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PING/PONG: The Pros and Cons of Nintendo’s 3DS
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PING/PONG: The Pros and Cons of Nintendo’s 3DS

How will the 3DS survive the competition and is Nintendo doing all right things to make sure it does? We dissect Nintendo’s strategy from A to Z.

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On Wednesday, January 19th, 2011, Nintendo finally set the official North American release date of their upcoming handheld, the 3DS. The next-generation of their DS line, which has become the best-selling gaming console of all time, will debut into retail markets on March 27th at the price of $250 ($249.99 if you want to be particular). In this edition of PING/PONG, windbags John Lucas and Mr. Universal will run their mouths ‘til Armageddon on what they think about Nintendo’s strategy for their new handheld and what it could mean for the future of the mobile gaming industry.

Get ready for a wonderful whirlwind of words as our resident bloviating blowhards test the very limits of word counts and visceral verbosity; survive to the end and you’ll win a prize – you get to survive!

Nintendo’s 3DS – First Thoughts


Well first off, let’s talk about the price. No need to beat around the bush with this. It’s steep in my opinion. I’m not liking that price. I didn’t like the DSi’s price (original OR XL) when they released. Nintendo has always been a budget-conscious company and have always priced their systems fairly for most customers. In the past couple of years they have been slowly getting away from that mentality and I think that’s troubling. People’s personal economics here and around the world are constrained. It makes sense to keep things more affordable than not in this day and age. Even if the tech inside the 3DS is more expensive to produce, Nintendo should have at least added value to that $250 sticker price with a packed-in game or two. This $250 price for a standalone 3DS reminds me of the Nintendo 64 which had no game packed-in at launch. And I don’t have to tell you how eerie that comparison feels.

I’m not about to start telling Nintendo what they should/shouldn’t be pricing their own tech (I’m not really up on my component-pricing knowledge), but I agree with you they seem to have missed the boat by failing to add extra value in the pack-in department. I think we all expected the $249 sticker-price, to be honest, but I also think we expected them to offset it with software. Hey, even I had my fingers crossed for a little Pilotwings 3DS out-of-the box action!

Let’s not forget this is the company that practically defined the whole “pack-in” philosophy in the past; NES/Super Mario Bros, Wii/Wii Sports, heck, even the original DS with a Metroid Prime: Hunters demo. Iterations of their download-friendly DSi even came loaded with digital vouchers for some choice software via the DSiWare Store. $249 for a console-only package that’s more than capable of instant added-value through software downloads seems a strategic misstep to me. Maybe they’ll change this before its release or sometime just after; it wouldn’t be the first time they did something like that.

I’m hoping that they will change this before the launch 2 months from now. Maybe this PING/PONG article would help that come about (ha!). But I highly doubt they could change so close to launch especially when Japan gets this on February 26th. That’s little over a month away and only 2 months away from our launch. The packages must be printed, painted up, packed in warehouses, shipped by water and/or air, trucked across the country and stocked in backrooms of retailers. That takes time to set up those logistics so it looks like this is the final deal unless they push back the launch somehow.

Pilotwings Resort would have made a WONDERFUL choice for a pack-in! It just doesn’t make any sense from the company with untold riches from 2 mega-hit console lines, Wii and DS. They have the money to make this a sure buy, an out-of-the-box success. They have the momentum from their winning DS line. Last generation success always has some carry over to the next one. But system price isn’t my only concern. I’m also worried about software pricing. Word has it that the games are going to cost between $40 and $50 ($39.99/$49.99). That’s not gonna cut it when Apple is disrupting the entire game retail business model with their cheapo deals. What do you have to say about that?

I love Super Street Fighter IV. I loved the game when it first came out last year for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and I even loved its (comparatively) low price of $39; which was a cool ⅔ the cost of most games on the HD Twins. But I don’t know how much I’ll love having to pay another $39 to play the game again, even in 3D; a price which is, sadly, ⅓ more than most games on the standard DS. Say what you will will about ‘higher tech, higher price’, but I see a nasty trend starting to form with most 3DS software.

Apart from our World Warrior friends, I’m also eyeballing Dead or Alive: Dimensions, Resident Evil (Mercenaries and Revelations), and others; the 3DS looks to become a dumping ground for fast ‘n easy ports from what has been traditionally more powerful home console tech; we saw this happen last with Sony’s PSP. Even Nintendo’s first-party titles seem to follow this port-tastic trend, with ‘new’ versions of Zelda, Animal Crossing, Paper Mario, etc., which I suppose is fair as that’s how they helped launch the original DS back in 2004. The 3DS’s predecessor may have eventually found its footing with platform-centric hits like Brain Age and Nintendogs (ones that took full advantage of its dual-screens and touch controls), but I can’t help wondering if simply having – or adding – ‘3D’ to the mix will be enough to encourage the same level of creativity and diversity that helped the company stave off its most serious handheld competitor, the PSP. What do you think?

