Objection! The Impact Of Nintendo's 3DS Price Drop

Yesterday Nintendo announced that it would be reducing the price of the 3DS, only four months after launch. What does this mean for Nintendo and its struggling handheld. Is it a sign of weakness, a sign of competition from PS Vita and smartphones, or simply a sign of the times?

To help us go through the various issues we've borrowed Daniel 'Vooks' Vuckovic, Editor and creator of Nintendo site Vooks.

MARK: Let’s get straight into it – the 3DS price drop. What’s your general opinion of it? Good move? Sign of weakness? The end of the world as we know it?

VOOKS: The drop itself really isn't a surprise, they had to do something with the 3DS, it just wasn't moving as Nintendo's latest sales reports showed. What is a surprise is that it's a whole $100 - that's a ton of money for a four month old device. As we know, Nintendo don't like dropping the price of anything, but they want and need the system in people's hands to sell it and, well, they had no other choice at this point.

MARK: We talked about this before, but while folks embroiled in the day to day business of video game news have interpreted this as a massive sign of weakness on Nintendo's part, the mainstream audience this price drop is obviously targeted at won't see things the same way. It may just be the encouragement parents need to pick up a 3DS for their kids at Christmas, or for Nintendo fans waiting to take the plunge.

I think the real issue is that Nintendo, with the 3DS, hasn't really changed its strategy, or evolved its device properly to adjust for the new ways in which we use handheld devices. I've mentioned before that my 3DS is literally gathering dust and part of the reason for that is a lack of quality games, obviously, but another is the fact that there is simply very little space in my life for the 3DS. When I bought my DS it was pre-smart-phone. It provided this function I couldn't live without. Now? It's a luxury.

I guess my real question is - will the price drop have an impact? Or is the 3DS a device that people simply don't want or need?

VOOKS: It is a massive sign of weakness for Nintendo. Nintendo sees price drops as a sign of weakness and a lack of quality. Iwata himself has said he personally doesn't like them at all - so for Nintendo to do it, they have to be hurting and they are.

The 3DS wasn't going to sell at the current price point, it was just too much. It's just the sort of price that's needed for Christmas, it's now cost relative to a DS and it's the 'latest and greatest'. $350 was too much for the mainstream, but even the core audience held back - a lot of the guys on my forum haven't picked up a Nintendo 3DS either, so it's not just a mainstream problem - it's always been about the cost and, as you mentioned Mark, games.

Quickly on the games issue - there has been a severe lack of good games on the system but I think people are being a little short sighted on this. By the end of the year we'll have Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, Starfox 64 3D and more - time is going to fix this problem. It doesn't help us, the people who already have it - we want games to play on it right now, not three months down the track.

And there’s no doubt that smartphone gaming is infringing on the market space for portable consoles, people’s phones are a need item every day and they have it on them at all times. A portable console means another thing in the bag or pocket and since you don’t need it on a daily basis it can be left at home. There’s also the cost factor, games are cheap or even free on the App Store. But that’s another problem for another time.

So after all that, to answer your question – I think people want a 3DS, but they’ll never need one.

MARK: Smartphone gaming is just an incredible area of growth for third parties, while we're starting to see publishers get cold feet on the 3DS - games being cancelled, delayed, de-prioritised. A price drop is all well and good, but what the 3DS really needs is games. Not the promise of games, but games that exist right now, and can be purchased and played!

We were discussing the price drop in the office and Seamus mentioned that while Nintendo's commitment to quality in the face of cheap iPhone games is noble, they have to walk the walk. I wouldn't pay the iPhone premium price of $12 for games like Steel Diver, let alone full retail price Nintendo is asking for.

Handheld gaming is in a massive transition phase at the moment, and I'm beginning to openly wonder if the 3DS really has what it takes to compete. It's not a powerful machine, the touch capabilities are outdated and outside of the 3D (which plenty of people do not like) is has zilcho when it comes to point of difference.

This will sound harsh, and as a big Nintendo fan it hurts to say, but the 3DS is starting to feel like an old fashioned gadget, only four months after its release.

VOOKS: I don't disagree with you on that and Nintendo only has itself to blame for that, it let third parties take all the attention from launch and didn't step up to the plate. Outside of Street Fighter and Ghost Recon the launch quality of many games just wasn't there, and good games like Pilotwings could have been so much more. Nintendo then didn't rebound by saying, well you had your chance now here's three top games in a row. They gave us Zelda four months later and that's it.

