A Nintendo in your purse?

I understand that A-list bloggers are used to getting all sorts of schwag to review, but I’m far from that, so I was pretty surprised last month to check my inbox and discover that Nintendo was sending me a DS Lite and games to review.  It’s part of their campaign to market the DS to women, which also includes a promo where people who rent a high end purse can receive the use of DS at the same time.

I emailed the marketer back to say that I’d give it a try, but that their games would need to knock my socks off to justify the space in my purse.  Given that I can already play a number of games on my iPod touch, why would I want to carry something else around?  And indeed, none of the games they sent with it were as addictive to me as trism.

There’s no question that if you’re serious about playing games, the DS is still a better machine.  For one thing, its battery life far exceeds the iPod’s (which frankly stinks in game playing mode).  And it has two screens, and more than one button, which gives you a lot more options for controlling a game.  And it’s cheaper, and less breakable, and has a user-replaceable battery.  But for having something handy when I’m bored on the metro, or get stuck waiting on line somewhere, the iPod does just fine.

It also didn’t help their case that the selection of programs they sent was largely based on the assumption that women don’t actually want to play video games.*  So, they sent a yoga trainer (confusing controls for selecting programs, and no audio directions), a weight loss coach with a pedometer (great concept, clunky implementation), a crossword program (fine except that you had to solve a bunch of easy ones to get to the ones that were interesting), Brain Age 2 (clever), Carnival Games (a hit with my son), and a puzzle solving game (MillionHeir, which was pretty good).  And none of these shows off the capacity of the system half as well as the Pokemon game that my son has been busily playing since the minute I handed over the system.**

So, I’m dubious about this marketing push, even as I think they’ve got a pretty good product.  I just don’t see a lot of grown ups playing with a DS. Am I missing something?  Any of you play with one of these?

*This article quotes someone from Nintendo as saying that half of the DS systems sold last year belong to women.  Sorry, but I can only believe that if: a) "women" is defined to mean "female, regardless of age" or b) "belong" is defined to mean "purchased by" regardless of the primary user.  I know some women who play computer games,*** but 50 percent just isn’t plausible to me.

** D has been asking for a DS for a long time, and we told him that we wouldn’t buy him one, but he could save up for one. And he’s been dutifully saving his allowance for over a year.  So once I tried the system enough to write a fair review, I let him buy it from me for half price.  He knows that we still retain the right to put the system in time out if he misbehaves.

***For some interesting discussion on gender differences in online games, see Geeky Mom.

7 Responses to “A Nintendo in your purse?”

  1. Jody Says:

    I have not been especially tempted by the pocket game systems, mostly for the reasons you describe. My kids, especially the boy, would love to get a system, but I would rather restrict him to a TV/computer-based game system so that we can monitor his time better.
    We’re probably getting a family Wii system for the holidays as a result of that. And I do admit, I’m excited to play some of the games myself.
    I loved Doom II (played it rather fretfully and feverishly while prepping for PhD orals) but was made horribly motion-sick by the computer-generated graphics. I’m hopeful that a game system’s graphics will be better….

  2. Lucinda Says:

    I have a family of dedicated gamers, including husband, son of 21 and daughters of 19 and 12. Only the youngest girl has wanted a hand held gaming system, though oldest daughter has found her Xbox and Wii skills made it easy to meet boys in college. Still, though all games are entirely equal opportunity at our house, I was quite surprised last week when I sat in the airport next to a woman in her later 20′s who was playing with a PSP. They do seem like something for kids, not adults.

  3. dave.s. Says:

    My #2 is in love with his Nintendo DS. The threat of taking it away can cause otherwise-resisted homework to magically happen. Neither my wife nor I has any interest in it.

  4. Laura Says:

    Both my son and daughter have DS’s. The thing they like the most about it is the ability to play games together and with their friends. I got a kick out of playing Mario Kart with them. What lame games they sent you. Mario Kart would have been a great choice or SIMS. I think there’s a Star Wars game that’s pretty fun. I’m not much for handhelds either, though I do like the PSP, mostly because it’s more like the iPhone/iPod touch in that it has a browser and other functions besides games. I also love Loco Roco (http://www.locoroco.com/) for the PSP. It really is one of the most fun games I’ve ever played.

  5. amy Says:

    Well, I’m a woman, and I don’t want to play video games. I might be interested in a Nintendo if it had a Pointless Argument With Strangers To Whom You Really Don’t Need To Prove Anything, Dear game, but then I woudn’t get any work done at all. This is why I don’t have an iPhone.
    Actually, a Jewish Mother Nintendo would be good. I could use that. “Turn on a light.” “Stop that and go to bed.” “Get up and get some exercise. Go outside. Now.” “When are you going to pick that up?” “You came in here for socks.” “Again, you’re eating? You’re going to be the size of a house.” “They said no to you? How could they say no? Give me the number, I want to give them a piece of my mind.”

  6. landismom Says:

    Well, I love video games. I don’t have a DS–but we bought the Bee a used one last year, and I got totally addicted to Diner Dash while we were on our last vacation. I have to say, I don’t play video games nearly as much as I did in the pre-kid world–because I’m not that interested in the kinds of games that my kids want to play, and they’re not yet old enough to play the kinds of games that I want to play. Plus there’s that whole needing-to-get-the-laundry-done and all that.
    I’m kind of an outlier, I know. Recently, a coworker of mine told me (with great glee) that I was the only woman she’d ever met who’d actually played Dungeons & Dragons.

  7. Ethel Says:

    The 50% number becomes more plausible if you consider that the DS is a casual gaming platform. I would expect that women are more likely to be interested in casual games because non-casual games are just too time-consuming and women are, generally speaking, busier. I did get a DS when life got too busy for me to play more time-consuming games. I loved PuzzleQuest, BrainAge was fun, and I actually liked Pokemon (okay, I admit it, I never really grew up). I wouldn’t mind having the time to play with the guitar-like app either – unfortunately, I don’t recall what it is called, but it’s a way to play chords and such using the DS, so you can actually play music with it. But it didn’t work so well on the bus since I didn’t carry headphones.
    I suspect that, as you suggested, the 50% also disregards age. I can see girls really being attracted to the DS. It might also include non-Americans, like the Japanese, where gaming has a wider place in society. I think they also have more games geared toward non-gamers available.

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