Despite popular opinion, “Console Wars” does not refer to a bunch of fanboys arguing about which system is better on message boards. On the contrary, “Console Wars” refers to a sales and quality competition between the hardware developers, and really started to gain prominence with the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.
Fast forward to now. The Nintendo DS and Sony’s PSP are on their way out in favor of the Nintendo 3DS and the PS Vita. With the seventh generation handhelds giving way to the new, shiny eighth generation handhelds, it’s time to take a look back at both systems, and decide which system is better, once and for all. So, which is it? Which handheld can be declared the best handheld of the seventh generation of video gaming? The Nintendo DS or the PSP?
HardwareThere is a major difference between the Nintendo DS and the PSP, and that’s definitely reflected in their design. The original DS has a clam shell design and is rather bulky. There are two screens instead of one, with the bottom screen functioning as a touch screen. A microphone is also present on the system, which has allowed for very interesting gameplay opportunities over the years in games like The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass when the microphone is used to call to another character by literally shouting.
Sony’s PlayStation Portable features one big screen, an analog nub to better explore three dimensional environments, and the traditional PlayStation face buttons. There’s really nothing all that fancy or innovative about the PSP’s design, but it does live up to its name. The system literally is a portable PlayStation.
For the purpose of this section, I will be judging the two systems based on their ORIGINAL design. Redesigns will come into play in the next section. So, which system had the better overall design? Honestly, I think that it’s no contest. The Nintendo DS’s original phat model is a more than capable system with very little issues over the years in regards to the broken hinges that would go on the plague the DS Lite, but it felt outdated even when it was released. The design seems counter intuitive to what was trying to be accomplished. The screens aren’t as bright as they could be, and they feel rather small, especially compared to later designs of the system. Not to mention the original DS is kind of ugly, definitely bulky, and it didn’t come in many colors; if someone has an original phat DS, it’s probably grey.
On the other hand, the PSP was sleek and cool at the time. The left analog nub without the inclusion of a right one is a head scratcher to this day, but the system definitely was designed with more modern games in mind. After all, Sony’s handheldshave always been just a couple steps behind their consoles in terms of graphical prowess, while Nintendo has stayed comfortable by being a generation or two behind their consoles in the graphics department. The PSP has good button placement, a nice screen, and it looks really cool. When put up against the original DS, I think it’s no contest. Sony wins the hardware battle rather easily. Best Hardware design: PlayStation Portable
RedesignsBut let’s not forget about all the redesigns that occurred during the lifespan of both systems, and we will compare those as well. I think it’s obvious that the system that had the most redesigns definitely came in the form of the Nintendo DS, which Nintendo redesigned the hell out of.
The first redesign came in the form of the most successful version of the DS, the DS Lite. The DS Lite came in a multitude of colors, and featured a much better overall design than the original phat DS. The DS Lite was smaller, but had bigger, brighter screens. Everything looked better and felt better with the DS Lite. It even retained the Game Boy Advance slot that allowed players to enjoy their sixth generation handheld games for just a bit longer.
My first DS was actually a DS Lite, and I can attest to it’s greatness. Unfortunately, the DS Lite is the system that seems to have the most hardware issues, such as the broken hinge problem in which the hinges snap, making it impossible to see what’s on the top screen or causing the top screen to constantly fling around or even shut on itself.
The next major DS redesign was very significant in terms of adding content to the system. When the DSi was released, it boasted better screens, more apps and features of that nature, plus two cameras on the system. The DSi was also very popular and retained the basic design of the DS Lite. The DSi also opened the door for an all new avenue of game releases with the DSiWare games that were released through digital downloading. DSi was supplemented by the DSi XL before the 3DS was finally announced.
But what of the PSP? It is true that the PSP received a few redesigns as well, but none of them were really as significant as the DS redesigns. Dubbed PSP 2000 and PSP 3000, these systems added very little new features, but rather just tried to improve upon the innards of the PSP. They added a stronger battery life, improved screens, and in the case of the PSP 3000, a DS-style microphone was added.
