Nintendo 3DS Getting Massive Price Cut - Existing Owners Getting Free Games

Bill Loguidice's picture

This has been widely reported, but here's the story on IGN. Essentially, the Nintendo 3DS will now retail for $169.99, and existing owners who paid the launch price of $249.99 will get 20 free virtual console games, which consists of 10 NES and 10 GameBoy Advance titles.

I'm glad they're taking care of their existing owners. Clearly Nintendo priced this not at a price point they had to, but at a price point they thought they could get away with. If they were able to back up the 3DS launch with positive buzz and great software (i.e., software that would excite the masses), they *might* have gotten away with the $250 price point (though I continue to argue the buzz remains with smartphones and tablets, not gaming handhelds), but really, it makes you wonder why this wasn't $199.99 to start with, let alone $179.99, particularly since they're making such a huge drop of $80 already. That's a major mea culpa, and certainly not indicative of business-as-usual for Nintendo, who classically really, really hates to admit that they're wrong about something. I've been talking about this frequently, but there have certainly been some unusual goings-on at Nintendo HQ, from the lack of new titles for their existing platforms to a somewhat unusual presentation of their upcoming Wii U console. Perhaps this will be the first of several steps that Nintendo needs to regain momentum.

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Bill Loguidice
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Phones
clok1966 wrote:

So as I had an Iphone and used the app store.. but never looked hard at it.. If i buy somthing and its on MY ACCOUNT, if i get a new iphone i dont have to rebuy, i can just redownload it? Or do you mean i can use some backup program and move it? If its just a simple redownload.. then i stand corrected, that is pretty dang simple and easy, anybody should be able to do that.

Both, yes. iTunes automatically backs up your iOS devices. So if you buy a new phone, you just restore the backup from the old phone to the new phone. The other way to do it is to just sync iTunes and everything on your iTunes account will be synced over (you can specify what to bring over/not to bring over, of course), sans your customized settings from the old device. If your iTunes and/or computer get blown up and you truly need to start over from scratch (meaning there is no iTunes data on the hard drive), when you click on the item in the iTunes store, it will know that you already purchased it (as long as you're logged in with the account that owns the stuff) and just ask you if you want to re-download it, so it's pretty failsafe in that regard (you can also do the download direct from the phone). I also believe that with the next update a lot of this stuff will also be in the cloud, so you probably won't even need the computer part. That's the way Android works to a degree now, cloud sync.

I'm not sure how webOS, Windows Phone 7 or other major OS's work, but I imagine it's all fairly similar these days. Frankly, it's to these companies benefits to let you carry purchases and settings over, because it helps to keep you locked into their OS ecosystems. You won't have as much incentive to make the switch if all your stuff is already there.

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Nous
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Rob Fahey says...

There have been so many false, unfounded predictions of a huge Nintendo failure over the past few years - mostly involving massively biased fanboy commentators confidently anticipating the death of the Wii - that when the failure actually came, the event was so tempered with a sense of deja vu that it was hard to tell whether it actually felt surprising or not.

Yet there's absolutely no question that what has happened to the 3DS is, indeed, a huge failure for Nintendo. I'm being careful to say "for Nintendo" here, because it's important to retain some perspective; the 3DS has shipped close to 4.5 million units worldwide, which would be considered pretty good by many consumer device companies.

The 3DS is faring a hell of a sight better than, for example, tablet devices based on Android, or phones using Windows Phone 7 - and as others have been swift to point out, the figures aren't actually that far away from those achieved by the original Nintendo DS after its launch.

But that doesn't change the fact that, for Nintendo, this is a failure. Android on tablets and Windows Phone 7 are pitched against hugely dominant incumbents in their respective markets, where 3DS is the successor to a hugely dominant incumbent. Similar logic applies to comparisons with the original DS; that was Nintendo's first truly successful console in almost a decade, and when it arrived few people understood the appeal of the dual screen, touch-sensitive layout. 3DS, as its successor, should have enjoyed much more immediate success.

Nintendo, to its credit, isn't beating around the bush - it accepts the failure and has indicated a willingness to act aggressively to turn the situation around. Moves in that regard range from the symbolic (Satoru Iwata's 50% pay cut) to the practical (the massive price drop for the system and the likelihood of a marketing relaunch), and the company is also keen to be seen as learning from past mistakes - the failure to cut the price of the GameCube after disappointing early sales, in particular, was mentioned at the Tokyo press conference on Friday.

