The Nintendo 3DS has had a tough few months, there’s no denying it. Released back in March at a high price, in a post holiday period during a time when the retail environment was (and still is) struggling, it was realistically never going to set cash registers on fire. Add to this stumbling block a muted advertising presence and a severe lack of quality games and you have a recipe for, if not disaster, then at least severe disappointment.
When you factor in the more recent announcements of game delays and cancellations, and the ‘Save Gate’ saga (where certain games are limited to a single save game to prevent pre-owned sales) things certainly weren’t looking rosy for our glasses-free friend. Nintendo were always going to struggle with selling the concept of a 3D handheld though, and they really haven’t got anyone else to blame for its problems than itself. 3D is a difficult sell, just because it literally is something you have to experience for yourself. As impressive as the effect is, it isn’t ever going to compete with a proper 3D movie in a theater, and even that is something that people are starting to tire of. Nintendo may also have shot themselves in the foot with their release of multiple DS systems over the years; with the very similar design shown in their latest console, buyers seem confused that it isn’t just another version of the same machine they already own and is probably collecting dust, particularly if they can’t see the 3D aspect in operation during a TV advert or billboard.
So we should all write off the 3DS then? Save our money for the powerhouse that will surely be the Playstation Vita and file the idea in the same paper bin as the Virtual Boy, right? Not so fast, particularly with some of todays announcements, Nintendo seems to have genuinely turned a corner.
Let’s address some of those earlier concerns then, and see what the big N is doing to rectify them. Firstly the price; $250 (or currency equivalent) is a lot of money for anyone, and in the shadow of Sony’s price announcement it seems very overpriced for what is a graphical step up from the old DS and PSP, but still not a particular powerful piece of kit. With the announcement that around a third of the price will be shaved off in each territory in the next few weeks, suddenly the 3DS is much more of an impulse buy, and brings it in range of birthday and Christmas presents for many more households. Nintendo hasn’t forgotten to pacify existing owners either, and its doubtful whether even the tightest of early adopters will feel short-changed by their generous gift of ten NES games and ten Gameboy Advance games which will be free and exclusive to download.
The advertising seems to have stepped up a gear as well, at least within the UK, where the latest TV spot aims to show much more of the graphical abilities of the console and highlights its differences from the DS. Several games are shown like Super Street Fighter IV and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D with Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D providing an impressive glimpse of what’s to come. The lack of coverage given to big titles on the way like Star Fox 3D and Kid Icarus provide a happy indication that more adverts like this may be on their way, to big-up the price drop and introduce the system into people’s heads before the holiday purchasing period.
Onto the games then. If you bought your 3DS way back in March you may have been using your shiny new system as a particularly useful door stop. That is until Ocarina of Time 3D was released, following which it was probably glued to your hand for a good few weeks. Since then the game release calendar has slowed somewhat, but there is still a very impressive list of titles on the way before the end of the year. Kid Icarus, Star Fox 3D and the newly renamed Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land are all promised in the next four months and promise to be triple A quality. Bring in the list of games for early next year including Metal Gear and Resident Evil titles along with franchises like Kingdom Hearts on the horizon, and suddenly things seem rosier.
So did the 3DS launch about six months too early? Yes, I think that’s pretty fair to say. Will it be worth forking out for one now the price has come down? I personally think that’s a definite and I for one will be looking for a pre-christmas deal of around £150 hopefully with one of the above mentioned games included. There are enough titles now for me either available or announced to make owning the system well worth it for the new price, regardless of whether the Vita is also worth saving for. All we need now are a few more forthcoming game announcements like F-Zero, a 2D Mario platformer or Metroid and the 3DS will be well on its way to living up to its potential.