Can Nintendo save the 3DS and revive their industry presence?

The 3DS has had a troubling life thus far, but can Nintendo put it back on the straight and narrow with their forthcoming releases?

Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS

Six months ago, Nintendo released their revolutionary new system – the 3DS. Six months on, Nintendo have seen record losses, and the 3DS is gradually losing its market relevance, slipping into the cemetery of console failures alongside Panasonic’s infamous attempt at a console, the 3DO. With a currently bland, small selection of titles, and not too many more planned for the future, can Nintendo save the 3DS, and, with their WiiU on the horizon, revive their historical industry presence?

The Support – Customers & Developers

First unveiled at E3 2010, Nintendo’s 3DS was swamped with publicity, and the buzz surrounding it was something the industry hadn’t experienced in a long while. Articles rapidly appeared online – previews, reports, and just generally ‘hyping’ the console, including one of our own which rather focused on the negative side of things, and in hindsight, summed up just how the 3DS would flop.

During their keynote, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata of course focused on the console’s USP – its unique glasses-less 3D. At the time, it seemed amazing, showered with praise by most press, but fast forward to now, and it’s probably the gamer’s most hated feature. “It detracts from the experience” say the majority, and in a recent Japanese survey, only 22% of owners felt that the 3D effect added to the experience, with 13% admitting to playing with the 3D turned off completely.

I am a part of the 3D loving minority, and fully support 3D gaming. I believe that it holds so much potential; potential that Nintendo are still yet to fully utilise. Take a look at Ocarina of Time, an absolute classic, regarded among gamers as one of the best games ever created. Transfer that experience into the new handheld, greatly improve the graphics, UI, and controls, and then add a 3D filter; the product is the game the 3DS had been waiting for.

Ocarina of Time 3D on 3DS

The 3D effects in OoT 3D were absolutely stunning, and instead of detracting from the experience, the 3D made it that much better. The game’s vast meadows and gorgeously crafted scenery are given a third dimension, one that generously enhances the gameplay for myself. I can’t imagine playing without it turned on. However, OoT 3D is really the only game which makes good use of the 3D, other titles like launch titles – Steel Diver and Super Monkey Ball use it as a gimmick, rather like modern films, forcing the effect upon them when it doesn’t necessarily benefit from it. And in my experience, they really don’t.

But in the coming months, in-house Nintendo developed titles (first-party) for the 3DS begin to slowly release, and the success of these could seriously determine the consoles relevance in the future. If they succeed, Nintendo should finally realise that their in-house created games are the best the console will get, surely attracting more consumers to the console. As popularity then may soar, more third parties are attracted, in turn creating more games, more peripherals, more everything; making the 3DS a more viable option for any gamer. But fail, and it’ll be the complete opposite, third parties will be repelled, sales with plummet, and the console could soon become obsolete. – That is what I am afraid of. After pouring the initial £220 into the console, I want to be able to play it, and I want to be able to buy new games for it. Not only that, but I love the console itself, and genuinely want it to succeed, and its true potential to be unlocked.

The Future

Now there’s some hope in the near future for the 3DS, with Nintendo’s classic console-selling games being released. I’m talking about Super Mario 3D Land (November) and Mario Kart 7 (December). Nintendo’s flagship brands often rake in the sales, which is why the 3DS launch was so flawed; it didn’t see any of Nintendo’s stellar games being released on the console. The closest we got was Pilotwings, but really, who enjoyed that? If Nintendo had delayed the 3DS’ release date in order to release alongside one of their signature games, like Ocarina of Time 3D, it’s almost certain that the 3DS would’ve gotten a totally different reception.

The way I see it, if Nintendo had used their common sense instead of defying their past rules for success, and released it this way, the sales would’ve been much, much higher, third parties would take more interest, and decide to develop titles for the console, and, the unfortunate price drop would never had occurred. The console’s failure is all down to its greatly flawed launch.

3DS Launch Games

But SM3DL and MK7 could all fix the mess Nintendo created, with three major titles then on the console, and another (Kid Icarus) coming early next year, those people who have been holding out on the console will be convinced to pick one up. Just in time for Christmas too, many parents will be happy to pick up the console boasting new versions of the family-friendly games they grew up with. Then with this success, more games would surely come, in turn making the console relevant again, to any gamer, hardcore or casual.

In the unlikely event that this should this fail, then Nintendo will need to consider new ideas to avert a crisis within the company. There’s the WiiU coming next year, but with Nintendo again risking success for innovation, can it do well, or is it too little too late? Especially with reports of nothing going right in the console’s development, could it even live up to its amazing E3 demo? I think not.

The Competition

Then there’s the competition to think of. Sony’s Playstation Vita will be launching early next year, set to rival the 3DS in every way. Flaunting better graphics, better features, more capabilities etc. etc. just excluding the 3D. Despite that, the 3DS / Vita rivalry is a battle I can’t see lasting long. The Vita comes at a time when everyone’s bored of what’s already in the market, waiting on the next generation of gaming. All the Vita is, rather than being revolutionary, is a more advanced PSP; a console most are already content with. At a price point over 1/3 times higher than the 3DS (£229) just for the Wi-Fi version, and an extra £50 for 3G capabilities, it’s way out of the price range for most gamers, including myself. And so I see it as no competition for the 3DS, which has already established a market, however small it may be. In times of economic hardship, most won’t be able to afford it, and releasing after Christmas, Sony will miss out on a lot of possible sales. Then come next year, parents will have already bought their kids a new handheld, so why would they need another?

Playstation Vita

What’s Next?

Now after their slew of failures, incoming Vita rivalry, and a sudden share drop after the 3DS price reduction, investors are angry, and want Nintendo to make some changes in order to make some money. Most are readily demanding that Nintendo enter the mobile market, bringing Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong classics to the handheld systems. “Smartphones are the new battlefield for the gaming industry” says fund manager Masamitsu Ohki. That statement is an insult. In my eyes, anyone considering smartphones as a platform for the gaming industry is seriously delusional; and anyone playing smartphone games and considering themselves a gamer saddens me. The mobile industry is not a part of the gaming industry, at all. How can something like Cut the Rope be on the same level as groundbreaking games like Microsoft’s Gears of War 3?

Everyone knows that when Nintendo creates a game, the sure don’t do it by halves. Every single first-party title Nintendo releases is of the highest quality, and I can safely admit that I’ve never played a bad Nintendo developed game. Entering the mobile market is the most degrading things Nintendo could possibly do, reducing their ever-amazing standards into cheap 99 pence apps. It’s just not on. And if Nintendo listened to their investors, and joined the likes of Angry Birds in the app market, they’d gain their support, but fully lose mine.

My verdict is that the 3DS still has a long life ahead of it, and with Nintendo releasing their prestigious games in the coming months, sales and players are sure to greatly pickup. Vita stands as no competition towards the more affordable and family friendly 3DS, and it’s sure to be even more of a flop than the 3DS is at this moment. I can’t see Nintendo’s WiiU being a big success, but even still, Nintendo shouldn’t be encouraged to enter the mobile market. A company renowned for its near-perfect games shouldn’t accept that level of degradation.