The reasons for the 3DS' disappointing performance don't really need a lot of explanation - anyone following the industry knows what the problems have been with the console. The price was much too high, comparable with a PlayStation 3 and far above the cost of the existing DS or an iPod Touch. Nintendo seems to have hoped that the 3DS would appeal to a core audience initially, with the DS staying on shelves for the mainstream audience. The low sales figures suggest that the company's core audience has also stayed away.

That might be down to the second major factor - the lack of software, or at least, the perceived lack of software. 3DS owners and publishers working on the console might raise their eyebrows when the platform is accused of lacking games - in my own view, at least, it's got one of the strongest early line-ups I've ever seen on a console - but the meme is more important than the reality. Again, Nintendo's abandonment by core fans doesn't help - and while titles like Starfox and Ocarina of Time are excellent, the console could have done with original games rather than remakes at this point in its lifespan.

Another area where perception is more important than reality is marketing, and this has been a complete and miserable failure for Nintendo on almost every count. The public simply isn't aware of the strengths of the 3DS, thanks to a marketing campaign which has tried to strongly emphasise the ties to the DS brand while also talking up the 3D capabilities of the system. As a consequence, many consumers are still under the impression that the 3DS is simply a DS with a 3D screen - these people aren't stupid or uninformed, they believe this because that's exactly what Nintendo has been telling them.

It doesn't help, of course, that 3D is presently in the doghouse as far as most consumers are concerned, thanks to movie studios completely wrecking any enthusiasm for the burgeoning technology with a slew of badly adapted, low-quality 3D releases - the situation is so dire that most ordinary cinema-goers I know will go to a more inconvenient showtime just to see the 2D version of a new film. Thus, the 3DS ends up with its only heavily promoted USP being a technology that consumers don't want, and which many actively resent.

In theory, all of those things could be fixed. You can cut the price - Nintendo already has, making the 3DS into probably the first console it has ever made on which it's taking a loss on hardware sales. You can bolster your software line-up, and Nintendo's already on the way to that. Even if you can't change the ill-conceived name, you can at least formulate a marketing campaign that promotes the console's other positives and downplays the 3D factor a little.

What you can't do, however, is make smartphones and tablets go away. I think the factors outlined above are probably the core reason for the failure of the 3DS to achieve the strong launch Nintendo had hoped for, but in the medium to long term, it's smartphones and tablets that will have the largest impact. Multifunction devices may not play games quite as well as dedicated devices (yet), but they play them well enough for most consumers - and have led many consumers to see handheld games as something that should be free or very inexpensive, casting huge doubt on the market for £30 software.

Given those factors, two major questions arise from Nintendo's humiliating about-face on the 3DS' price. Firstly, has the company done enough to save the 3DS?

The answer, I think, is probably "yes - for now". At a much lower price point and with the software catalogue growing rapidly, with a better marketing campaign behind it and hopefully with the leeway for some good software bundles as we approach key sales periods this winter, I believe that the 3DS should have pretty decent sales in the vital fourth calendar quarter.

For most consumers, hardware purchases follow a simple equation - you balance up the number of games in which the consumer is interested on one side, and weigh that against the price on the other side. The fall in price makes it much easier for consumers to justify the purchase as the software library grows - and while for some consumers the rapid price cut will diminish confidence in the device, it should encourage others to come off the fence and buy into the console.

In the longer term, however, I believe that it's simply impossible for the 3DS to replicate the success of the DS. The audience that Nintendo won for itself with the DS hasn't stopped gaming, but they've discovered - as many other gamers have - that there's a lot of high quality entertainment to be had for much lower prices. Iwata may rail against the dangers - as he perceives them - of low-cost software on iOS style platforms, but the reality is that billions of dollars are being spent on iOS Apps, many of them games, and that clever companies are finding ways to fund even the development of pretty large-scale, high quality projects using new business models provided by smartphone platforms.

Which leads us to the second question - what does the difficulty faced by the 3DS mean for the wider console market, particularly the handheld market? Where does this leave PlayStation Vita?

Some commentators have opined that Vita was actually a seriously negative factor for the 3DS, and I think there's some truth to that - the fact that Sony was going to launch a technologically superior handheld, without the divisive, unpopular 3D tech, at the same price point as the 3DS, definitely dampened sales. However, it's easy to put too much weight on that idea - the reality is that most consumers who chose not to buy a 3DS did so not because of Vita on the horizon, but rather because of being perfectly happy with something that already exists, like an iPod Touch or a DSi.

If anything, I think Sony will be seriously worried by the early failures of the 3DS. For a start, it puts them in the uncomfortable position of launching a much more expensive product than their rival - and as has been proven time and time again in recent years, for most consumers, the argument that it's more powerful so it's worth the money just doesn't wash, especially with a handheld platform. It also creates a market expectation of failure for dedicated handheld devices, so Vita's launch will probably be dampened by consumers holding off a purchase in case it, too, ends up being heavily discounted a few months later.

