How the huge 3DS price drop rounds off Nintendo's worst-run launch since the Virtual Boy

"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...



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  • The_Tingler - July 31, 2011 12:12 p.m.

    I agree with all this, except - GamesRadar, please stop dismissing Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. It's fantastic, a brilliant Advance Wars/X-Com-style strategy game, and the best title on 3DS. And it's not a port, which makes it even more impressive.
  • RedOutlive10 - July 29, 2011 9:17 p.m.

    The deal is: when the highest selling game of a platform is a remake of a decade old game, there is something wrong with it.
  • Timothy_Lemon - July 29, 2011 8:18 p.m.

    i don't think the GAME offer where you could buy a console on release and then trade it in within a couple weeks and only lose a tenner has helped matters. the whole thing comes across like "buy one of these but you won't really like it so bring it back."
  • Hobogonigal - July 29, 2011 1:16 p.m.

    Yay! Some-one else thinks that the original Gameboy was actually a brick in disguise. It was one awesome brick as well.
  • AuthorityFigure - July 29, 2011 11:37 a.m.

    The article doesn't really explain why the launch day/night itself (made very clear beforehand in terms of software) was such a success. There was excitement about 3D, but the gamers themselves discovered AFTER the purchase that it doesn't really mean a lot - this is not a broken promise of Nintendo's. I'm just glad I haven't paid $400+ to play Clinton-era software in occasional 3D.
  • philipshaw - July 29, 2011 11:34 a.m.

    Spot on Dave but I think it's more to do that people don't want handhelds anymore because they have all got smartphones
  • nai1210 - July 29, 2011 9:20 a.m.

    @Azralph13,i'm an adult who has the xperia play phone even with reall game buttons the quality of the android games don't even compare to titles made for handheld consoles by the likes of capcom,sony,nintendo,square,platinum games,naughty dog,konami etc...granted the i phone has better software support than android phones but the controls are useless in my opinion,it's a shame that sony's game division dosn't seem to care about the sony ericsson xperia play cause the controls are quite nice,so i think a lot of adults will be interested in the vita even if they no doubt will feel self conciuos about gettin it out on the commute to work
  • nai1210 - July 29, 2011 9:09 a.m.

    My 3DS is gathering dust already,the E-Shop games are overpriced and nothing decent has been released since pilotwings/SFIV at launch and i grudge paying 40 quid for a handheld game i did pick up ocarina of time a game which i have finnished 3 times in the past and the master quest once on gamecube and i have barely touched it as a result and the nintendo video service thing here in the UK is a joke so far,such a promising little machine as well,i have never owned a handheld that wasn't a nintendo handheld but the new playstation vita may just change that unless nintendo get there shit together if they don't it won't just be the gamers jumping ship it will the 3rd party developers aswell,and that will be game over for the 3ds
  • Azralph13 - July 29, 2011 8:52 a.m.

    PSP Vita is gonna do exactly the same as 3DS, sell a couple of units, but fail to perform in the long run as long as they are above £150. These handhelds are for kids...thats who they sell most units too, plain and simple. Any grown ups will have an Iphone or just play a proper games machine. Anyone here want to pay £250 for a kids gadget!?
  • Thequestion 121 - July 29, 2011 6:15 a.m.

    I hope that Nintendo can do better with the 3DS soon.
  • Ariel - July 29, 2011 4:25 a.m.

    What if.... and just indulge me for a second here: What if, the 3DS continues not to sell, as WELL as the PS3 not selling? And thus, the giant heads of gaming, Nintendo and Sony, slowly tilt their heads to the left and see..... Apple. (then theme music plays and sony and nintendo team up to save handheld gaming)
  • Yeager1122 - July 29, 2011 3:34 a.m.

    Im hopeful the 3ds will pull off a better future for itself.
  • UsernameLoser - July 29, 2011 3:20 a.m.

    Nintendo is Japanese, don't blame them for not knowing what America wants! RASCISTS!!!!!!
  • snothammer - July 28, 2011 11:01 p.m.

    I agree that the name is a major issue leading to poor sales. It sounds like another DS, even though it isn't really. I hope Nintendo realizes this mistake and wises up for the Wii U, or else it will have the same fate. Wii. Wii U? What's the difference? I know what the difference is, but most won't. And sales will be equally lackluster.
  • Thanadros - July 28, 2011 10:58 p.m.

    I have a 360, PS3, PSP, and 2 PCs, I had a DS for a while but sold it. I consider myself to be a hardcore gamer, I always thought the 3DS was just a 3d DSi.. Are you telling me it is a more powerful system? Maybe I just ignored it from the start, but if someone that is seriously interested in games like myself, doesn't know more about the 3DS then "its 3D", then your in trouble.
  • ruskii - July 28, 2011 10:58 p.m.

    Blow-off-foot-stump and smoking bazooka... nice imagery! Nintendo done goof'd.
  • BazyLastard - July 28, 2011 10:28 p.m.

    You're completely complicating something that's simple. The reason it's failing is: 1. 3D entertainment isn't as big as those trying to sell it want it to be. 2. More importantly, price. Price. Price. Price. Handheld gaming from Nintendo has always been a cheaper, portable alternative to console gaming. You take away the cheaper part, and you now see what you get.
  • WTeen8 - July 28, 2011 10:24 p.m.

    I think that once the games revealed at this year's E3 come out, things will get better. I think there will be a sales increase around the holiday season when Mario Kart, Kid Icarus, Starfox 64 3D Super Fiber Gloss Webcam Edition (nothing against Star Fox, the game looks awesome), Super Mario, and Luigi's Mansion come out. Also $200 for a handheld no matter what it is (Looking at you too Sony) is a bit steep. So this drop is a good thing. More affordable = More Sales. Nintendo Fanboy out.
  • Tranquilbez34 - July 28, 2011 9:29 p.m.

    It's like the PS3 Launch It'll get better by March next Year don't forget we have Mario Kart 3DS, Star Fox 64 3DS and Kid Icarus in November
  • Mboy1100 - July 28, 2011 9:17 p.m.

    I'm just holding on to all my money until Wii U comes out. A couple months after it comes out so I can see if it was a flop or not.