As a companion study to the Trend analysis of PSP support I put together a similar set of graphs examining how publishers supported the Nintendo DS to date. We already know there are plenty of Nintendo DS games coming out. Almost every publisher had DS games to show at E3, but this set of data suggests publishers may not have felt strongly about the system when it launched.
A few notes about the data. These graphs are based on games published in Japan. The exceptions are Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Nintendo of America which use data based on games published in North America. The 2008 figure has been marked with an asterisk since it is only representative of games announced for a 2008 release to date. For example Kirby: Super Star, Chrono Trigger DS, and Fushigi no Dungeon Fuurai no Shiren DS 2: Sabaku no Majou were counted in the 2008 figure. Rhythm Heaven was not since Nintendo has not announced a release window. The 2008 number may, and probably will, change.
Unlike the PSP the Nintendo DS had a slow start at the beginning. The handheld launched at the end of 2004 with only a handful of titles. The following year Nintendo strongly backed the system, but third parties weren’t jumping on the DS bandwagon then. You can see the lines clustering in 2005 where third party publishers only released a few games that year. The next year Nintendo of Japan exploded, hitting their peak of released games to date. Both Brain Age titles were released in 2005 and Nintendo suddenly had a wave of DS training software like Cooking Navi, English training, and five travel companion conversation guides. A number of core titles based on their popular franchises came out too such as New Super Mario Brothers, Star Fox Command, and Pokemon Diamond/Pearl. Publishers seemed to follow Nintendo of Japan’s trail by releasing more titles across the board. Square Enix released Final Fantasy III, Sega brought out Bleach: The Blade of Fate, and Capcom started the Mega Man ZX series.
Nintendo of America had its biggest year here too, but it wasn’t comparable to Japan since they passed on a number of Touch Generation titles. We still got Brain Age, Big Brain Academy, and Clubhouse games though. Nintendo of America invested their resources into publishing third party games like Children of Mana and Tenchu DS in North America. Most of Nintendo’s key franchises were localized that year too. We even got Magical Starsign, which was the second game in Brownie Brown’s Magical Vacation series. Nintendo of America passed on the first. However, not every Nintendo of Japan published game was picked up. We missed out on Stafy 4, Chou Soujuu Mecha MG (a mecha game by the makers of Earth Defense Force) and most notably Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland. Nintendo of Europe eventually published it, but there aren’t any signs of seeing it in North America. Nintendo rarely hands their published games to third parties, which means the chance of seeing an English version of Project Hacker: Kakusei is next to zero.
The third party boom appears in 2007 where publishers really warmed up to the Nintendo DS. The biggest supporter was, surprisingly, Namco Bandai who released a bucket full of anime licensed games in Japan. Dragonball Z, Code Geass, Deltora Quest, Nodame Cantabile, and One Piece had DS games that year. Ubisoft seemed to come out of nowhere with a steep slope upwards as they rolled out tons of Petz games and started their tween female Imagine series. Meanwhile Electronic Arts wasn’t and still isn’t that big on supporting the Nintendo DS. They released the domestically developed Simpsons game, but passed on Populous DS even though it is one of their own franchises and a completed game in Japan. XSEED picked it up so we’ll see it in September.
It’s almost if Nintendo had a ripple-like effect where the third party burst came after a year of solid support. Interestingly, third party publishers uniformly followed Sony’s wave and decline on the PSP. The second graph best illustrates this as you can see upwards sloping from a number of publishers. Along the way Nintendo managed to influence smaller publishers like D3, who is known for making budget games in Japan, and Success who supported the system with their cost conscious SuperLite brand. Square Enix's number of DS releases surged too as they opened the DS Style label for software like classical music training, not more Final Fantasy spin offs. It’s interesting to note the DS Style brand has been mostly dormant in 2008 with only one release. Square Enix is probably focusing on their new Pure Dreams label now.
The DS wave seems to be continuing in 2008 where publishers like Ubisoft and Sega already have plans to release more DS software than 2007. Marvelous really ramped up Nintendo DS production with new properties like Avalon Code and Steal Princess. These titles compliment a Harvest Moon heavy lineup. Newcomer to Nintendo is Nippon Ichi which is porting key franchises to the DS like Disgaea and Marl Kingdom. Any upwards slopes at this point in time are a very good sign since we're not even done with 2008 yet.
However, it appears that Nintendo of Japan is taking a nosedive this year and this isn't exactly accurate. Nintendo of Japan doesn’t hype games many months in advance with magazine previews. Announcements for games like Rhythm Tengoku Gold came without warning through fliers and the occasional Club Nintendo video. Nintendo is pretty secretive, but one thing is clear Nintendo has more games than training software. Nintendo only released one training title in Japan, a kanji handwriting trainer. Nintendo of Japan has been introducing new franchises like Soma Bringer, We are Fossil Holders, and reviving Data East's Legend of Hercules series. So far these games have not been confirmed by Nintendo of America for release in North America. Some of these games are bound to come out in North America though. In the meantime DS owners in North America still have plenty to keep them busy. The 2007 wave in Japan is spilling over in North America with releases like Bleach: Dark Souls and Dragon Quest IV.
Graphs made by Siliconera. Images courtesy of Nintendo.