Steel Diver and other launch games are perhaps not the best examples - they are launch games and launch games are always going to be light on content, but perhaps that in itself needs to change. Seamus is right, Nintendo do need to walk the walk but dropping the price of games isn't the answer. People will still pay for quality titles, what Nintendo need to do is use its back catalogue and diversify what they're making. Instead of making Game Boy and NES games $4.50, make them $0.99. SNES and GBA Games shouldn't be $9. Why is Plants Vs Zombies on DSiWare $12.00 when it's $2.99 on the iPhone? Keep the big titles at $40-$50 sure, Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 3D will be worth that - but have a range of smaller priced games too.

The Nintendo 3DS both hardware wise and software wise isn't as flashy as iOS or even Android, it's a heck of a lot better than the DSi was though. It's an improvement for sure but Nintendo still has a long way to go. The 3DS feels old for sure, especially when you have nothing to use it for, it just magnifies the feeling. Nintendo need to get progressive in the way they do things, they can be that company and push boundaries but they have even tougher competition than ever before. The 3DS hardware isn't bad, it's a nice bit of kit - it's not being used to its potential.

MARK: I think it's a classic example of what happens when a company becomes successful, rapidly. The Nintendo Wii and the DS were both incredibly successful and with great success comes the need to mitigate risk. Nintendo had nothing to lose, and everything to gain, when they released the DS and the Wii - being on top tends to breed complacency and the end result is a handheld console that has really played it safe.

In addition, the Nintendo Wii continued to sell regardless of the software quality - a handful of brilliantly made, evergreen first party titles appeared to be more than enough. With the 3DS, for a number of different reasons, this is simply not enough. The competition is too strong. I have no doubt we'll see big spikes in 3DS sales when big first party titles come out, but there is no way we're going to see the massive consistent, sustained growth that the original DS had.

VOOKS: There's no doubt in my mind that Nintendo got complacent. They rode the wave and just kept going until it crashed. The Wii is the best example - like you said they relied on those evergreen titles and never bothered to follow them up or make new titles that got new people buying consoles. The DS's success won't ever be repeated and despite the 3Ds outpacing what the original DS was when it started, it won't be able to hold pace like its predecessor.

For all the money they've made in the last generation, Nintendo are now going to be playing catch up. Maybe not in power or hardware but in software, online services and originality. First party titles are going to boost things no doubt, but people are always looking for the next big thing. At the moment, Nintendo doesn't have one. It's time for them take stock, use all that money and make something that really kicks the ball out of the park.

I really don't want to be playing Super Mario Bros on my phone.

What do you guys think? Is the 3DS price drop premature? Will you be buying one at this price, or is the current lack of games an impediment? Let us know in the comments below.


Comments

    Price drop is nice but there still isn't any games on it that I want.

    Give me Snake Eater and hell just give me more N64 games for it, I don't need new games just games I know I will enjoy.

      Snake Eater is getting redone in HD for the PS3 so forget it for the 3DS hehe

    It needs more games, zelda only goes so far seriously. Perhaps rushing the release of games like tales of the abyss (ones that take a long time to complete) Would seriously help at this stage. I guess I'm Bias to RPG games. But as it stands, Mario kart wont quite do it for me. I need me some Luigis mansion 2 and Tales of the abyss asap. Also how come we still dont have the new Layton game yet?

    Yeah, pretty much. It's really the variable price point dilemma that the big N needs to address right now. Smartphones have changed the value proposition of shovelware and of handheld games in general, and Nintendo needs to get on top of that. They have the advantage of a huge back catalogue that can be effectively utilised, but market expectations of value for dollars has changed dramatically, and until they get on top of that they'll never compete effectively in the digital space. As for the 3DS itself... no idea where that's going.

      +1

      Nintendo should harness that massive back catalogue of GB, VB!!!!, SNES etc and do it at low prices (similar to ios prices).

      They can keep the new full 3DS games at higher prices (say around $40 oz), but they really need to aknowledge that they are competing with ios and android games for our attention and entertainment dollar. Their back catalogue would seemingly offer an easily ported, additional revenue stream that could be offered at this lower price point.

