Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Selling to Potential? Ways the Nintendo 3DS Could Do and Be Better

Despite the Nintendo 3DS tracking ahead of the Nintendo DS at a similar point in its lifetime, Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, stated that the 3DS's performance/momentum was "weak" in the United States and Europe. Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Amie concurred with Mr. Iwata's thoughts. So if the performance of the system is not up to snuff for Nintendo, how could it be improved? I have brainstormed and thought up solutions (none of them being the be-all, end-all) to help the 3DS gain that much needed momentum in the West that it currently does not possess. You may not agree with [m]any of the reasons I list, but I hope this generates some intelligent discussion regardless.


- Game Prices Need to Be Lowered

I didn't like the "HD tax" when Microsoft and third-parties set the precedent of making most new games cost sixty dollars with the Xbox 360. I especially don't like how Nintendo and third-parties have opted to charge forty bucks for most 3DS games. The price is just too much. We saw this price the last handheld generation on the O.G. DS with Square Enix charging $40 for most of their software. Now it's the usual price for 3DS games. 

I feel the price is too much in this economy for most 3DS owners. It means they can't purchase as many games as they did with the DS. And let's face it -- some games do not deserve to be $40. In fact, a recent release this week for the 3DS is a title called Crosswords Plus. A game like this does feature loads of crosswords, word searches, and anagram puzzles, but it's not particularly meaty enough to warrant a full price. Thus, it received a budget price. However, Nintendo's idea of a budget price this handheld generation is $30. ...Seriously?! That is completely outrageous to me. When you can get similar games for much less, who is this game even marketed towards?

Even with a plethora of puzzles,
such a game is not worth thirty dollars to many.
Outside of retail, let's focus on digital for a moment. I know people get annoyed when Apple and the app store is brought up and compared to dedicated gaming platforms, but games on the iOS marketplace are much more inexpensive than on the Nintendo eShop. It makes sense that some people are hesitant to pick up a $7.00 game on the eShop when they can pick up a similar title on the app store for significantly less. The quality might be similar, it might be different. That's not the point. The point is that to the unbeknownst consumer, they're seeing that eShop games -- regardless of them being better or not or worth the price or not -- are more expensive than app store titles, so they get hesitant and question why they should buy them. 

- Improve the Release Schedule

One of the main problems I personally have with the Nintendo 3DS is the release schedule. Is there a reason why the West has to wait so long for games that released a year ago in Japan? The wait time for localization is just ridiculous. And that's even if the games get released. As of now, we're still waiting on localization announcements for Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, Project X Zone, and the one that I understand why it hasn't been announced for localization, Monster Hunter 4.

The release schedule problem becomes exacerbated when you look at the holiday season. Honestly, to many people, only Paper Mario: Sticker Star is seen as the big title for the 3DS. Otherwise you have games like Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone, Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning, a new Brain Age, and other titles that will most likely not be huge sellers, as they are either "casual" titles (and most casual players have moved to smartphones and tablets) or niche games. Regardless, does Nintendo actually think that games like Brain Age: Concentration Training, a costly crosswords game, and Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone are going to appeal to an audience that moved on to smartphones and tablets for cheaper alternatives a long time ago?

Sticker Star is the 3DS's sole 
big game this holiday season.
I think Nintendo needs to push themselves and third-parties to do a better job of presenting a better turnaround between Japanese releases and releases to our side of the world. Games need to be localized in a timelier fashion. "Well, SuperPhillip, you're an idiot who doesn't understand how many man hours it takes to localize a game." Perhaps, but waiting nearly two years for the fifth installment of the Professor Layton series? Really, now. It takes that long? To be fair, 2013 is becoming packed with software like Castlevania, Animal Crossing, and Fire Emblem, but if Nintendo wants any kind of momentum, they will start devising a plan to release a steady stream of quality games and ones with selling power. Looking at this holiday season, Nintendo does not have that whatsoever.

 The West will have to wait till 2013
to revisit the world of Animal Crossing.
- Improve the eShop

While I do not agree with some people's assessments that the Nintendo eShop is a failure, I do agree that it could be much better. For starters, the layout of two horizontal lines showing only a fraction of what the shop has to offer is not only bare bones, but it is difficult and confusing to navigate. It makes certain games hard to find. It's simple to type in the name of a game to find it, but what happens if you don't know the name or don't know what you want? Good luck finding something of quality through the convoluted mess of menus. I know Nintendo is trying with their online shops, but anything has to better than what they currently have on the 3DS. They could streamline the experience much more, making browsing easier on the user. They could put games in alphabetical order according to type of game -- be it 3DSWare, applications, DSiWare, and Virtual Console titles.

Currently the 3DS eShop is not up to snuff.
Then there's the software itself. I would love to see more Virtual Console releases than what we are getting. I understand the logic in drip-feeding titles as to not overshadow everything else on the eShop. I don't understand the logic of weeks of no new games. Nintendo has enough software from their catalogs to put on the eShop. Japan is being treated like kings. Why does the rest of the world have to suffer through so many droughts? Hopefully we will see Game Boy Advance games included soon for everyone to purchase.

- Make It Clear That the 3DS is a New System.

From what I can see, Nintendo has been doing poorly at doing this in North America. I see displays that have 3DS games and DS games strewn about together. It doesn't help that the box arts are somewhat similar and the logo of both platforms are also alike. It also doesn't help that the 3DS system looks just like the DS but with an analog stick. Nintendo really needs to get this into some people's skulls that the Nintendo 3DS is the successor to the DS and not another revision. They need to inform people why they need to upgrade to the 3DS.

This is a reason I fear for the success of the Wii U. Yes, Nintendo has taken some precautionary measures as to not make the same level of brand confusion with the Wii/Wii U as they did with the DS/3DS (e.g. box art styles that are clearly different from the Wii's, the inability to buy the Wii U GamePad by itself at launch, etc.), but will they properly convey that the Wii U is not just a new tablet to go along with many consumers' Wiis?

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So there are four things Nintendo can do to improve the 3DS's fortunes. Easier said than done, of course. The Nintendo 3DS is my most played platform this year, and I really want it to gain that momentum to ensure that dedicated gaming handhelds will survive. I'm of the mindset that there is still a market for such a device. We will probably never see the 3DS reach its predecessor's sales levels, but we can hope that it can come close.

Do you agree/disagree with my ways that the 3DS can reach its potential? Do you have any of your own ideas that I neglected to mention? Discuss this article within the comments section.

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