More importantly, though, the blow Nintendo has taken with the 3DS is an illustration of the real strength and influence of iOS devices in the gaming space. That traditional handhelds would suffer from the rise of iOS, not just due to the incredible sales of Apple's devices but also due to the resulting sea-changes in business models and consumer expectations, has been long theorised. Now we have proof, and it's solid enough proof to have wiped a fifth off Nintendo's formerly soaring stock value.

Sony, at least, understands the outline of this problem, even if I'm not convinced that it's grasped the full scale of it just yet. The PlayStation Suite framework for Android is designed to give the company a leg-up in the mobile gaming space, and it's shown vastly more commitment to delivering low-cost, high-quality content on PSN than Nintendo has on services like the 3DS eShop or its predecessors, which are much more focused on squeezing value out of retro titles than on providing a marketplace for original content.

Yet the reality still remains the same - PlayStation Vita is going to launch at the same price point which sank the 3DS, and even if some of the factors around it look more positive (not least that the early adopter market still likes Sony, but regards Nintendo as having blotted its copybook badly in the past generation), it's still going to be competing with iOS devices sporting a huge game catalogue at vastly lower prices. That's a tough nut to crack, and I'm not sure Sony has really worked out how to crack it.

The long-term diagnosis is tricky. It's easy to look at home consoles and core gaming on PC and confidently predict that it's here for the long-haul; even if the pace of the graphics arms race slows down (as it must), the simple reality of tens of millions of core consumers will ensure that the market remains fairly healthy regardless of how popular casual and social gaming gets.

Handhelds are a trickier proposition. The reality is that they're not quite so hardcore a market - some core titles break through, such as the extraordinary Monster Hunter (which, I recently discovered, actually commonly features in personal ads on dating sites in Japan, such is its ubiquity), but where few Xbox or PS3 owners are going to be satisfied with a complete move to an iPad or a bunch of Facebook games and free-to-play MMOs, a pretty large proportion of DS and PSP owners would probably be perfectly happy playing on iPhones or Droids.

That transition is no longer hypothetical - the money being pumped through the iOS revenue system, contrasted with the failure of the 3DS to ring the tills at retail, is proof positive that it's already happening on a large scale. The only question is how big this factor is going to be. 3DS and PS Vita will, quite simply, never scale the heights of the previous generation of handhelds - but if Nintendo and Sony are fast, and clever, and more than a bit lucky, there's a good chance that they can carve out a viable, if smaller, market.

One thing is certain - dedicated handheld gaming devices are now in rapid decline, and barring an extraordinary technological advance, they're not going to come back. Birthed with the Game & Watch, this sector is going to end with the 3DS and Vita. All that remains to be seen is whether it ends with a whimper, or a bang.

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Bill Loguidice
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Excellent post, Nous, that

Excellent post, Nous, that definitely mirrors my own feelings. If you'd like to re-post your commentary as a blog post, I'll be happy to promote it to the front page next time I'm logged back in.

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Nous
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I'm not taking credit for

I'm not taking credit for this Bill, this is Rob Fahey's recent commentary on gamesindustry.biz (you can't read it unless you're registered there).

The only reason I posted the whole thing on here (without his permission - but purely for the benefit of a handful of people on here and certainly without claiming ownership of the content) is because I thought this could have easily be written by you - it's exactly what you've been saying all along.

Of course I also agree with it, for the most part, and for the past 5 years I've been talking about how the rapid, exponential (r)evolution of convergent devices will completely and irreversibly change the portable entertainment landscape.

Glad you agree this was very interesting indeed!

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Rowdy Rob
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Legal isssues...
Nous wrote:

I'm not taking credit for this Bill, this is Rob Fahey's recent commentary on gamesindustry.biz (you can't read it unless you're registered there).

The only reason I posted the whole thing on here (without his permission - but purely for the benefit of a handful of people on here and certainly without claiming ownership of the content) is because I thought this could have easily be written by you - it's exactly what you've been saying all along.

Wait a minute.... you posted exclusive content from another site, in its entirety, without permission or even site attribution in the original post? Legal issues abound on that one. I'd hate to see AA get burned for something like this. It's certainly not proper "netiquette," at the very least, to deny traffic to the other site.

Nous
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Settle down, there was no

Settle down, there was no malicious intent. I *did* mention the author in the original post (look at the title), not the site (which I probably should have for completeness - not that it would've made a difference).