      If they can do this quickly I will buy another 3ds. If not, I wont. Simple.

    I think the price drop is a sign of weakness - if they were confident in their product we'd be seeing this drop closer to Christmas to drive sales as suggested.

    A drop NOW indicates to me that they're planning to drop it again in late November to early December, especially if sales don't pick up over the next few weeks.

    I've been saying (and I hate to keep saying it) that the dedicated handheld console market is dying while the market for smartphones as a games platform is surging. I know the 3DS can do more than just play games but I don't think it's very good at them. The PS vita has potential particularly consider it's fairly low price point when you consider what it's capable of, but I think people who want handheld games are satisfied with the quality of game available on the iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows phones.

    When I was a kid, a Gameboy was a cheap alternative to a real NES - the bonus was I got to take it to school with me.

    Now that games generally are more complex and require more of a time commitment I feel that people don't really want that while they're on the move - you want a momentary distraction, even if it's one you're doing over and over e.g.: Angry Birds.

      Issue has nothing to do with the handheld market the issue here is the lack of games from launching to early not to mention the fact that it was sold on.a gimmick

      This is all nintendos fault and the wii u is going to follow in my mind

      Though if the vita is this disappointing I'll bite my tongue

    While $100 straight off the bat is a huge step in Ninty trying to garner more interest amongst consumers into buying the thing, I'll still give it a miss until they do something about the Region lock.

    Could be a sign general gamers have learnt their lesson from buying a Wii. There aren't and won't be any decent games for the platform. Just remakes and re-releases. Ocarina of Time is a prime example - Re-releasing a 13 year old game to try and sell systems.
    And whats the compensation for those who bought it early? Free 20 year old games which have had their time.
    It's a bad culture at Nintendo - release the same shit over and over. Its worked in the past, but i don't think it will work in the future.
    Also people need to stop treating Miyamoto like a god. Yes he created a few good games back in the day - but whats he done in the last 10 years?

      I dunno, those 20 games have gotten me excited. Think about it - they could give you a 3DS game, that lasts say 20 hours, or they could give you enough games to last weeks on end.

      That said, if they did something like give all early adopters Kid Icarus, that'd be pretty nice, but they'd lose money, which isn't fun.

    "$350 was too much for the mainstream, but even the core audience held back"..never was there more truthful words spoken.

    I've bought nearly every Nintendo console and handheld going back to Game & Watch. I personally can only say that I thought the 3DS price at release was a huge slap in the face to the consumer. A price built around the gimmick of 3D capability.
    I'm still not convinced even with the price drop that I will buy a 3DS any time soon and would rather wait to see what other game releases come out for this. Maybe i'm older and wiser these days and just not as quick to jump on the latest tech band wagon just for the sake of being one of the 'cool' kids.

    I think they shouldn't have released it as early as they did. If they had good first party games and such to release with launch it would've sold more

    I personally think that Nintendo should give a pack in game into the package. I really like the 3DS (even though there have been a few frustrations) and I realize that the initial killer apps are built in. But people will see a higher value in the product if Nintendo packed in a physical quality game (perhaps the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time or Nintendogs for the casual). Nintendo would also be more successful if they added more social networking apps (dedicated facebook app) and media apps (like Youtube) on this console. High quality software in a study stream is also a need to keep the system afloat. Sony should do similarly when the PS Vita is released. I think video games consoles need to provide high quality games but they should also cover other parts of entertainment at a lower price. I fell they still have a market but they must rapidly evolve.

    I wonder where this leaves Sony. The Vita looks to be a much more compelling piece of technology and they're going to have some quality stuff at or around launch as well, but I have to wonder whether they're going to hit the same wall in the west, thanks to Apple's newfound dominance of the mobile market (iOS - and digital distribution in general - is comparatively nowhere near as big in Japan, which is where the PSP shines brightest and where presumably the Vita will be strongest as well)

    I also can't help but look at the US price drop for the 3DS and be disappointed at our own pricing. It was overpriced at $350, but if the US can get them for $170 now, then dropping our price to $250 *still* means we're paying just shy of 50% more.

    It's not premature, but I don't think it's enough. I still won't buy one.

