As the 3DS experiences something of a fallow period, it's easy to forget that its planet-conquering predecessor, the Nintendo DS, went through some lean times in its early days. With the industry seemingly banking on Sony's PSP winning the battle for handheld supremacy, publishers were understandably cautious about this strange dual-screened portable, and after the initial wave of support during the DS launch window new releases were thin on the ground.
The likes of Nintendogs and Brain Training - and a sleek redesign - obviously changed all that. But many had to rely on a thriving import scene to fill the gaps between big releases. It could be argued that, had the DS not been region-free, it wouldn't have found such favour with core gamers.
If importing remained a niche, it was slowly widening, with Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and Slitherlink (among others) becoming breakout hits. They were even recognised by those unfamiliar with Play-Asia and the sadly missed Lik-Sang.