Hey, Nintendo: this whole 3DS launch thing may be the talk of the town this week, but when you peel back the hype of a new handheld what's left beneath isn't all high fives and back slaps.
No, beneath the new things and smell of fresh plastic there are gripes. And here are my biggest gripes with the 3DS' launch to date:
At $249, the price of the 3DS is too damn high. People can console themselves with "oh, Nintendo can charge what they want", or "oh, Nintendo has to make a profit on hardware", but that's garbage. This is the same price Nintendo's last home console launched at. It's priced at $249 because Nintendo believes that, after five years of almost constant audience-building success, it can get away with pricing it at $249. It's eerily reminiscent of Sony's $599! pricetag at the debut of the PS3, and we all know how well that went down.
I'm not saying the 3DS' launch will be a failure because of this, but it'll certainly deter some of even the company's most loyal fans, especially since they'll be the most likely to realise next year there'll be a smaller, cheaper 3DS Lite.
It's launching too early. There are many features of the 3DS, like web browsing and the downloading of games, that won't be there for the handheld's launch. There are many big games — Ocarina of Time especially — that people would have expected to be there at launch that are not. Stock will be severely limited. Why? I don't think the 3DS was ever meant to launch in March.
Instead, given the rapid decline in sales of both the Wii and DS over 2010, it seems as though Nintendo's head office panicked, and rather than allow their flagship products to stagnate into 2011 — which would spook investors — decided to rush the 3DS out before the end of the company's fiscal year on March 31. Four million new handhelds sold will give Nintendo's bottom line a big boost it would otherwise have been without.
That's great for Nintendo's top brass, as well as the company's investors, but it feels like we're getting a partial launch as a result of the rush. That's why the 3DS' reveal was a rushed press release in the dead of night. That's why Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime was quick to point out he's counting the 3DS' launch window as running until June. That could be why we're not getting web browsing, game downloads, DSiWare game transfers or 3D movie functionality at launch. Because I don't think the 3DS was meant to be out until the middle of the year (at the earliest).
Region locking is the devil's work. We'll be bringing you more on the 3DS' region locking measures later, but suffice to say that any region locking on a handheld is something to be frowned upon. One of the joys of the Nintendo DS was the ability to sample games from other regions that we otherwise wouldn't have had a chance to enjoy. Like Ouendan. Locking the 3DS away behind iron curtains won't stop piracy, as Nintendo obviously believes it will. Nor do I think it has anything to do with another explanation given, that age ratings differ across territories. Pirates will always find a way, so all this measure will do is annoy hardcore consumers who want to play games they otherwise wouldn't be able to play.
Failure To Launch. OK, so hardware launches are rarely the time for all-time classic games to be released. And the DS' roster was one of the worst of all time. But at least it had Super Mario 64 DS, which while a remake, was at least a remake of an all-time classic. That was enough to get the Nintendo faithful by while they waited for more substantial offerings. The 3DS' launch lineup looks dull all over. The usual suspects from EA and Ubisoft, a Nintendogs game that now has cats and a bunch of castaways from the Japanese launch. There's no standout game there, meaning there's less motivation for people to buy at launch other than the hardware itself. Which, at $249, isn't the greatest deal on the planet.