Unfortunately, the biggest redesign for the PSP was a total flop. The PSP Go did not resonate well with the casual crowd or the gaming crowd. I believe it is the first major gaming system that is exclusively for digital downloads. Abandoning the UMD system of the PSP for only digital downloads was a bad move, and the PSP Go also failed based on its hardware design, which looked silly and barely even resembled a PSP in the long run.
Perhaps Nintendo DS has an advantage because Nintendo redesigned its system so much by the end of its lifespan. However, that also means that Sony did not have much redesigning to do, and they got the job done with the original PSP design. However, when it comes to the redesigns, Nintendo takes the crown, with their redesigns adding significant changes to the system and important improvements. Best Redesigns: Nintendo DS
InnovationInnovation in the gaming industry is a bit difficult to look at subjectively. On one hand, there is innovation in gameplay, and on the other hand, there is innovation through graphics. But still, at the end of the day, it should be readily apparent which system brought more innovation to the table.
On one hand, we have the PSP. The PSP was the first handheld system from Sony, and Nintendo’s first major competition in the handheld market since…forever, unless you count the ill-fated Game Gear from Sega. Sony’s PSP also provided three-dimensional graphics and a means to control characters in this three-dimensional space without too much of a headache or hassle. The system also innovated in numerous other ways, mainly by making the PSP capable of a bunch of other stuff, such as browsing the Internet, watching movies, listening to music, and more.
But then there’s the Nintendo DS and its design decisions that have really helped shaped the gaming industry even still to this day. The original DS was scoffed at for its “gimmicks”, but nowadays, these gimmicks are found everywhere. Apple uses touchscreens for its iPod line of products. Sony uses a touchscreen on their PlayStation Vita. Nintendo is incorporating a touchscreen tablet for its eighth generation Wii U console. All of this started thanks to the massive popularity of the Nintendo DS.
It’s a close one, but I think at the end of the day, the DS innovated more than how Sony did. True, Sony’s PSP is very innovative for its time, and it is a very important system. However, the DS beats it thanks to the risks that the DS took that still shape the industry to this day. Best Innovation: Nintendo DS
GraphicsAs I mentioned earlier, Nintendo has been fine being a generation or even two generations behind when developing their handhelds. The original Game Boy had graphics somewhat on par with the NES when Nintendo developed the Super Nintendo. In the fifth generation, Nintendo decided just to add color and somewhat better graphics with the Game Boy Color, hardly innovating beyond that point, since the Game Boy was still flying off the shelves. In the sixth generation, Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance had the graphics of a Super Nintendo, putting Nintendo still two generations behind. However, they have somewhat caught up with themselves and are now really only a generation behind since they made the Wii have barely more power than their sixth generation system, the GameCube. Basically, the 3DS was on par with a Wii, and the DS was on the same level was a Nintendo 64.
That being said, the DS provided graphics that were much improved over the Nintendo 64 in numerous areas. This can be seen very well in Super Mario 64 DS, where the characters look a lot less blocky and the environment is a lot cleaner, with far better textures than seen on the Nintendo 64.
Grand Theft Auto on a handheld
Sony, on the other hand, have a history of trying to match their consoles’ graphics with their handhelds. When the PSP released as part of the seventh generation, Sony was still pushing the PlayStation 2, their sixth generation console. The PSP amazed everyone because it was able to provide graphics that were about as good as a PS2 at the time. Today, we can see the Vita having graphics near that of a PlayStation 3.
It’s really no contest in this department as well. Nintendo DS may have games that look very cool, especially those with 2D sprites and the like, but Sony’s PSP is a graphics powerhouse, dominating the DS in every area of graphics. Best Graphics: PlayStation Portable
Online and MultiplayerOnline gameplay really came into focus in the seventh generation. Microsoft made it an integral part of their marketing strategy with the Xbox 360, and Sony also featured online gameplay right at the launch of their system, showcasing the possibilities of free online multiplayer with the likes of Resistance: Fall of Man. However, the seventh generation handhelds also had online gameplay.
Sony’s PSP online was infinitely more compelling and fleshed out that the online seen with the DS. For one, the PSP was able to connect to nearly any Wi-Fi source, whereas the DS often required a special USB sold at a ridiculous price by Nintendo, or if one to sit around and play their DS in a McDonald’s.
