More than a year after it first launched, Nintendo’s 3DS practically has a strangle-hold on the top spot of the worldwide hardware sales charts. The system is coming up on 18 million units sold, which is an unquestionably impressive achievement — though it doesn’t begin to compare with the unprecedented success of the original Nintendo DS.

Standing just shy of 152 million systems sold over the course of its lifetime, the Nintendo DS is less than two million units away from becoming the best selling game system of all time, an honor currently held by Sony’s PlayStation 2. Today, Nintendo announced price drops for both the DSi and the DSi XL, which may just give the aging hardware the boost it needs to overtake PS2.

Beginning May 20th, DSi will join DS Lite at the mass-market friendly price of $99.99, a substantial drop from its current $149.99 price point. The larger DSi XL will remain more expensive, dropping from $169.99 (which also happens to be the current price of the 3DS) to $129.99. By contrast, Sony’s PSP 3000 Core Pack retails for $129.99, while the Wi-Fi only PlayStation Vita remains $249.99.

Despite the enormous gains made by mobile gaming these past few years, which owe a significant debt of gratitude to the success of Apple’s iPhone and its App Store, dedicated handheld game systems continue to be a vital segment of the market. New Super Mario Bros., released way back in 2006, has never received a price cut — it’ll still set you back $34.99 for a new copy — but has managed to sell over 28 million units (look for the sequel, New Super Mario Bros. 2, on 3DS). Mario Kart DS, released a year before New Super Mario Bros.,  remains a full-priced title, too, and has sold over 21 million copies. Those numbers might not be quite as impressive as the one billion downloads accrued by Angry Birds, but by any other metric, they are hard to beat.

There is a temptation to regard the upcoming price drop as Nintendo bidding farewell to the DS as it enters the twilight of its years as a viable platform. That may be well be the case — after all, outside of Pokemon Conquest, Black 2 and White 2, there aren’t any DS games of note on the horizon, and Nintendo has to focus on both the continued success of 3DS and the launch of Wii U. On the other hand, Nintendo sells 3DS at a loss, and Wii U’s success is far from certain. Meanwhile, the DS — the little-system-that-could, if you will — keeps chugging right along, and the price drop on DSi and DSi XL is all but sure to drive sales to new customers. Add them to the DS’s nearly unequaled install base, and the system just might continue to matter — to gamers, and to Nintendo’s bottom line — for years and years to come.

Ranters, what do you think: will the price drop help Nintendo DS to become the best selling game system of all time?

Follow me on Twitter @HakenGaken.

Source: VGChartz

tags: DS, DSi, DSiXL, Nintendo