Nintendo's handheld DS videogame system has sold more than 47 million units in the United States since the original model debuted in November 2004, according to the company's internal sales figures. In a press release sent out late yesterday afternoon, Nintendo declared victory: With those numbers, the DS is now the best-selling videogame system in U.S. history. Not just a hit in the U.S., the system has sold more than 135 million units around the world. The only other handheld systems that come close to the Nintendo DS' worldwide sales are the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance, all Nintendo products.

The milestone couldn't have come at a better time for Nintendo as the company is working to build excitement around the release of the new Nintendo 3DS in March. Very few details about the new handheld system have been leaked, but we know that it promises to deliver a 3D experience to users without requiring special glasses.

"When we look back at 2010, we see consumers time and again turning to the value and enjoyment of our products," said Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. "When we look ahead to 2011, we see new portable technology and more great Wii games that need to be seen to be believed." That second part included in the press release as Nintendo was also celebrating a third consecutive year with sales of the Wii home console topping seven million in the U.S., "a feat never before accomplished in the history of video games by a home console."

For comparison, the Sony PlayStation 2, released more than a decade ago in 2000, has sold nearly 150 million units around the world (the original Sony PlayStation follows with just over 100 million), and the Sony PlayStation Portable has moved more than 60 million units. The best-selling non-Nintendo, non-Sony console is the Microsoft Xbox 360, which places 10th on the list.

But it isn't Sony or Microsoft that Nintendo is worried about. It's Apple, which may not be the first company you think of when you think of gaming, but consider that, collectively, more than 120 million iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch devices have been sold around the world. Those products aren't ideal for the kind of immersive gaming experiences that Nintendo specializes in, but casual gaming has seen a big boost this year; Angry Birds alone has been downloaded more than 50 million times on smartphones this year. And, sometime soon, according to game developer Rovio, Angry Birds will make the jump to the small screen from the smallest screen when it becomes available for PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and Xbox 360.

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