The Nintendo DS handheld gaming system has sold fairly well here in the U.S., but it’s practically on fire in Japan, where its games regularly dominate the weekly top-5 sales charts. The console itself has sold almost two million units so far this year (its closest competitor, the PlayStation 2, has sold only 500,000). Its success is due in large part to its uniquely unconventional games, especially Brain Age, a quirky educational title designed with the help of a Japanese neuroscientist that has dominated the Japanese market. The U.S. version was released last week.
The game is fairly simple—you perform a variety of memory and cognition-based mini games, such as counting the number of people in a house as you watch them enter and exit, or identifying the number of syllables in a spoken phrase, all of which are supposedly beneficial to your brain’s overall health. The game then determines how “old” your brain is according to your highest scores (the younger your brain, the better).
Despite a study by a psychologist at the University of Virginia claiming that the actual mental benefits of Brain Age are almost nil, the game’s success (especially among adults and even seniors, a valuable and untapped gaming market) is already spawning imitators. Sega has a similar title for the PSP currently in the works, and the Japan-only Brain Age sequel is selling just as well as the original.
What do you think? Can your mind really benefit from Brain Age, or is this all just a clever way to sell more games? Sound off in the “Comments” section below. —John Mahoney