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The Nintendo DS is dominating sales charts. For months it has been at the top of consoles sales world-wide, far ahead of any console of the new generation. Nintendo announced last October that it sold 50 million copies of the two-screen wonder. With a huge install-base and low development cost, it’s a great platform for publishers to focus on.
But they don’t. Publishers outside of Japan don’t seem to care whatsoever about the number 1 console on sales today. According to Game Rankings, there isn’t a single game in the top 20 best reviewed DS games that was released by a non-Japanese publisher. In fact Nintendo has published 16 out of the top 20 titles. There isn’t a single non-Japanese title that breaks the 85% average score.
Why is this? I can’t understand it. A great DS game with good production value and good marketing could be a huge hit — just look at the success of Phantom Hourglass. But North American publishers keep on making mediocre licensed games built with the lowest budget possible. A typical DS game has a budget around 1 million dollars, while the next-gen Spiderman 3 game cost more than 35 million to make. You could make a dozen AAA DS games (with a 3 million dollar budget) for the price of one multi-platform console title — and the DS has sold more than the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii combined.
This seems like an obvious missed opportunity. What am I missing here? Why aren’t North American publishers caring about the number 1 console on the market?