I know it isn't proper netiquette, but this EXACT same thing has been discussed to death (almost in the exact same words, and to the same extent - coming to the exact same conclusion) on here many times before.

Nobody is going to profit from this and not too many people are going to read it on here - it was only meant as an interesting read for those (few) of us on AA who can see that there are other like minded people "out there" who think *exactly* like we do.

By all means feel free to remove that post , Bill, if you're worried it might cause any trouble.

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clok1966
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That was pretty insightfull,

That was pretty insightfull, and well thought out (should have took credit :) ). I tend to look at product fails more from the consumer point of view then its compatition. If you study past products who have failed and been succesful it seldom hinges on how "good" they are. Todays products succed on many things that have zero impact on how good they work. We in the tech field maybe look at a product on not what it does, but what can it do? I stand by my original assesment of the Wii, It took motion control to the next level, but FAR to few games actually benafited from it. In fact many games had annoying bits put in just to showcase it (metroid door opening parts). And the Wii was not much of a new machine, it would have been quite easy for Nintendo to release a addon to the gamecube to do almost the same thing, yes I know the Wii is slightly more powerfull, and so on.. but it could have been done. Where i was 100% wrong was thinking the public would see it was a gamecube 1.5 with motion control that worked in some games and was flawed in others. So you have a machine that some of its games just simply played badly becuase of a forced control set. Right now the Ps3 is (worldwide) set to catch the 360 by years end, so with a year late start, and approxemlty 2 years left on it and the 360's life cycle, it will sell more in a shorter time (if trends hold, thats a pretty big if, but 3 years ago NOBODY but Sony would have guessed that).. yet neither of them will come close to selling what the wii did. So much is said about the HUGE sales slump the Wii is in.. and sadly if you look at the numbers, it still sells quite well, and (this one counts much more) even at the reduced price, makes more money for nintendo on a per sale basis than MS or sony do.. so in the end even at 3rd place now, the Wii probely pulls in more cash per month than Sony and MS do on machine sales. The Wii also lived and DIED on the shovel ware. Alot of people have bad mouthed it and it certianly was a black eye on the Wii, but few look at the upside (yes there is one). Console, much like printers are not the money makers, its the games (ink) each company licences the right to make games, so most get aprox $10 (this varies) for every game sold. Nintendo got $10 (or whatever fee) for each of those crap games too. Wieghing the value of the money and the bad press the shovelware gets is tough to do. The Wii was a go for broke attempt by nintendo and it worked in a huge way, at least to a point, evntally it caught up with them (sales seem to show this).. but im sure Nintendo looks at it as 100% succes (as well it should) even if it sold less then 100 more units.
I think the 3Ds is trying the same thing, but its gimick caught up with it far faster then the Wii's did. I dont get caught up in hype, and had almost zero interest in the 3DS, but some short gametime with it left me far more interested in more than i would have guessed. But as the case of a bowl of ice cream or a bucket.. I liked it in very small doses, but one long term session soured me on it pretty much permently. And we all keep stateing how the phone market is effecting them all, thats one thing I dont imagein anybody seen as such a huge impact up till the last year or so. And (grumble grumble) the Ipad thing is part of it all too, one more thing I doubt anybody had in mind a few years ago when development started.

One thing the mention of Android tablets not doing well, while no where near Ipad numbers (last numbers i seen they where just getting to about half as many sold possibly by end of this year) when you take all the differnt versions and add thier numbers up its not doing so bad. This is the one negative of a Open system like this, ANYBODY can make one, and they all are, they are killing each others market. You have the ones you see on deal sites for as little as $75 which will do some pretty sneacky ads making it look like a Ipad wanna be.. while its not even 1/4 the size and 1/100 the ability. Uninformed consumers, underhanded ads... are slowly killing the percepetion of these tablets.

That leads me back to the consumer. many make decisions based on anything but the ability of said product. Buying the 3Ds for 3D, when 3D just hasnt caught on or you havent tried it is a uninformed descison for MOST (not all) users. I look at the people buying the 360/PS3/Wii and the comment they make on why they purchase. I look at polls on brand loyalty (that is one messed up area, sadly across the world). many consumers are not buying the best product for them, but the one one they LOVE, or the Percieved best one, with no actuall data to back it up.

