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Nintendo’s popular DS handheld hit a milestone earlier this month, topping 100 million of the portables shipped worldwide. But a much more important milestone looms.


While 100 million is an impressive number, the Nintendo DS still has quite a bit of catching up to do if it wants to topple the Playstation 2 as the most popular video gaming system in history.


Despite now being nine years old, the Playstation 2 recently hit 136 million consoles sold worldwide, proof that the cutting edge isn’t always the thing most prevalent on the consumer’s mind.


And Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter points out that Sony is just now starting to tap into the markets in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and perhaps one day, Africa.


“This is Sony, the Playstation 2 is going to be around for awhile,” he said.


Recent rumors even suggest that the popular console might be getting a price drop as early as next month, to under $100.


While Sony’s Kim Nguyen, marketing manager for the Playstation 3 and 2, declined to comment on the rumor, she did say that the Playstation 2 is still going quite strong.


“Our ninth year is still as strong as ever,” she said. “We have a bunch of titles that are supporting the social gaming position for the PS2.”


With 1,900 games currently available for the console, 450 of which continue to operate online, and another 70 new titles expected out this year, support among game developers also remains strong. The Playstation 2 also remains the most-played console on the market, according to a December report from The Nielsen Company.


Nguyen says that as families increasingly tend to “hibernate,” staying in their homes for entertainment, sales of the PS2 is exceeding their expectations at places like Wal-Mart.


“In North America alone, one in three families own a PS2,” she said, “and we still have plenty of room to grow.”


But even with that phenomenal growth, Nintendo’s new two-camera DSi portable, due out in April, has a chance of eventually pulling ahead of the PS2.


“One hundred million is a really impressive number,” said analyst Pachter. “It shows you the acceptance of gaming by parents. That means you have a really broad base acceptance.


“With the Wii, Nintendo upscaled gaming to the family ... now I think they are going to try and move the DSi up to a broader market.”


Marc Franklin, director of public relations for Nintendo, calls 100 million a significant milestone for the DS family of handhelds and says it shows that consumers have appreciated what the system can do.


And the $169 DSi, he says, will give gamers and non-gamers alike a new type of experience.


“DSi delivers a new experience, much like when the DS entered the market and it delivered an entirely new experience,” he said. “Now we’re taking that another step and introducing cameras and enhanced sound and a larger screen size and connecting to the Internet and being able to download games.


“Those features are going to be very compelling to the consumer.”


___


Brian Crecente is managing editor of Kotaku.com, a video-game Web site owned by Gawker Media. Join in the discussion at kotaku.com/tag/well-played.

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