasts and hard-core gamers'.

Most of those seven million Nintendogs owners are girls and young women, while Nintendo Europe says the "majority of the 700,000 Brain Training games sold have apparently gone to over-25-year olds."

A lot of DS gamers are pink, grey or pink and grey, it seems.

With such a success story on its hands, Nintendo has been clever in building on the situation. Its innovative Touch! Generations marketing campaign, which originally was going to be Japanese-only, has spread worldwide, and it promotes the sort of games Nintendo hopes will appeal to the widest audience, from Animal Crossing: Wild World to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Tetris.

To that extent, the release of the DS Lite Pink is just the next step in a process that's widening Nintendo's audience even further. Ubisoft, for example, is releasing Catz, Dogz, Horsez and Hamsterz Life games for DS this Christmas.

But there's no rule that says you have to buy games like that, we stress and underline. If you're new to games, fancy a pink DS Lite or even a white one, but want to explore the whole range of software out there, you could do a lot worse than start with our DS Buyer's Guide.