Ha ha ha. Given all the fanfare at E3 2010 about Nintendo’s 3DS software lineup, I think it would funny if ‘3rd Party Support’ was just ‘3rd Party Port’. Hahahahaha! It makes me laugh just writing this. I don’t think the 3rd party establishment will ever truly support Nintendo in anything they do given a choice. They were forced to deal with the devil since Nintendo was the only game in town on the handheld front. Sony didn’t focus the PSP right and it didn’t give the 3rd party an out from Nintendo. Apple with all their ‘i’ devices seems to be providing this out and that’s dangerous for Nintendo if they insist on this pricier software range.

I DO think 3D without glasses is a strong selling point and will carry the system. Nintendo has proven from the beginning how they take technology and create imaginative uses out of it. Who’d have thought LCD tech would be so fun if they didn’t come up with the Game & Watch? It will be no different with the 3DS. Combining and improving what they created on the Wii with things they created on the DS will serve the platform well. Integrated motion controls and rumble; analog, digital, and touchscreen control altogether; evolved DS Tag Mode with StreetPass and SpotPass; evolved Mii creator that can auto-create Miis from 3DS photos taken; improved Friend Codes system; and a handheld Virtual Console called the eShop. On top of that backwards compatibility with DS and talk of 3D movies being playable. The system has a lot going for it. They have what it takes to take on Apple’s iGuys but they could be sabotaging themselves with some of their strategy.

I was at E3 last summer and felt the excitement the crowd had for the 3DS; it was electric and one of the purest moments of true electricity I’ve ever experienced for any upcoming product. Now you could say – and you’d make a valid point – that debuting ANY new techno-gadget and/or platform at the world’s biggest game show isn’t always the best way to gage how real humans (i.e. non-hyped gaming press/enthusiasts) will actually take to the hardware. 3D certainly seems to be the ‘tech du jour’ these days, with some pegging glasses-free 3D the industry’s fabled Holy Grail. Who wouldn’t be excited for that? (excepting those heavily-invested in tech requiring those glasses, naturally).

That being said, I’m still left wondering what the handheld’s biggest attraction will be once the 3D wow-factor is over (or supplanted, if the rumors of a 3D-ready PSP2 or next-gen iPhone are true). You make a good point touting the 3DS’s supposed ‘features’, but is there really anything coming that we haven’t seen before? Mii Generation and Virtual Consoles games are nice, but even they reinforce my ‘port’ worry (both being ‘ports’ of Wii console features), while StreetPass and SpotPass sound much like the useless gimmick WiiConnect24 ended up being. Simplified Friends Code are a nice start, but where’s the real innovation? Like them or not, we’ve come to expect a little more forward-thinking from Nintendo; the 3DS seems more reactionary than truly revolutionary.

I think the best comparison to where the gaming industry sees the 3DS would be, as always, the film industry, especially in the whole 3-D department. New films released in the latest iteration of the tech also carry with them a 3D ‘tax’, which helps inflate the revenue. You think Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, or even Tron: Legacy would have raked in as much cash as they had without the added ‘benefit’ of the third-dimension? I suppose you can even make the case that higher-priced tickets may have actually discouraged multiple screenings for others. Whatever the case, I have no doubt that some developers are looking at the 3DS as an easy way to resell older titles, in 3D, and charge for the luxury.

Great point you bring up about 3D being a gimmick to resell what already exists but I think you’re barking up the wrong tree on this one. Remember this is the company that re-sprited its Super Mario Bros. series from the NES and re-released it for the SNES as Super Mario All-Stars. This Super Mario All-Stars being re-released again to Wii unchanged this past Christmas in special ‘25th Anniversary’ packaging (although with a nice little book and audio CD). It’s what they do. We all know this. It’s what anyone would do if they had the legacy to do so.

What’s ironic about Nintendo’s drive about all things 3D is that even THEY warn against the effects of 3D for young children. Children are Nintendo’s bread and butter. Always will be. It’s impressive to me that they would undercut their greatest selling feature before launch while the American Optometric Association THEMSELVES say it’s OK in moderation and can help in detecting hidden vision disorders. Judging from what the optometrists say, this 3D angle may have further reach than you give it credit for. It’s one thing to see a 3D movie one time in the theaters but quite another to see 3D images on a regular basis in play. It’s definitely going to be tech that spreads far outside of gaming. That’s your revolution right there and Nintendo will be first as usual. There was 3D but NINTENDO hadn’t done 3D. 3D glasses were prohibitive but now we really get to see how this tech works. Competitors will only underline what Nintendo pioneered.