    I was burned with the Wii, got a handful of games I enjoyed with decent replay value, but paid through the nose for the privilege. It's now gathering dust while I flog my other current-gen consoles to death.

    Nintendo has massive nostalgic inertia with adult gamers, but that ride doesn't stretch forever.

    The way I see it Nintendo products are aimed at the casual gamer but the casual gamer gets their fill of gaming from things like smartphone apps and facebook. They don't need to buy consoles, stationary or portable. If Nintendo wants to keep selling to the casual market they can't keep doing what they're doing. Release a DS Phone, integrate facebook into the Wii U etc. They have to start doing stuff like that if they want to stay competitive in the casual market.

    The other option they've got is to move away from the casual market and target the hardcore market. To be successful there they'd have to release much more powerful hardware and they'd either have to update all their current franchises and make them a lot more serious and mature or scrap them all together and come out with some new franchises.

    Also it's that lack of mature franchises which is the reason I'll be skipping the 3DS (and why I skipped the Wii). I'm at a point in my life were I want my games to be a little more serious then a fat plumber. I liked that stuff as a kid and maybe in 10 or 20 years if/when I have kids of my own I'll start to like that stuff again but at the moment it's not for me.

    I did consider buying a 3DS when the price drops - it helps that I have a $50 EB voucher and it's pretty much the only thing I can't feasibly import due to the region-locking. I played one today - ran around Kokiri for a few minutes - and while I did like it and was impressed by the 3D effect, the terrible battery life and lack of head-tracking to assist with the 3D viewing angle issue makes me want to wait and hope that they fix those problems in the 3DS Lite/XL/whatever.

    I know one thing for sure- I'll be getting a Vita on launch day.

    something which cannot be dismissed is the scare campaigns the mainstream media have picked up on in the US around the 3D and damage to eyes.

    With regards to the value for money aspect, I really think Nintendo needs to be a bit more realistic with pricing, particularly on the eShop.

    They're charging over $5 for at least some of the games there which is a bit ridiculous IMO. I can jump on GOG and grab Fallout 1 or 2 (for example) for the same price as Super Mario Land, or buy The Witcher for $1 more than Link's Awakening. That's a rip off.

    It seems that they want to keep prices high to avoid being lumped in the same boat as mobile games but, at least to me, it just serves to highlight how much of a rip-off the eShop is.

    Particularly when downloading a ROM and running the games on a smartphone app is much cheaper (or free) and gives a similar experience!

    Get with the times Nintendo!

    I've always said that the Wii was not a great success in hardware or software, but in marketing. Nintendo absolutely nailed their target demographic, and knew what to say to get them to point of sale. Meanwhile, high quality games were few and far between. Sure there were good ones, but it wasn't like 360 or PS3 where there is a title I'm anticipating every 2 months - there was only maybe 1 title per YEAR, or less, I'd be anticipating. I ended up trading my Wii in so I could buy a PS3; a trade that turned out to be well worth it.

    But my point is, ask yourself, out of all the people you know who have a Wii, how many of them are actively using it? For me the answer is none, and I'm expecting much the same from anyone I ask this question, with an exception here and there. Nintendo being slow with decent software for their hardware is not new, and they were only able to overshadow that last time through marketing. I don't think even Nintendo understand who their target audience is supposed to be for 3DS, I certainly don't.

      I very much agree with this. I've had a Wii since 2007 and the only time I seem to get any games for it is during those clearance sales when boredom makes me curious about something.

      It's almost August and my Wii has only been plugged in ONCE this year, and only then for about 2 days.

      I have to admit that I'm definitely NOT in Nintendo's target audience though.

    I asked my sister if she would get a 3DS and replied by asking me when Snake Eater was coming out. The system needs games pronto, if they kept the price at $350 and had a number of 'must have' titles, there wouldn't be a need for a price drop.

    I'm not eager for Snake Eater. Why? I hated the MG controls on the PSP. I just cannot do that again. I loved MGSE on the PS2. Loved them. Cannot do them on the 3DS though... not with a damn slider...

      Yeah, I agree with this. It's the HD remake for me. 60fps, HD, proper dual analogue controls. Can't. Wait.