PSP’s online was also more fleshed out in other ways. With the PSP, people are capable of downloading movies, downloading songs, downloading whatever to the system, which isn’t possible with the DS. The DS has capable online with some games, but in the end, it really can’t even compete with the online provided by the PSP.
But what about the multiplayer? Both the DS and PSP require two systems for almost all forms of multiplayer, but the DS has a major advantage over the PSP in the form of download play. While the PSP requires virtually every game with multiplayer to need multiple copies of the game, the DS has many games, including major titles like New Super Mario Bros., that only require a single cart for multiplayer play. Not only that, but there are a lot more multiplayer games available for the Nintendo DS than there are for the PSP.
But in the end, I think that the PSP gets the advantage here for having more competent online. Yes, the download play for the DS is awesome, but the best DS multiplayer requires multiple carts anyway. Best Online and Multiplayer: PlayStation Portable
GamesNo system is anything without high quality, exclusive games. As Sony is learning with the Vita, you can have the best system in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything if that system doesn’t have a lot of games that you can only play on that system specifically. It’s why Nintendo systems will always sell no matter what, and it’s how console wars are won.
Let’s take a look at both systems’ top 10 games, according to the review aggregate website GameRankings:
Nintendo DS10. Pokemon SoulSilver Version 09. Elite Beat Agents 08. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass 07. New Super Mario Bros. 06. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow 05. Advance Wars: Dual Strike 04. Mario & Luigi’s Bowser’s Inside Story 03. Mario Kart DS 02. Chrono Trigger 01. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
PlayStation Portable10. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions 09. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together 08. Wipeout Pure 07. Tekken: Dark Resurrection 06. Ridge Racer 05. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker 04. Lumines 03. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars 02. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable 01. God of War: Chains of Olympus
With the DS, we can see that out of those 10 games, only two are ports of pre-existing games, those being Pokemon SoulSilver and Chrono Trigger. However, the DS versions of those games are not just straight ports, but rather enhanced ports that add new features. The rest of the DS list is dominated by games that are either entirely exclusive to the Nintendo DS, or games that were later ported elsewhere, but released on the DS first.
With the PSP, we see mostly enhanced ports. Final Fantasy Tactics? Port. Tactics Ogre? Port. Persona 3? Port. There are hardly any PSP exclusives on there that are ENTIRELY PSP exclusives, and not ports of other games. Sony even competes with itself by porting many PSP games to the PS2 and the PS3. The Ratchet & Clank PSP exclusives? Ported to the PSP, just for one example. God of War: Chains of Olympus, the highest rated PSP game ever, has been released on the PS3 as part of the God of War Origins Collection, which includes God of War: Ghost of Sparta, all for a mere $39.99.
TWEWY is just one example of a great DS exclusive
Of course, those 10 games do not account for the entire library of the Nintendo DS or the PSP. If we look over the entirety of their libraries, the DS not only has more games, but it has more games with a review aggregate of above 80% on GameRankings. Nintendo DS also houses a few really fantastic original IP, such as Professor Layton and The World End With You, as well as the best Castlevania games ever made. The PSP mainly has sequels, prequels, and spinoffs, but it also has a few original IP that has helped it succeed.
But that’s not all! It was in the seventh generation that we saw the rise of digitally downloaded games. PSP has access to a variety of PlayStation Network games, though none of them are that significant and a lot of them are also available on the PlayStation 3. However, PSP can download FULL PSP games to the system, a feature that the Nintendo DS does not have.
What the DS does have are better downloadable games that can only be played on the DSiWare service, or downloaded from the eShop if you have a 3DS. This service has helped Nintendo carve out its own space in the digital download market. Best Games: Nintendo DS
Backwards CompatibilityThis section may seem a little unfair since the PSP was Sony’s first handheld, but backwards compatibility is very important to many gamers, and having access to an entire library of other games is definitely a system advantage that needs to be discussed. Besides, the PSP is kind of backwards compatible with the original PlayStation.