Again, where’s the real innovation? I’ve no doubt that, done properly, 3D can and will add its immersive-goodness to my gaming diet, but they can’t possibly expect that to be enough, can they? When I look at the state of the mobile-gaming industry in 2011 I can’t help but feel a real sense of deja vu as Nintendo plans to go up against competitors like Sony (PSP2) and what might prove to be their biggest competitor yet, Apple’s iFamily of devices. We don’t really know what Sony has planned for the next-gen PSP, but we certainly know what Apple’s doing – what they’ve been doing, to be more precise.

As you gaming historians know, a major factor in Nintendo’s relinquishing their role as the industry’s console king was their resistance to the modern production and delivery of titles to retail outlets; i.e. compact discs and better revenue opportunities for software developers. Thanks to their expertise in the music industry, Sony was able to offer them a superior (and more cost-effective) production and distribution model to Nintendo’s archaic method; they offered them a way out and they fled like rats fleeing a sinking ship.

I see shades of this with Apple and their near-ubiquitous iTunes online store, especially with Nintendo’s bizarre resistance to full-game digital delivery for newer titles with the 3DS. I’m sure games like Super Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil (both of them) will be great, but this isn’t 2004 anymore and Nintendo doesn’t have the mobile market to (virtually) themselves anymore, either. The PSP’s successor, whatever it ends up being, is coming off the success of a portable that sold 70+ million units, and is generally well-regarded by developers and fans alike. But its really Apple that poses the biggest threat to the 3DS – and Nintendo’s role in the mobile market.

Fact: third-party developers can release games for the App Store more cheaply and retain more revenue than anything Nintendo is offering with the 3DS, and (generally) on more powerful tech and with a distribution model that favors post-release revenue from DLC and micro-transactions. With the installed user-base of iDevices already over 100+ million (and expected to triple in record time), the platform has already been accepted by consumers and with the likes of EA, Capcom, Square Enix, Konami, etc, with practically every major game developer already onboard, too.

But even more important are the next-generation of major developers, many of whom would have never come about had it not been for Apple’s platform. We’ve got blockbusters like Pocket God and Angry Birds stealing the headlines. We’ve got 14 year-old kids releasing hit games on their own; no third-party publisher required. Not a day goes by without hearing of the latest iSuccess Story, and anyone who cares at all about the future of the gaming industry can’t fail to be impressed by what’s happening on the ground level. Enabling these people is where the real innovation is – and where the real next-level innovation will come from. At this point, I don’t see Nintendo recognizing this or working to capitalize on it.

Its a long-held belief that the portable market has always been Nintendo’s to lose. If they’re betting on the 3DS – and 3D alone – to help them retain control, I can’t help but wonder if they’ve already lost it. 2011 should prove to be very interesting, indeed.

Whew. Catch your breath, Mr. Universal. No doubt Nintendo is facing the greatest competition it has ever faced on the handheld scene. Who knows what Sony will do? Is it the PlayStation Phone, the PSP2, or both? Apple is Cain Marko right now, The Juggernaut “B”! But remember who this is. The ‘mom and pop’ corporation (as I like to call ‘em) with merely a little over 4,000 employees worldwide who has stood toe to toe with conglomerate giants, survived, then thrived despite the on-paper tale of the tape. The David who fell many Goliaths in its time. Apple represents Nintendo’s last credible challenge. The inevitable showdown between 2 highly innovative, supremely influential companies who navigated different waves of the Computer Revolution tides.

Still a playing card company at its roots, Nintendo always has a trick up their sleeves. There’s more to the 3DS than what we’re seeing. Just as we see with Wii’s approach eventually being adopted by Sony and Microsoft (Move and Kinect), it’s a no-brainer that PSP Jr. and iApple will match them should 3D be the tech phenomenon it’s promised to be. From there it will end up being what it has always been from the beginning, the software. How good are the games? Retail still matters and Apple is a closed system. You have to buy the Apple product to peruse through the games. But even through the glass case, you can see all the different cases of games in retail. You can personally dig through the bargain bin to find the gems you want. Home grocery delivery has been around for a long time but people still like to go out and shop for their food. Netflix is popular but so is Redbox.

I think the 3DS can hold its own against the Apple Dumpling Gang but only if Nintendo gives customers the incentive to want to pay for the right to retail. Can Nintendo make their games worth paying for despite Apple’s low cost model? The bells and whistles are only the side dishes not the main course. It’s the lesson the PSP learned against the DS, a system it was supposed to crush. Nintendo will never try to be all things to all people. They focus on what they do best—gaming. People will pay if they think the product is worth it. Nintendo should concentrate on removing every barrier to this reality in order to hold off its competitors. Starting off too high without any value incentives is not the right way to protect your handheld empire under siege.

About the Author: Popzara Press