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Nintendo portable systems dominate Japan's sales charts for the 21st century

To commemorate their 1300th issue, this week's Famitsu magazine put on its statistician's cap and took a look back at all the games released in Japan since the 21st century began.

Somewhere around 14,000 console and portable titles have come out in Japan since January 1, 2001, back when the PlayStation 2 was still brand new and gamers were reading rumors about Microsoft's "DirectXbox" console in print magazines. In Japan, at least, you probably won't be surprised to read which games have sold the most in the ensuing years.

Leading the pack is New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS, which sold 6,424,042 copies in Japan (and over 30 million worldwide). Nintendo, in fact, took up all five top slots for software sales since 2001, assuming you count The Pokemon Company and Nintendo as the same publisher (Famitsu doesn't). Pokemon Diamond and Pearl is number two, followed by Pokemon Black/White, Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire and Animal Crossing Wild World, all selling at least five million copies each. Rounding out the top ten: Brain Age, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, Dragon Quest IX and Mario Kart DS - that's eight Nintendo-published titles overall.

In total, Nintendo alone has sold 99.8 million pieces of retail software in Japan since 2001. Combined with the 33 million or so Pokemon games sold, that's nearly 133 million Nintendo-produced game cards and discs floating around Japan, enough to give every Japanese citizen one game and still have about seven million left over. (The runner-up in software sales, Square Enix, sold just over 30 million retail copies.)

Worth noting: Only 11 publishers produced all of the games that made the top 100 sales ranking.

Portable systems have dominated the Japan game market since the Nintendo DS's launch, something well-reflected in Famitsu's published statistics. 32.9 million DSes were sold in Japan (the PSP, with just under 20 million, took second), and 39 DS titles are in the top-100 sales ranking, followed by the PlayStation 2 with 22 and the Wii with 16. 2006, the year the PS2 reached its peak maturity and the Nintendo DS experienced a major sales boom, has the most titles in the top 100 with 14.

It's definitely been a Nintendo- and portable-oriented kind of game scene in Japan so far, but Famitsu sees changes on the horizon. "More users are downloading their software purchases, and the flow toward free-to-play can't be ignored," the editors wrote. "Games are being played in an expanding number of ways, and there's been a massive rise in the number of users who play games on their smartphones. We're approaching an era where software sales aren't necessarily a direct reflection of what gamers like."

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