Nintendo would like you to think that the 3DS, once ballyhooed and then dismissed for a dud, is making a comeback. They'll show you the numbers.
Their numbers don't matter. Mine do. And my 3DS numbers—the numbers that show how much time I used Nintendo's newest handheld day-by-day, month-by-month, throughout 2011 since the system launched—tell the story that matters most to me as a 3DS gamer.
They reveal that my 3DS was a dud when it launched, a dud through the summer and then, suddenly, it's become a wonderful thing. I have the proof, because my 3DS has been tracking everything I've done with it.
I've shot two videos of my 3DS' Activity Log, an app that is backed into every 3DS. If you have a 3DS, you have the app, too. You can use it to check the number of steps you've taken while carrying the device, as measured by the system's on-board pedometer. And you can check the playing time for every game and app on the machine.
The two measurements that the 3DS tracks reveal the contrast between how much a person brings their 3DS with them and how much they use it—think of it as intent to play vs. actually playing it.
The two videos in this story tell the story, but here are some of the most provocative details: since I got the 3DS in mid-March I have carried it for 349,874 steps (plus all the steps when it was drained of power). I have played and used 76 DS and 3DS games and apps on it for a total of 97 hours and 49 minutes.
I barely touched the 3DS in the spring and summer. Since September, that changed. I started using it almost daily. The reason is simple: games. It's not quite that simple, though. I've had a backlog of interesting games worth playing on my 3DS since I got the machine in March. Most of them have been DS games, things like Ghost Trick and the Professor Laytons. I only started getting 3DS games that I cared about digging into when Super Mario 3D Land hit. That wasn't until November. What kept me from that DS backlog were the games and conveniences of my iPhone.
I'm a podcast-listener and a New York City subway-commuter. Through much of 2011, I filled my twice-daily half-hour subway rides with iPhone stuff. The subways are cramped and I have to hold on to a pole to keep my balance (I can't get a seat!). So I would listen to podcasts and play iPhone games like Drop7 with one hand. I had neither the space to play my 3DS nor the motivation—due to a lack of enough compelling games—to surf the subway, elbow my way to a seat or otherwise find a way to play Nintendo's handheld. In the fall, I've finally been that motivated. My 3DS is back in rotation.
The stats and charts don't lie. My stats don't lie. The 3DS was a waste of plastic for me for much of the year. I barely touched it. But now, past a big price cut, past a lot of naysaying, it's finally come into its own. The chart matches my mood. I'm finally happy with my 3DS.
(If you must know Nintendo's stats... They say they've sold 6.68 million 3DSes worldwide through the end of September. They don't have U.S. numbers through November yet, but the company says it has already passed the DS' first-year mark of 2.37 million sold. Those sales, of course, were helped by a price cut in the summer which reduced the machines cost by a third. And, for the record, Nintendo gave me my 3DS at launch, so I can't say whether the system has been "worth it." I can simply say, I'm much happier with it.)
Readers: What does your 3DS Activity log look like? Shoot a video and share it in the comments below.