Indeed, PlayStation Classics can be downloaded on the PSP and played, a function that hasn’t even been added to the Vita as of press time. Playing these original PlayStation games on the PSP may not seem like that big of a deal, but having these classics on the go is a blast. I myself have purchased numerous PSOne Classics to use on my Vita, but I haven’t been able to do so just yet…but at least at E3 Sony said this functionality would be available by the end of the summer with at least some of the games.
Now, the Nintendo DS itself has varying degrees of backwards compatibility the way that it’s meant to, which is to say with the previous system. On the original Nintendo DS system and the DS Lite, there is a slot at the bottom of the device for Game Boy Advance games. Players can play GBA games on their DS’s, and some games even can interact with other games using that slot. For example, the GBA Pokemon games allow you to trade Pokemon from the GBA version to the DS version thanks to the slot.
Unfortunately, future redesigns of the system nixed the GBA slot, and not even the XL unit added it back. That being said, the PSP’s backwards compatibility didn’t allow you to use your old PlayStation discs on it, and required an entirely new purchase. Because of this, I think that the Nintendo DS and its backwards compatible (with at least the early designs of the system) nature with the sixth generation handheld that preceded it, the Game Boy Advance, gives Nintendo and the DS the advantage in this category as well. Best Backwards Compatibility: Nintendo DS
SalesThe real console wars pertain to the amount of sales that each company is able to allocate with their respective devices. Nintendo’s DS unit blew the PSP out of the water, which should be obvious to anyone even remotely interested in the gaming industry, but let’s break down the numbers and take a look for ourselves.
The original DS model sold 18,820,000 units. The DS Lite successor blew those numbers out of the water and pushed 84,490,000 by the most recent counts. The DSi then sold a respectable 16,430,000. Nintendo has been fairly tight-lipped on the sales of the DSi XL, and it’s considered a silent flop by many. Combined, Nintendo’s DS line of systems has sold 119,740,000 units, which I believe puts it ahead of the PlayStation 2 as the best-selling video game system of all time.
Now about the best-selling games…Nintendo’s Nintendogs line of games featured many different versions with their own exclusive canines. When talking about sales numbers, Nintendo combines the sales of all the different Nintendogs games. 22.27 million units of Nintendogs, across all versions, have been sold to date. That is a high 19% attach rate, which is very impressive for any game that does not come bundled with the system.
As for the best-selling game that did not have multiple versions, Nintendo’s mascot pulled ahead of the crowd. New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS, the game that spawned an entirely new sub-series of Mario games, has sold and impressive 18.45 million units.
But what about the PlayStation Portable? Sony’s PSP did not sell badly by any means. In fact, it’s one of the most successful systems ever, surpassing the Xbox, the GameCube, and numerous other game systems. I’m not entirely sure if Sony included the sales of the redesigns such as the PSP Go in its numbers, but the PSP has sold 51,260,000 units according to Sony, which is very impressive. Of course, it doesn’t even reach half the units that the DS sold, but still, it’s a very impressive number and made Sony a pretty penny.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a high attach rate with any of the PSP’s games with the system. 2.7 million units of each of the following two games were sold according to the latest sales numbers. Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories are the two games, both high profile franchise games, and neither of them even broke 10 million units, let alone reach the 18 million that New Super Mario Bros. managed to push. Best Sales: Nintendo DS
AND THE WINNER IS…
FINAL SCORES:Nintendo DS – 5 PlayStation Portable – 3
It may not be built the best, have the best graphics, or even have a very competent online infrastructure, but the Nintendo DS has succeeded in all the other areas, making it the best handheld of the seventh generation. The DS has sold over one hundred million units, and it has built up an incredibly impressive library of games filled with stellar exclusive titles. Furthermore, the DS has access to the entire library of the Game Boy Advance. The DS also had the best redesigns in the form of the DS Lite, probably the best iteration of the DS, and the DSi, which added a ton of cool features to the system to make it even more popular.
So, what do you think of this little competition? Did the DS deserve the title of best handheld of the seventh generation? What will the eighth generation handheld wars look like? Will Sony somehow get the PS Vita pushed ahead of the 3DS in sales, or has Nintendo already won that battle? One thing’s for sure, it will certainly be interesting to see which handheld of the eighth generation winds up being the best of the best by the time the eighth generation comes to a close, and Cheat Masters will be there to cover it every step of the way.