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Nintendo 3DS: The D is for Disaster

The first crack in the post-DS armor for Nintendo is finally exposed as Nintendo has revealed their plans to drop the worldwide price of the Nintendo 3DS just five months after the launch of the platform in the North American market. The new price will be effective on August 12, 2011 from $249.99 to $169.99. This is a serious move by Nintendo who never in its history has dropped the price of a major platform this early in its life. 

Reggie Fils-Aime, President of Nintendo of America tried to reassure fans by saying: "For anyone who was on the fence about buying a Nintendo 3DS, this is a huge motivation to buy now. We are giving shoppers every incentive to pick up a Nintendo 3DS, from an amazing new price to a rapid-fire succession of great games." Viewing Reggie for many years now at a variety of events, I have been trained in the art of "Reggie-Speak." For those of you not equipped with this skill, allow me to translate: 

*Begin Reggie Translation*

Guys, we seriously underestimated that you would figure out the 3D was a huge gimmick and potential health risk for players' eyesight. We depend on our early adopters to help us out but apparently they caught on to the gimmick. Can you throw us a bone and buy a 3DS now? Just turn the 3D off and play!

*End Reggie Translation*

Nintendo is continuing to push new software with major First Party Releases this year: 

  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D launched June 19
  • Star Fox 64 3D flies in September 9
  • Super Mario 3D Land jumps to retail in November
  • Mario Kart 7 drives home in December
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising comes "during Holiday 2011"

While the Nintendo DS dominated retail sales around the world, the 3DS is barely building an installed base with only 830,000 units sold in the US. For the early adopters who overpaid for their 3DS by $80.00, Nintendo is offering 10 NES Classic Titles and 10 Game Boy Color Titles from their 3DS eShop if they go to the store by August 11. Personally, I would rather have $80.00 myself. 

So what has caused Nintendo to make such a major price drop? There are a variety of factors to look at: Smartphones, popularity of the original DS, the upcoming PSVita, lack of software, high cost, and nobody wants 3D. Lets examine each element.

Nintendo never realized just how popular Smartphones would become. In fact, as this market grows, gaming is becoming an increasingly attractive element due to the price of the titles. The majority of IOS titles come in around ninety-nine cents. That is twenty-eight to thirty-eight dollars cheaper than boxed software and five to ten dollars cheaper than their downloadable software. Why spend more on bite-sized games or big box releases when you would rather play on a big TV at home? Rumors also suggest that Apple is soon to announce an iPod Touch device with optional month to month 3G service. This means that even the non-iPhone smartphone will get all of the gaming and application advantage over competing devices like the 3DS.

With over a hundred and thirty million Nintendo DS devices on the market, Nintendo has underestimated how many users would continue playing and using the older handheld. At bargain prices new and even cheaper used, the Nintendo DS has cheap software that can provide players with hours of entertainment. Also, with more than double the battery life and the ability to access downloadable titles on a DSi or DSi XL, some users have found they simply have no need for the features of the 3DS when the good games are still on the DS.

Another element is also part of the price drop decision: the upcoming PSVita. Sony's new handheld was shown off at E3 with the same $249.99 launch price of the 3DS with the power of the PS3, front and back touch screens, and more varied software pricing. Putting your hands on the PSVita made you realize why the 3DS was in big trouble. It also appears Sony has a large lineup of First and Third Party titles for the launch. This could spell even more disaster for the software starved 3DS.

With the launch of the Nintendo Wii, GameCube, Nintendo 64, and even the Super Nintendo, Nintendo has had at least one major title to push the platform into the hearts of its brainwashed legion of fans. This time around, the software wasn't ready but Nintendo was convinced they could sell the 3DS based on the 3D technology. They were wrong. A few faithful fans picked up the system and after a few days began to complain about the lack of games. Months later, the promised features of the 3DS were still not present and the biggest title, Kid Icarus: Uprising, still does not have an actual release date. What Nintendo has tried to do, with the 3DS, is take a half-baked idea, 3D, cram it into the DS Shell, and call it a day. But without a Mario Game to play on it, the consumers are letting it sit on the store shelves collecting dust.

Nintendo has a golden opportunity with the 3DS to give Developers a place to make cheap software, release cheap software via its eShop, and continue their domination of the handheld market. Pricing has made this potential vision into a nightmare. Launching a handheld above the cost of current generation home consoles was an arrogant move. We are in the middle of the biggest recession in the US since the Great Depression. People are out of work, utilities are at an all time high, and extra income is hard to come by. Hey want to buy an overpriced handheld with games that cost almost as much as Wii titles? Despite the price drop, I still feel the 3DS is priced twenty dollars high. $149.99 should have been the price after the drop. Also, boxed game titles shouldn't cost more than $29.99 in order to be effective against console sales. Hopefully the software prices will drop or I am afraid consumers will continue to stay away.

Finally, the biggest reason I feel Nintendo was forced to drop the price is consumers have realized 3D is nothing more than a gimmick. What is worse, we still do not know how this type of 3D technology can harm the eyes. What we do know is for children 6 and under, they do not have the capabilities to see the 3D effects and if they try to view the 3D, it can potentially harm their eyes. Say what? So Nintendo expects parents to purchase a device that can ruin their kids' eyesight? What is worse, everytime I have sat down to play the 3DS, I get a horrible headache lasting for hours. These play sessions do not even last for 30 minutes. 

Lets take the potential health risks and headaches out of the equation. 3D is a gimmick Hollywood is trying to force on us to go to the theaters. 3D is a gimmick Sony is trying to use to make the PlayStation 3 stand out. 3D is something consumers do not want. Our eyes are not meant to see in this way and we should be focussing on other areas to improve gameplay instead of re-releasing old games with new, shiny 3D effects. 

Not since the days of Nintendo blindly going with cartridges, with the Nintendo 64, and the horrible Virtual Boy technology has Nintendo found themselves in a place completely out of touch with what the consumer wants. The failure at maintaining the Wii console with software years into its life and now forcing a dangerous, and costly, 3D technology on consumers is pushing Nintendo to record-losses and scrambling to stay relevant. I am sorry but a massive dropping of the 3DS price, further alienating your most devoted fans, has done nothing to confirm: the D in 3DS means Disaster.

The solution? How about releasing a new handheld, the 2DS with a lower price, better battery life, and release good games that all ages can play. Then you might be able to salvage this generation of handhelds before you are forced to go the way of Sega as a Third Party Publisher.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 07/29/11

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