The buzz on the Nintendo 3DS hasn't been good, I recently mentioned to Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime.
I hear people complaining about a lack of must-play games and a lack of reason to boot up the machine. The $US250 handheld hardware, while impressive, is called too expensive. Nintendo even failed - by about 400,000 units - to sell its hoped-for four million 3DS systems by the end of March.
There were actually two problems holding prospective 3DS purchasers back, Fils-Aime told me, two problems he believes the company has addressed.
"When we launched, we had a fantastic day one and a very strong week one," he said during our recent interview. "We talked to consumers. Consumers were highly satisfied with the device. They loved the built-in applications. They loved the game experiences. We had high levels of awareness. We had high levels of intent-to-purchase.
"But when we started talking to consumers who were aware or interested, but hadn't yet bought, they told us two things: first, I need a big Nintendo franchise for our purchase. The second thing was I need the network to be up. I need the connected experiences to be there."
That first problem that Fils-Aime mentioned was surely the byproduct of a launch line-up that included a Nintendogs, but no Mario, no Zelda, no Smash Bros. or any flagship game. The second problem was even more awkward: the inclusion, on the 3DS' touch screen of a non-functional web browser that, when touched, indicated that the machine's online services would be activated by Nintendo at a later date.
He said he wasn't guessing about this stuff. It sounded like they came from surveys. "I know those were the two factors, based on the consumer information," he said.
That was the past, he told me. In fact, we were talking shortly before the launch of this past weekend's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, a re-make of a classic Nintendo game considered to be one of the medium's best.
"So now we jump to where we are," he said. "We're going to be launching Ocarina." He began slowly smacking the back of one of his hand into the palm of the other. "We're going to follow with a steady drumbeat of Star Fox and Kid Icarus and two Mario titles and the Luigi title." That roster, which includes Super Mario Bros. 3D (see it here) and Mario Kart (see it here) for the 3DS is all set for release this calendar year, save for Luigi's Mansion 2 (see it here), which is scheduled for 2012. "I think we've got that issue not only identified but addressed."
As for the 3DS' limited online options, those were being cleared up as we spoke. "We've just done the first network update. We've got the eShop up and running. We've got the 3D movie service still on track for the summer. We've got Netflix still on track for summer in the US. So I think we're well underway to having that addressed as well. My expectation, Stephen, is that with the adjustments we've made, we're going to be back with strong momentum on the 3DS."
The elephant in the room is that the 3DS, without its must-own game, without its online shop, without its online-connected 3D video service that would help show off the allure of the machine's vaunted glasses-free 3D, might just not have been ready for its March launch in America.
"The system did not launch earlier than planned," he said. "We thought there would have been a tighter gap between launch and the first network update." Beyond that, Fils-Aime projected, all is well.