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Letter From The Director: The Bright Future of the 3DS

by Neal Ronaghan - August 12, 2011, 8:12 am PDT
Total comments: 9

The headline was written optimistically, but I stand by the claim.

After I've had time to digest Nintendo's absurd $80 price cut on the 3DS, which goes officially into effect today, it excites me. People are calling for Nintendo's head, and that $250 was a mistake. However, I like the reaction to slow sales of the first few months, which honestly aren't that terrible; they just pale in comparison to the recent success of the DS.

Nintendo missed expectations, and that's why the price cut happened. They predicted a certain amount and they didn't match it. I wouldn't say that sales have been awful, but more like Nintendo had high hopes. Regardless, I love the situation the system is in because of the Ambassadors Program and the $170 price.

The 20 free games have done their job to excite the deep-seeded, retro-loving 3DS owners. We might bitch about paying $40 for a game we played 13 years ago, but we'll eat up the chance to get 20 games we loved more than 10 years ago for free. Everything just seems a little bit brighter now. Yes, the August release schedule is miserable (Who would've thought a MegaTen game would be THE release of an entire month for a system in its first six months?), but with the promise of 10 free games on September 1 and 10 more throughout the rest of the year, it helps obscure the lackluster release schedule.

And say what you will about Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D, but those games look good. The price might not agree with everyone, but if original games can be made with that amount of love, this system will rock. We'll get proof of that this fall with Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. Unfortunately, games keep on getting delayed from this fall window. Metal Gear Solid 3D is a 2012 game. Crush 3D got pushed back to February. Kid Icarus: Uprising is looking like it has a better chance of being a January 2012 game at best (though that's more proof of Project Sora not being able to hit a deadline. Get pumped for Smash Bros. in 2014, guys!).

While I wouldn't call the present of the 3DS to be a bright, shining light, I look forward to the future and the potential of the system. As long as the system sells well this fall, we should get back to the wonderful stream of quality game output that the DS had for most of its life. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and if we're lucky, it's not the death knell of the Game Boy, it's a new era of greatness.

Talkback

NinSageAugust 12, 2011

Well said, sir.

People should be crediting Nintendo with having a nimble business strategy and showing unprecedented good faith with the Ambassador Program.

Sony had to have a covered-up hacking scandal go public before they gave away free games.

MS still never gave anything to the countless RRODs other than speedy replacements.

And yea, the 3DS library isn't exactly stellar after, what, 5 months? But launch line-ups always suck.  That's why later in life people say "well, it was a launch title."


But no, with Nintendo, it's always gloom, doom, pitchforks and torches.

The Wii may be on life-support now, but didn't everyone predict its death 3-5 years ago? =P
Wasn't the PSP supposed to obliterate the underpowered DS?

Yet, people still count Nintendo out way too early.  GoNintendo runs articles about this holiday being "make or break" for the 3DS.  Really? Does everyone in the game media have the memory of a goldfish?

BeautifulShyAugust 12, 2011

If memory serves the DS lineup at this point had less must have games then the 3DS does have now. So the 3DS has a better line up then the DS at this point.

As for the price I think most people on this very forum was willing to pay $250 for the 3DS when it came out. I was willing to pay about what the price is at now. I think the release schedule is going to be end of being good for the rest of the year.

AdrockAugust 12, 2011

I don't understand people claiming that Nintendo is fucked because of the rising popularity of cheap App Store games. They have affected the market in that I don't think 3DS or any future Nintendo handheld will ever match DS's saturation. However, I think smartphone games are taking time, not necessarily sales away from 3DS. There will always be a place for a dedicated portable gaming device because the vast majority of serious gamers will always prefer physical buttons. Gaming on smartphones and dedicated portables like 3DS can coexist. They appeal to different audiences and sometimes they appeal to both. And touchscreens will never replace physical buttons.

Mop it upAugust 12, 2011

When the price drop was announced, I believe the sales figures cited for the 3DS in North America was 833,000 units. After four months, the system still hadn't reached a million. In comparison, the DS launched on November 21st 2004 and sold 1.36 million units by December 31st, so in 40 days it sold almost twice as much as the 3DS has in 120 days. Sure, you can argue that the DS launched during the holidays, but, well, that's what the 3DS should have done.

So, 3DS sales aren't being compared to recent DS sales, but rather early DS sales, which I believe were considered slow at the time. Looking at how much worse the sales of the 3DS are, I would say it is selling terribly, and that's why Nintendo has made such a drastic move by greatly reducing the price and offering free games for the people who might feel slighted for paying so much more for one. It's a move I"m sure they didn't take lightly, but they are in a dilemma right now, and in the long run, it's probably going to be better than if they held out with the high price and hoped the games picked up the sales.

Looking at the sales figures of the DS over its lifetime, it had around 5 million units sold in June 2006. By December 31st 2006, it had sold over 10 million. What could cause it to about double its lifetime sales in six months? That's when New Super Mario Brothers was released. And that's exactly what the 3DS needs. Right now, there isn't any compelling software to drive sales at any price, so hopefully, Super Mario 3D Land will have a similar effect as New Super Mario Brothers.

CericAugust 12, 2011

Quote from: Mop

...
so hopefully, Super Mario 3D Land will have a similar effect as New Super Mario Brothers.

It won't.  New Super Mario Brothers had a load of pent up demand to spring forth and cause sales.  Super Mario 3D Land does not have that because we've gotten so many different Mario Platformers, 2D/3D, in the last 2 years.

It will still be a good bump but, nothing more then say putting Monster Hunter on 3DS would give.  It will just have a longer term effect.

Mop it upAugust 12, 2011

I wouldn't underestimate it. Nobody thought New Super Mario Brothers Wii would come close to matching the DS game's sales...

NinSageAugust 12, 2011

I get a feeling that in one year's time no one will be doubting the success of the 3DS.  They'll be back to saying that, despite its success, it's not a platform for the "hardcore" gamer, etc. etc.

SundoulosAugust 12, 2011

Quote from: Mop

I wouldn't underestimate it. Nobody thought New Super Mario Brothers Wii would come close to matching the DS game's sales...

The 2D Mario platformers  such as NSMB has sold ell much better than the 3 dimensional counterparts, such as Sunshine & Galaxy.  Perhaps Super Mario 3D Land will find a way to bridge that gap since it's a combination of both styles. 

SilverQuilavaAugust 13, 2011

I've got a feeling that one day, if the games are done right, that the Nintendo 3DS will turn out to be one of the best video game consoles in history. Something about the 3D and the analog pad tells me that this is finally the right DS for Nintendo.

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