Lessons To Learn From The 3DS Launch

By now you’ve all heard how the 3DS failed to meet Nintendo’s sales expectations during the launch month.  Instead of writing an article bashing Nintendo or starting a flame war, I thought it would be fun to analyze where Nintendo veered off track.

To begin with the 3DS has only been on the market for a handful of weeks, and yet the system has yet to hit the four million mark, as revealed by Mr. Iwata during Nintendo’s conference call to investors.  He said it was because of a lack of vision, people being confused with the technology, and a series of other references.  They’re all logical, but truth be told…not the whole picture.

I fail to see how people are looking at the 3DS and not realizing it has the ability to increase or decrease the level of 3D being displayed with a switch on the side of the device.  Has our society really become that degenerate that we need to be told to look at the device and figure out how it works?  I mean the 3DS was built to be simple to use from day one.

The real reason why the 3DS hasn’t been as successful as Nintendo had hoped is because of the same reasons the PS3 wasn’t an overnight sensation.  Wait a second; the PS3 was an instant selling success.  It only had problems slightly later on.  What were those problems though?  Oh that’s right, a high price point and lack of software.  Hmm, interesting isn’t it?  So let’s zero in on those two areas.

The 3DS has an asking price of $250USD, and while expensive for a Nintendo portable, $250 isn’t going to break the bank.  That said, the Wii itself can be easily had for around $170.  Hmm.  See where I’m going with this?  Right now, given the software that’s currently available, yes, the 3DS is being looked at as overpriced.  Is that wrong, no, it isn’t.  Anyone who says otherwise isn’t looking at the current situation.  What exactly are you playing on your $250 portable?  Yeah, that’s what I thought, not much.

Is this really worth $250?

The main problem though isn’t so much the price as I said before.  I’ll admit that all new hardware is expensive because the technology inside isn’t cheap.  The reason we spend the additional funds is because of the software we can only play on this new bad boy.  That’s the 3DS’ main problem right now.  I headed over to my local game shop the other day just to see what is currently available and to be frank, there wasn’t a single game that interested me.  You know that I currently don’t have time for portables outside of my iPhone, but I was taking this very serious.  I wanted to see what I would purchase if I was going to buy the system today.  The answer was, I wouldn’t purchase the system based off the games I saw.

Does the future look any brighter for the 3DS?  Yes, it sure does.  Every third party in the world has expressed interest in developing for the machine, but most of those games are still months if not years away from release.  Even Nintendo isn’t going to release all new games for some time.  They have an enhanced port/remake of Starfox coming, they’ve got Ocarina of Time, but the new Super Mario Bros. is over a year out.  While I’d love to play Zelda again, am I really going to dish out another $250 to play a game I have completed 45 times already?  New features, 3D and alternate dungeons included.  The answer is likely no, but then again I am a diehard fan so who knows.

The point here is that Nintendo either got cocky or they simply overlooked the problems Sony had with the early PlayStation 3 days.  I was hoping we wouldn’t ever have to relive those days again, but here we are several years later and once again a publisher has released a new piece of hardware with no software and a high price tag.

Now this is more like it! If this were a Project Café launch title I'd buy it right away.

Nintendo had better be taking notes because now that we know Project Café is coming out next year, the company has a heck of a lot of work ahead of it.  While the 3DS will surely catch on once more software is available, Nintendo could make their next machine a hit from day one if they just price it right and release at least one killer app on launch day.  Will they get lucky with another Wii Sports, maybe, but is that a chance they’re willing to take?  They need something big to attract all those interested.  Pilot Wings just isn’t going to cut it.

So where do you stand in all of this?  Surely you must agree that the 3DS currently has a very weak line-up of titles, but it will improve in the coming months.  Do you agree that Nintendo had better learn from the 3DS’ mistakes and put more emphasis on the launch of their next console instead of simply waiting for people to get attracted to it?  Whatever you have to say, let us know!  We’re always looking for potential arguments ;)

9 thoughts on “Lessons To Learn From The 3DS Launch”

  1. I will need some education here. What hardware launch has ever been blockbuster thanks to at least one game? I don’t count the Wii because Wii Sports was a pack-in, and Twilight Princess just an enhanced port. There’s probably been at least one…but I guess my point is that they’re likely few and far between. Rare even.

    That’s the case here, no? And what about the original DS? Wasn’t it the exact case for that machine? It had what…some stupid Rub Rabbits game, the Yoshi things, and a few other times. Nothing ground-breaking, but a couple releases that did an interesting job showcasing touch control in videogames.

    Well, now we have the 3DS. Street Fighter IV apparently has nice effects, those AR card things I guess are neat, and there’s probably one other game at least that’s interesting.

