With the DS, Nintendo changed the stereotypical notion that video games were toys or for guys. It wasn't just the games that had non-gamer appeal, but the hardware itself thanks in large part how Nintendo rolled it out. In the debut Japanese ads, popstar Hikaru Utada appeared in a red dress and asked if it was okay for her to touch the DS unit.
Since then, Nintendo has roped in many of the country's biggest female stars to appear in its handheld ads, whether they are pushing the hardware itself or new games hitting it.
While famous females, such as Beyoncé, have appeared in Nintendo commercials outside of Japan, the spots in The Land of the Rising Sun continue to feature extremely popular females in succession, almost one after another. If an actress or a singer is hot in Japan at a given moment, chances are that she's appearing in Nintendo ads, too.
Remember, doing commercials in Japan is not seen as selling out. The more popular you are, the more commercials you get offered. More commercials means more exposure.
It's not just enough to be popular. Nintendo picks actresses or models who are popular with females, instead of pandering to males by picking the latest bikini model. That isn't to say some of the woman in Nintendo's ads are not former bikini models—some are. Buy they've moved on to either mainstream modeling or acting, and they have cross gender appeal.
Nintendo doesn't exclusively feature females in its hardware and game commercials. Sometimes male comedians appear—and more recently, a boy band. However, looking back since 2004, Nintendo certainly does have a preference for a certain type of female celebrities. There are striking similarities in how the commercials are filmed and lit and how the women are portrayed.
Here at a Tetris event for Nintendo, Utada is one of Japan's biggest selling recording artists. The Japanese-American is best known among gamers for her work on the Kingdom Hearts soundtracks. She appeared in the DS launch campaign.
Known in the West for her role in Ringu, the model-turned-actress Matsushima is one of Japan's most popular performers—and TV pitchwoman. She appeared in Nintendo DS commercials between 2005 and 2007. She later returned for Wii Fit Plus.
In 2007, Mikako Tabe really started to make a name for herself, appearing in a slew of feature films. Nintendo brought her in to promote The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS.
In 2009, you could not escape Yuri Ebihara (aka "Ebi-chan") in Japan. The fashion model, who set trends for a generation of young women, was everywhere—including in Nintendo DS commercials for Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story.
Kanno, a singer and actress, appeared in DSi spots and a series of commercials for the DSi Brain Age game.
Originally a bikini model, Yuuka has since branched out to acting and comedy as well as talk shows. She's garnered a slew of male fans during her bikini days, but now has a large female following, too.
Right now, Haruka Ayase is probably one of Japan's most popular female celebs—meaning that she appears in a whole bunch of commercials, including Nintendo's. She's the most recent Nintendo spokesperson, currently appearing in spots for the 3DS and New Super Mario Bros. 2.