        Especially considering it's been largely confirmed that the HD ports of MGS2 and MGS3 will be coming to the Vita as well (the Japanese MGS HD Collection still has the Transfarring logo on it despite not containing Peace Walker, and the only explanation I can think of for that is Transfarring saves between the PS3 and Vita versions of SoL and SE).

    It should have been $250 from the beginning.

    The games look great graphically, but apart from the 3D I'm not seeing anything that I haven't seen before on a PSP.

    Nintendo just got greedy.

      Although I do hope they learn their lesson and don't overprice the Wii U, but I'm sure they will.

      This is true - unlike companies such as Sony who sell consoles at a loss with the plan to make money back on the games, Nintendo just sells everything at a profit. It worked for the Wii and the DS, but this time they overestimated just how much people were willing to pay - the sheer size of the price drop really demonstrates how much they were making on each 3DS while consoles like the Vita will be sold at a loss from the start.

    "By the end of the year we’ll have Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, Starfox 64 3D..."

    There's part of your problem. They just constantly rehash the same tired crap they've been doing for 30 years.

    Buying a new Nintendo console is like evolving through VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray. With each new one you end up buying your same fave movies over and over to take advantage of the "latest and greatest". Eventually you just want something new that isn't gimmicky.

      Well, both the Mario and Mario kart games are pretty much new rather than rehashes, at least compared to most other game franchises (obviously, Star Fox is clearly a remake, so I won't argue against that).

      I think though remakes have their place. For example, I would like to one day be able to actually play Windwaker. If they didn't release remakes, how could I get the chance? The Wii U back-catalogue will probably solve that problem, but if the Wii U wasn't coming, I wouldn't mind Windwaker on 3ds.

      Overpricing though is still a problem. I don't want to pay $10 for a GBC game ;)

      Lets stop pointing fingers when in reality its standard practice in the gaming industry, when they get a successful IP, they flog it to death till it stops making money. THe reason why there have been more Marios is because Nintendo has been around longer then most of the other companies. Its hypocritical to suggest this is something only NIntendo does. ALL companies do it.

      The same Tired crap? Maybe to you but games like those you mentioned (Mario etc) have always been successful. Why stop? Just because you dont like them? Why dont you tell Apple to stop selling iphones while your at it.

      Fact of the matter is as most people here have said launched to soon and not enough games. That would kill any console.

    they launched a year to early.

    They have no great games yet(a remake doesn't count)

    The Battery life is rather short.

    And when it comes down to it im still playing DS games, and i'd rather play them on my DS with reasonable battery power. And seeing as i use it mainly on my terribly long train trips and at uni.

    Also what they said about the ambassador free games sums it up for me.

    GBA ports that they wont sell to the public. Sell them to the public you fools. I'm getting them for free thats all i care about.

    But for gods sake your eshop still stinks you could make that thing awesome and that alone would be reason enough to buy your handheld instead some of the great titles you should be releasing on it youve just said you wont.

    Oh and make Square Release Final fantasy tactics advance. Then ill definetly have less of a reason to carry my DS

      absolutely!

    I also think they should decrease the price of the games inside the eshop - they are over priced for what they are.

    I really think nintendo made a wrong move this time. The 3DS would have sold 3 times better if they had Mario Kart, Super Mario and Pokemon at launch. I'm going to wait for the PS Vita anyway, i'm getting sick of mario over and over again.

    (I wonder why they didn't mention it that Nintendo lost 330 milion dollars last quarter?)

    seriously nintendo are so annoying atm they could kill this so easily but they just drop the ball repeatedly first of all dont release a console if you don't have any good games (that aren't re-makes) for it until 7 months after its released, if the 3ds released this holiday with the games were gonna have then plus the crap we've got now as launch titles it probably would have killed or at least done much better.

    Second if you foresaw games not coming for 7 months after release then give us tons of good downloadable virtual console games from more than just the original NES and not over an extended period of time but in a massive chunk if i could get a bunch of nes, snes, gamboy/colour/advance games for app type prices i wouldn't even care about good 3DS games not being here for a while

    like seriously Nintendo just a little foresight would be nice its like
    "hey we got the 3ds coming out this week"
    "oh yea well we better start making some games for it then" if nintendo keep this up people are gonna give up on them maybe not the mega fanboys but enough people to the point where it will dramatically effect their business.

      Yes, yes!!!!!!! 100% CORRECT!!!!!!

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