"They're f*cking it up. Why are they f*cking it up? How is it not obvious to them that they're f*cking it up? Please, Nintendo, for the love of God, take a step back, look at yourselves, and stop f*cking it up!" This has been my mantra since the 3DS was launched. Don’t get me wrong, I love my 3DS. It's my favourite of all handhelds, barring my original 1989 house-brick Game Boy. But ye gods, not since the Virtual Boy has Nintendo so raucously screwed up a console launch.
Okay, so the 3DS sold more in its first week as the VB sold in its entire curtailed life-span, but recently? In Q1 the three months immediately after the initial launch window hysteria died down, the 3DS sold just 700,000. That's a current-gen handheld from the kings of the handheld console, with cooler features, more horsepower and (potentially) better software support than any handheld before it, going into nosedive at exactly the time it should have been building inertia. And now Nintendo is panic-managing a disturbingly drastic 33% price drop and a massive software giveaway.
Why did it come to this? Because this entire launch has been completely mis-managed from day one since the machine was announced. Read on , and I'll explain exactly how Nintendo has messed up.
Too much early promise, too little early delivery
The Nintendo 3DS was announced big. Really big, in fact. Remember Nintendo's triumphant E3 2010 press conference? Yeah, of course you do. It was the one where it threw off the shackles of crappy casual-market pandering after five miserable years, locked Cammie Dunaway in a crate, and went full 2001 glory-days-style all up in dem bitches faces. New Donkey Kong. Bam. New GoldenEye. Bam. New StarFox. Bam. New Kid Icarus. Bam. New, pimp-specced handheld that did glasses-free 3D by way of nothing less than total goddamn witchcraft! Bam bam bam!
Above: This was exciting
Oh, and said handheld had Splinter Cell and Metal Gear and Mario Kart, and a console-quality Resident Evil, and Pilotwings, and Paper Mario, and Kingdom Hearts, and Zelda, and frickin' Street frickin' Fighter frickin' IV! Nintendo was back. The real Nintendo was back. And it was bringing everyone along for the welcome home party. We laughed. We cried. Meiks did a feature about how the 3DS potentially had the best launch line-up in history. And he was right. It did. But there's potential, and then there's realisation. And the realisation was a kick in the stones hard enough to end an entire family line.
In his feature, Meiks happily stated that if even half of the possible launch line-up happened, our wallets would be "truly f*cked". Of course it was too much to expect everything Nintendo had shown at E3 to turn up straight away. But Ninty had done a good enough job of establishing the 3DS as a real core gamer's handheld, with real core game support, that the launch was clearly going to be strong. But we didn't get half. We didn't even get a quarter. We got Street Fighter, we got Pilotwings, we got Ridge Racer, and we got a whole lot of lazy Ubisoft ports and other crap no-one cared about.
Above: So was this
"But hey", we thought. "That’s just launch window blues. It'll be a mega-ton line-up in a couple of months when generation two of that insane E3 treasure trove turns up". But five months later, we're still pretty much stuck with the launch line-up. Capcom has curled out a shovelware Resi score-attack game to keep the brand alive on the system until the one we were originally sold on turns up next year, but that's pretty much it. And don't get all "But Ocarina of Time! It is the bestest game ever made!" at me, because I'm coming to that in a bit. The fact is, Nintendo knew that a return to the core was needed. And it was really clever about making that switch. It waited until Microsoft and Sony were running to catch up to the motion-control bandwagon, it saw market saturation imminent, and it bailed the hell out, knowing that if it embraced its long-disenfranchised core fans now, it was onto a tidal-wave of goodwill.
Above: This was not
But it seemed to forget somewhere along the way that if you made promises like that then you actually have to deliver. You can't hand over a six-foot birthday present with rainbow ribbons and hologram wrapping paper if there's something rubbish in the box. If the box is small and modest, people know what to expect. We're used to launch line-ups being crap. We're fine with it. But false impressions are the difference between understanding acceptance and raging disappointment. Perhaps Nintendo had spent so long satiating the meagre demands of the passionless waggle-crowd that it had forgotten the effort it used to take to really please a hardcore crowd. And that brings me on to my next, much more important point...