And you have the worst consumer, the one who buys to have, not to use (i fall in this one, at least on gadgets). But they are only hard on themsleves.. wasteing money :) I been chewing my nails the last few days, my phone is up.. Xperia? (all the wrong reasons say YES!!! all the right reasons say NO!) or wait, the new Thunderbolt is comming this fall.. and i read up.. it SCREAMS speed wise..( the old thunderbolt did to, but it chewd up battery life in a maner no phone could live with, new one is suposed to be slighly less then an average phone).

clok1966
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I dont think anybody is a

I dont think anybody is a "fool" for looking at a product, high price or low priced if its something you are intrested in. We all view our entertinment different, a preson who reads books for fun is no differnt then a person who draws or doodles. if you think you will enjoy it enouhg for the purchase, why not.. I am very anti on some things, but when it comes to FUN, i sure wouldnt judge what somebody else does (unless its hurting others). I stated i lost interest in the 3DS after prolonged play, but that price point quite simply moves it back into my "maybe" area again.

Working in the tech field and advising people on purchases... I get so annoyed with "bling" purchases, people who just want trendy, instead of usefull, but I feel work related is a different area..and Im revising my thoughts on some of that too. I'm very biased against companies telling me how to use something I PAID FOR, we have lost our real freedom in real life already, now they want to take apart my current "wild west" the internet and my choice of what ii use it for. When it comes to work I get far to narrow minded, A tool that does 100 things is worth far more to me than one that does 10 things awsome.. but some people will only do those 10 things, so my 100 use tool is waste.

I also want to say one more thing on my earlier post about Consumers buying products not by how they benefit them, but how they precive them. the wonderfull thing about the world we live in is chosing what you want.. be it a smart choice or bad choice.. So while I hate it.. I do agree with it. The market is drove by us... We now pay for water, and even air (yes you can buy air in a can), lee jeans that where the cheap stuff, are now marketed as "cool" and we pay 3X the price.. games that came with do dads and in a box you could keep forever are now all digtial, yet eliminateing the box/trucks to haul it/ do dads and the price is only gone up (inflation has some to do with that) its gotta be a good thing, right? letting the general public decide? :)

Matt Barton
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I agree that the DS seemed to

I agree that the DS seemed to be the right device at the right time. We're still at a point where most parents probably aren't comfortable (financially or otherwise) giving their small children mobile phones. Maybe a lot of people feel their ten year old needs an iPhone or Android; I don't see it myself. Makes more sense to give them a DS and be done with it. The fact that there is so much shovelware for the systems helps too; spending $15 or so on a game doesn't seem bad.

Where I find myself scratching my head, though, is why any of us would want a 3DS or even a DS for that matter (other than curiosity, of course). I could see justifying an iPad, which can also be used for productivity, and of course a smart phone is a no-brainer for guys like us. Why a dedicated mobile gaming device, though? That just seems redundant to me. What, are you going to whip out a 3DS at the gym? While you're standing in line at Wal-Mart? While you're sipping on a mocha at Starbucks? Again, the only scenario that makes any sense to me is for people who travel a lot or commute on a subway or bus. Even then, surely the games available on smart phone will suffice--and would it really kill somebody to read a book or listen to a podcast instead?

3D seems to be more interesting to guys like us than kids, though, at least as far as I can tell. Thus we have a gimmick that appeals almost exclusively to 18-45 year old males (how many of our wives/girlfriends give a damn about 3D movies?), but on a device whose market consists mostly of 5-12 year boys and 5-8 year old girls. It makes about as much sense as having your kid's birthday party at Hooters.

I don't know what Nintendo was thinking with this one. Seems like Sony was trying to target the 12-18 year old boys with its PSP line; I guess they'll be aiming there again for the Vita. Could be a decent market there, but again I don't think there will be a big fanfare over it.

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Chris Kennedy
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More on 3DS

The main reason I brought up the foolish comment is to ask about the software support and general appeal of a 3DS. If it was a virtual boy-like item, I would hope several of you that own the 3DS would tell me "Skip it! Stay away! Not worth it." But then again - if a couple of really good games come out for the system (regardless of 3D factor) that are just simply fun to play, I guess I will have to pick it up. I have considering picking one up after the price drop and getting Ocarina of Time 3DS. I haven't played OoT since beating it on (yep...) a N64 emulator circa 2001/2002. It sure looked nice on UltraHLE at 1024x768.

As for portable gaming in general - I don't have a problem with a portable gaming device. I think a lot of people assume that by portable it means "gotta take it with you when you go somewhere." That is far from the case for me. Many people insulted the XL when it came out, but I thought it was *made* for me. I really liked the larger screens. Portability? Not a problem. My version of a portable game system is one I can take ...somewhere else in my house. Ha! It is also a really nice thing to have when someone else is using the TV - I mean unless you are toting game systems from one room to another or have your house setup like a media circus with electronics in every room, you are going to have to wait on TV time.

I like the variety, but ultimately I just - wait for it.... - go for the games more than I do the platform. Because after all, it is all about the gameplay.

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