    I guess my main hesitation to pick up this system is simply because 3D isn’t a huge attraction to me. I don’t think it’s capable of completely changing how you play games, just a neat idea. I’m more interested in more fleshed out experiences that do utilize the 3D well…but I can’t see games being built around the mechanic. Then again, I’m not a developer, so who am I? :P

    I may pick one up at $199 and there are at least five worthwhile games to own :)

    1. I think the original Xbox launch was pretty much successful solely thanks to Halo. The other games in the launch lineup were decent, but forgettable. Dead or Alive 3 was great and all, but not a system seller. The 360 had a pretty lacking launch, and the PS3 didn’t really have any games I wanted right away either. I find it kind of amusing that what I consider to be the best launch line up of all time was for a failed system, the Dreamcast (and I’m sure this comment will enrage a Dreamcast fan who is mad I dared to call it a failure).

      I think there have been many times when the games didn’t quite make it to launch, though the system managed to do well. The PlayStation 2 had a horrible launch lineup. But it sold well on: the hype leading up the launch, the inclusion of a DVD player, backwards compatibility with PS1 games, and the promise of good games. With the 3DS, I see a lot of potential for great games, and we already know they are coming…and soon. In May and June, we’ll see Dead or Alive Dimensions, BlazBlue Continuum Shift II, Cave Story 3D, Resident Evil Mercenaries 3D, Ocarina of Time, Devil Survivor Overclock, and more. And I’m willing to bet we’ll see much more around E3.

      The 3D effect isn’t really the major focus for me, I don’t see it as a “game changer,” but a game enhancer. I went into the system moreso because of the promise of great games, because the DS is one of my all time favorite game systems–it has an amazing library of excellent stuff. And we’re already seeing some interesting tidbits of games that may come, like High-Voltage showcasing Conduit 2 running on 3DS, or tri-Ace’s new RPG Beyond the Labyrinth.

  2. My point was that most console launches have at least one AAA or marketed AAA release which enable around a month of solid sales. For the Wii is was Twilight Princess which was released before the GCN version remember. So that was a huge release for Nintendo and carried them until the casual market freaked out over Wii Sports. PS3 had Resistance, and even though people hate to admit it the 360 had Kameo and PD0. My point is that the 3DS has literally had no AAA or even marketed AAA release from anyone. The first week sales were incredible, then they tapered off the second week and by the third week the system was easily found in every local game shop. Nintendo really needed something marketable for the launch, which they just didn’t have.

    Moving forward that won’t be an issue, but it is something they need to be mindful of with the launch of their next console. It’s also something that everyone should pay attention to in terms of their next hardware.

    1. Hmm… Resistance I’ll acknowledge for the PS3, but I thought the 360’s launch was pretty well crap too. PD0 did not follow-up the original very well, but obviously sold well because it was a shooter with a Starburst chick on the cover. Kameo I didn’t hear many good things about either. If anything, Condemned was probably the best launch title for that platform.

      Your comment about marketing is what strikes me though, as that’s really what makes a launch game “AAA”. It’s simply impossible to have an incredible launch title because companies need more time to learn the ins and outs of the hardware. Marketing is what made launch games like Luigi’s Mansion, PD0 and Resistance push consoles.

      3DS will obviously pick up holiday 2011, when there probably will be at least five games worthwhile to play. As for the Stream, there should be at least one major Nintendo franchise ready at launch. I honestly hope it’s not Skyward Sword though…that I think would be a cop-out. Twilight Princess was great for Wii, but nothing more than a GameCube game with waggle. I also think with a fall 2012 launch, there will be at least one major third party property ready as well. Grand Theft Auto V? Perhaps :P

      1. I’ve been thinking the same thing Justin, about GTA V. I’m hoping we can get an original first party Nintendo offering that truly shows what this new system is capable of.

        I agree that marketing is the main tool these companies use to determine their overall status. Halo 2 was marketed like crazy and even though it sure had it’s share of faults is considered a modern day classic. Funny how that works.

        Speaking of Luigi’s Mansion, I winder if we’ll ever see something like that again. That was a fun little title.

  3. I do think 3.6 million units worldwide is a success. I have no idea why Nintendo projected 4 million and people are making a big deal out of it being 400000 short. It’s no flop, considering the somewhat lackluster launch line-up. I believe that the reason why it’s commonly found in stores is because Nintendo finally (FINALLY) stepped up production. Did you know that the 3DS is the first Nintendo product to have an official launch in the Middle East? Yes, we finally have a distributor for Nintendo products here. Previously, the Middle East imported from the US and the prices were easily double. Now that we have our own production line (our versions of the consoles are distributed from Japan), there’s no problem in finding Nintendo consoles here.

    Here’s the thing though, Nintendo has never had an impressive handheld launch. The last and only decent one is the debut of the Game Boy Classic with Mario Land and Tetris. Game Boy Color had crap, Game Boy Advance had a Mario 2 port, Nintendo DS had a Mario 64 port and a few gems (WarioWare, Feel the Magic). The 3DS “launch” titles are looking impressive already, especially with powerful 3rd party support compared to the previous handhelds.

    Nintendo has been smart with the 3DS launch approach as they’ve appropriately named it a “launch window” to hide any flaws. Smart gamers like us know it’s a PR spin, but it’s still better than nothing. The gaping flaw, as with most of Nintendo’s handheld launches, is the overabundance of enhanced ports. I expected it. I mean come on who hasn’t? It’s been a trend for so long now. At least we’re getting ports of good games though, not crappy ones. Glad Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64 are being revived again. Super Street Fighter IV is a shining example of how powerful the system is, even though it offers just about nothing different from its console brethren.

