It was a tall order for Nintendo to produce a sufficient successor to the best selling games system the Nintendo DS. Last year they bet their cards on 3D to revolutionise mobile gaming and solely 3D.
We already had 4 versions of the DS and I think the ‘DS’ Brand name has maxed out its potential. It is now no longer unique in the world of gadgets where multitouch capacative screen is the norm on all mobile devices and the humble stylus with a resistive screen now seems out dated. Archaic even. Add to this; the design of the console is no different to that of a DSI and to the average consumer this does not look like a new device but simply an evolutionary upgrade. Furthermore, considering that ‘DS’ is used in the brand name this only adds to confusion. The price £220 on release and the woeful battery life only add further pressure to the 3DS not succeeding not to mention the anaemic release schedule. Consumers aren’t stupid and will not pay double the price for a device that isn’t much difference to a DS. Yes the new Nintendo 3DS does have a slide pad; yes it does have a larger screen; yes it does have a gyroscopic sensor and renders games in full stereoscopic glasses free 3D. We were promised a varied amount of passive content being wirelessly delivered to our consoles. But in reality all we have gotten so far is some rubbish magic trick videos, music videos by an unknown band and Oscar Oasis (which is rubbish but each to their own). I would have much preferred passive downloads of game trailers, demos and 3D film trailers. Streetpass was fun while it lasted but has not been refreshed or updated with new content. It’s as though Nintendo has gone to sleep.
In August 2011 we received a price drop where the Nintendo 3DS could be picked up for a limited time low price of £110 if you shopped around. But this was to clear the initial batch of stock which was lingering around Nintendo’s distribution centre unsold. Granted it has gone up in price a little since then hovering around £125-140. Now we are seeing that the 3DS has double its sales and looks to be back on course for now.
What surprises me is that the DSI was still selling reasonably well; understandably it was near to the end of its lifespan but there was no panic button for Nintendo to release the 3DS early and could have instead dropped the existing DSI prices further to boost sales. This release seems out of character for Nintendo who have never in their history rushed a console for a quick release. I can only imagine that the pressure was exerted from their shareholders (who are notably richer since 2004) and the press being negative towards Nintendo and urging them to release a new handheld console to compete with Ipod/Iphone type devices. Which in my opinion is a different market altogether.
I think the Nintendo 3DS hardware needed to be more radical rather than evolutionary. Basically, Nintendo needed to rethink and redefine the mobile console gaming space completely and released a console which was future proof for the next five years similar to the DS and Gameboy. Maybe they should have got rid of the bottom screen and bit the bullet by making the console both 3D and multitouch on the same screen. Also, adding a second analog stick for 3D specific games would have done wonders. Multi touch use for games that require it without 3D. Removed the cheapo rubbish CMOS cameras to save on costs – apart from the AR cards this feature has not been supported that well. Released an eShop with a three tier approach for cheap budget games, virtual console and full retail games. Supporting MP3 files for music and allowing an open source media player such as VLC. Better online support and obviously a new brand name. There also, needed to be a new way to interact with the device which both Nintendo and Sony have failed on in both the 3DS and NGP and they do not improve what the mobile phone devices offer currently.
On top of this a Slider pad peripheral has been rearing its ugly head on the internet; this basically adds a second analog stick to the device and appears to turn your square 3DS into a GameGear of sorts. What isn’t clear as of yet is whether this is a compulsory upgrade for us early adopters and Nintendo admitting that their console wasn’t quite ready for launch. Or whether it has been created specifically to use with Monster Hunter which is awful to play with one analog stick. Admittedly I am open to the idea of adding a second analog stick and it does make a lot of sense but not at the expense of adding extra weight, dimensions and destroying the aesthetic of my 3DS.
This past year has shown me evidence that Nintendo are struggling in this new age where there is a heavy reliance on third party software. A lot of the Nintendo franchises have been milked to death and there doesn’t look to be anything revolutionary coming from Nintendo HQ. I guess it is sign of the times the market is very segregated and fickle at the same time. Maybe Nintendo need to work more closely with third parties and hand over more of their franchises or initiate the creation of new franchises which they aren’t able to support in-house.
I love my 3DS to bits and I do see the value in 3D and playing Ocarina of time only verifies that this is the future but I think the console needed to up its game. There are whispers of a redesigned console which will be a slap in the office for anyone who has bought the console thus far. Let’s hope it is not true and that Nintendo focusses its efforts on producing great software and reasons to own and buy the console in the first place much like the original DS. For better or worse the hardware has been released and unique content is the only thing that matters.