Something has been striking me odd about the whole launch of the 3DS. I’m looking around me, on the net and otherwise, and awareness for this system is almost nil. I remember of course the original DS coming and not making a real splash, but lets face it, it was pretty much garbage. Things have changed since then. There have been numerous iterations of the DS, of which we all know, but the point stands that the DS is the best-selling system of all time. It is currently hovering around 140 Million units sold. That is incredible! However, it seems that Nintendo got cocky about it, just like what happened to the PS2.
The PS2 was outrageously successful (138 Million units sold), and was bested in sales by only… that’s right, the DS, and to follow the unbelievable success they released a real flop. Sure it was shiny and fast, but it was way too overpriced, and too many people said I’ll just stick with what I’ve got for now. Of course, the PS3 has moved on to be a fairly successful venture for Sony, but it has taken 5 years for goodness sake! Now, for whatever reason, the same problem is hitting the 3DS.
My best intuition says it is a combination of the price being far too expensive for parents to justify for their kids, and exceedingly poor awareness. Even here in my little bubble, no one knows about the 3DS. I asked some kids about it, and they said they had never even heard of it, and when I explained it to them, they had a hard time understanding that it was an altogether new system. I asked my Brother, and my office assistant at work, she had no clue, and my brother thought it was also just an iteration of the DS! This seems a remarkably poor launch indeed. Nintendo is claiming that it has been the most successful launch of a handheld for them. This strikes as rather dubious statement; the original DS did not have a fantastic launch, nor did the GBA or other iterations of the DS. I’m curious what the numbers are, but I will withhold judgement until then.
I think Nintendos best interests would have been to deliver the console at $199 in June. At that time, there would then have been more launch titles ready (not to mention having an online store at launch) to sink your teeth into. $250 is just too bitter a pill to swallow. We all saw that the PS3 did not begin its rally until it reached half of its launch price! Frankly, I would not have bought one myself if I did not conveniently have $200 in store credit at Best Buy.
After all of these mediocre review scores of both the hardware and software, the press is not getting any better for the system. I had seen a few commercials prior to launch, which would help the average consumer become aware of the 3DS, but they were not clear messages on what it was; there was no clear wording about the 3DS being the “Next Generation”. It is almost like Nintendo cried wolf too many times with all the different versions of the DS, and now parents who see the 3DS probably just roll their eyes thinking it’s all the same. Of course, kids will bring them to school, and all their friends will eventually start begging their parents. At that point (when the awareness finally does take hold in a few months by word of mouth) the high price tag will squelch the enthusiasm right out of parents desire to surprise their kids.
I know people keep drilling the “severe economic times” into your brain, but the fact is people now earn less money, spend more on gas, food, taxes and essentially everything else. In my mind, there is no chance that Nintendo will meet the target they announced of selling more units than the DS. However, there is no denying that when it comes to handhelds (and even the Wii this generation), Nintendo is the master of the “Slow Burn”. How often is there a product that has more sales year over year, in spite of the fact that with each passing year it is even further technologically outdated? The DS did just that, and even all the preceding Game Boys had the same effect. I just for some reason feel that Nintendo has bitten off just a little too much with this one. I don’t even want to get into the argument about the mobile phone aspect of why the 3DS might fail (I use the term loosely), but I do want to say that I for one quite like my 3DS so far. I had a lot of play time on the ol’ DS Lite. Between its long list of unique games, the dual screens and the unique combination of touch and button inputs, I found the DS to be a tremendously rewarding purchase. I look forward to a long relationship with my 3DS, and I have every reason to want it to succeed, but that does not stop me from having my doubts.