    So my conclusion? While the lack of powerful launch titles may have affected the 3DS launch, it’s not the major reason why it’s not selling as much. Launch titles have always been flimsy, and appreciating them is just a matter of taste which is why I’m not hating on you for bashing its supposed weak line-up. You do bring up a good point about its price comparison to the Wii though. I can see why this may scare away gamers. Also, I’m sort of with Nintendo when they’re saying maybe the 3D buzz isn’t appealing enough….not because of the fact people don’t know how to use the slider, but because the general audience may not appreciate it or get the most out of it. The E3 positive reception may have made Nintendo a bit too confident about it. The whole, “keeping a specific distance” and “not tilting your 3DS” may just be enough obstacles to turn people off.

    The only way we may get Nintendo to launch a handheld with AAA titles is if that the competition is threatening enough. Sony, while being the closest one to step it with Nintendo, isn’t threatening. Their next handheld, the NGP, isn’t threatening too because it’s going to go for double the price of the 3DS at launch despite having excellent features. So, if the competition isn’t threatening, then what better way to crush it by launching ahead and get developers and gamers to appreciate its features? We have the debut of the 3DS e-Shop next month which is going to be exciting!

    Finally, in terms of consoles, I wholeheartedly believe that Project Cafe will have an excellent launch. It’s because console are in a whole different league compared to the handheld market. Nintendo knows this. The competition knows this. You just can’t compare between the two. My wish is to have Skyward Sword ported to the new console, just like what happened with Twilight Princess. Because of that title alone, the Wii’s launch was a smashing success. A late 2011 debut of Skyward Sword on the Wii only would be a shame as the console’s time is up. There are other games Nintendo can push on the Wii, like Xenoblade and The Last Story.

  4. You say a lot of interesting stuff there Ahmed. I think the only reason why people are actually reporting on this news is because Nintendo hasn’t known anything but overnight success since around the launch of the Wii. The DS wasn’t perceived as the winner in the DS versus PSP, which is why the sales were slow at launch. The DS Lite was a huge success though, from day 1. Nintendo, and most of the industry thought the same would be true of the 3DS, that it would have a great launch week, and then it would continue to sell from one week to the next, but the sales have indeed slowed down significantly since the launch week. Last week, for example it’s estimated that the 3DS moved under 50,000 units, which is surprising for this being the next Nintendo machine post Wii, that is entirely new.

    The launch software is clearly what’s affecting the sales at this point, and the fact there’s very little incentive for the casual base to purchase the upgrade. That said, Nintendo’s hardcore market is always there so this is likely another reason why so many are surprised the numbers aren’t over 100,000 a week. No don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying the system is doomed, I’m simply stating what everyone in the industry is seeing right now, that the software lineup is extremely bleak and that the price of the machine are both compiling to give Nintendo a harder than expecting time moving consoles. They made something like 8 million of these things, which means the supply far outweighs the demand right now.

    Sony’s going to have a whole set of other problems when they launch the NGP. Not the least of which is price and software as well. The iPhone and Android-based phones are also playing havoc with what people expect to pay for portable gaming. I mean $1 for a game is pretty darn cheap when it offers 30 hours of gameplay, no matter how primitive it looks. Know what I mean?

    We’ll be able to gauge the situation a bit better by December once some really big games hit, but I am curious to see if the new smartphone market is having any affect on what Nintendo is trying to do in terms of positioning the 3DS. Right now I doubt it, but as I said, we’ll know soon enough.

    You should really write an article on your thoughts of the system Ahmed. You picked one up if I’m not mistaken so tell the world your thoughts on the hardware and what you picked up alongside the machine and why you decided to buy one so early. If nothing else, I want to know :-P

  5. Well to tell you the truth the 3DS is worht enough getting fo ghost recon shadow wars IMHO, the game is a hidden gem, i like a lot, a mixture between valkyria chronicles, advance wars and fire emblem a little bit.

    And i think the Ds its predecesor didnt sold that well in the first year, but o boy how that thing picked steam,therefore i think the same will be happening again.

    For me the best launch games were luigis mansion, halo, ghost recon shadow wars and kameo even if some dont like this game i did like it a lot

  6. The original DS took off the minute Nintendogs hit the market. That’s when everyone and their mother (literally) starting to pay attention to the system. Before that everyone thought the PSP was going to crush the DS. That completely turned on its head within a few months of both systems being on the market.

    This time around the industry as a whole figured Nintendo would have virtual sellouts from day 1 simply because there’s no competition, and they have so much developer support. This why why everyone was rather shocked to hear that sales haven’t gone as smoothly as Nintendo intended, and have actually slowed to a crawl this past week.

    The future is clearly bright as those developers will eventually release their goods, but the point I’m making here is that industry professionals should understand that without a good strong library of titles, an expensive platform can’t just explode onto the market.

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