The continued strong sales of Nintendo's DS and DS Lite handheld consoles in Japan have brought the system to the verge of having sold 2.5 million units in the country in the latest set of regional hardware figures, with over a week left in the first half of the year.
2,498,720 units of DS hardware had been sold in the region by May 21st, with 1.635 million of them being the new DS Lite console, and 863,000 being the original DS console - meaning that the DS has the top two hardware slots so far this year.
Sony's PSP trails the DS by a huge margin, with only 772,000 units sold compared to the 2.49 million clocked up by Nintendo's system - and it's clear that the year to date has been all about handhelds, with the PS2 managing only 663,000 new sales in the first six months of the year.
Looking at the software charts, it's not hard to see where Nintendo's dominance is coming from. Seven of the top ten titles in the most recent software ranking were on the DS - and five of those titles have sold over a million units apiece, with three of them breaking the two million unit mark.
Although Bandai Namco's latest PS2 RPG, episodic title .hack//G.U. Volume 1, was the best selling game of the week - debuting with sales of over 90,000 units - it's hard to ignore the presence in the chart of More Brain Training for Adults (at number two with 2.28 million units sold to date), Brain Training for Adults (number four, 2.22 million units to date) and Animal Crossing Wild World (number six, 2.7 million units to date).
Konami's PS2 sports duo of World Soccer Winning Eleven 10 and Jikkyou Powerful Major League, at numbers five and seven respectively, make up the rest of the PS2 representation in the charts; while Nintendo's Tetris DS (number three) is sneaking towards half a million units, and the English language training edition of Brain Training for Adults (number eight) and Mario Kart DS (number ten) are both sitting at over a million units.
In fact, it's clear from looking at this mid-May chart, and other recent Japanese charts, that the market is seeing something of a recovery after a long-term slow decline - and it's a recovery being led almost entirely by Nintendo, whose multi-million selling DS titles are pumping new life into a business which was becoming accustomed to a procession of endless flash-in-the-pan hits that struggled to break the half-million mark.
The PSP, meanwhile, has clearly failed to capture the imagination of the Japanese market; a year and a half after it launched, the system is selling only marginally more than the venerable PS2, whose primary market now must surely lie in gamers replacing broken systems or buying second consoles for younger siblings.
What this means for the fate in Japan of the forthcoming PS3 and Wii consoles is a tricky subject. Both next-gen systems closely follow the philosophies of their handheld predecessors; the Wii is innovative, accessible, cheap and low-powered, while the PS3 is more traditional, very powerful, very expensive and fully kitted out in terms of media functionality.
Japanese consumers have clearly preferred the former approach in handheld hardware; if they show such a strong inclination in home console hardware, then Sony may have a real problem on its hands in its home territory, even despite the presence of franchises such as Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy on the system.