Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Friday, August 5, 2011

Nintendo Gets More Bad News

Is this what the 3DS is turning into... the return of the Virtual Boy?
When it rains, it pours, doesn't it? Nintendo's been having  quite the bad news week lately, and here's some more for them. A Japanese games site surveyed 6,500 Japanese gamers about the 3DS, and the responses aren't the best news for Nintendo.

Over 30% of those responding who had already bought the 3DS felt "anger or regret" about the price drop, and the 20 free games seemed to do little to assuage their feelings. Overall, 49.4% of the 3DS owners surveyed said that the current available games for the 3DS were not adequate, and they felt "disappointed" with the system even knowing about future titles. More tellingly, 45.7% said they were not interested in, or on the fence about buying either Super Mario 3D Land or Mario Kart 7.

Of those who don't own a 3DS, only 5.4% said they were planning on buying one after the price drop. Most of those who weren't interested (65%) said they were looking at a PS Vita.

The critical pieces of information here are that half of all 3DS owners are disappointed in their purchase, and that only about half are interested in buying key new 3DS titles. No wonder sales have been poor, if half of the owners bad-mouth the device to their friends. Contrast this with the iPhone owners, of whom 95% or so are satisfied with their purchase. This data shows that Nintendo's problems with the 3DS will not be solved by a price reduction, even as big as the one they just made. The problem also won't be solved by new software, since the owners don't seem particularly interested in the new titles.

The poor battery life, the clunky appearance, and the fact that  the main feature of the device that Nintendo pushed so heavily (3D) is a disappointing gimmick that makes your head hurt, those are the 3DS's real problems. Nintendo can (and probably already is) engineering their way around the battery issue and the size and clunkiness. The 3D issue... well, that can only be solved with some great software that shows how good the feature can be, and how it can actually cause some excellent gameplay. I'm not sure if that's even possible, but that's what Nintendo has to figure out if they want this thing to sell. Otherwise they may have to just kill it, and come out with a revised DS that uses the faster processor with a better, non-3D screen, all in a small form factor with a 15 hour battery life.

Though until Nintendo embraces digital distribution, and free-to-play, and social gaming, and inexpensive game titles, I'm not even sure those changes will do the trick. Dedicated devices just tend to disappear when something more powerful and flexible comes along. The smartphones continue to zoom ahead, and they may be the end of dedicated  handheld gaming devices despite Sony and Nintendo's best efforts.We'll see... and watch carefully during this holiday season. If the 3DS can't make a solid holiday showing, it may never be able to make it.

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