Having just finished a quick play-through of the ten free Nintendo games given to me by the 3DS’s ambassador program, Nintendo’s peace offering to bloodthirsty nerds across the globe, I find myself wondering what caused the eighty dollar price cut in the first place.  Granted, the system was a bit overpriced and perhaps they could have included the ever important second joystick, but Nintendo clearly felt they had a winner in their new handheld.  What went wrong?  Well, I believe three parties to be responsible for the growing pains of the 3DS: the stores that sell it, Nintendo themselves, and *gasp* ourselves as the consumer.

The Error in Advertising

Heading into your typical GameStop or various other video game outlet, it doesn’t take long to notice the 3DS sitting on display, inviting you to come try out its 3D awesomeness. Upon wandering over and looking at its screen, most likely one of two things will happen: you could see a basic 2D display lacking even an attempt at 3D, or worse yet you get a blurred sort of double vision, causing eye strain and a headache. Well, 3D gaming must not be for you, right? Not necessarily.  Nintendo clearly states that the 3DS must be at a specific angle to work properly, which you, the consumer aren’t likely to be at, since the 3DS display firmly confines the system to one spot. Adding to the problem is the fact that most game stores consider the DS family to be geared towards a younger audience, as anything lacking blood, guts, and explosions clearly isn’t “hardcore” enough for adults to enjoy. As such, a lot of kids will fall in love with the system, but I see the conversation with their parents (who have all of the buying power,) going something like this:

Kid: “Oh wow! Check out this cool new system!”

Parent: “3D, hmmm? Well let’s see. Dear God I haven’t had this bad of a migraine since my college years!”

Kid: “Can I get it for Christmas?”

Parent: “No. You’ll burn your eyes out kid. Go play Virtual Boy.”

Okay, perhaps no parent would ever get that desperate, but you get my point.  The 3DS already has a giant warning plastered on the box that it can create eye problems in young children, and an instant headache isn’t going to convince the average consumer that the product is safe for their kids.  This is really a shame too, as I think a lot of people would realize the issue of eye strain is largely overblown, though the try-before-you-buy approach simply isn’t a fair test in this situation.  The only appropriate trial run would be to borrow a friend’s 3DS for a few hours, and even then someone has to go in blind.

Nintendo’s Betrayal of Quality

Don’t take this the wrong way, as I personally love the 3DS. But the system’s launch lineup was simply inexcusable.  Let’s take a look at the list of titles that were released on opening day: 

Super Street Fighter IV

The Sims 3

Madden NFL Football

Pro Evolution Soccer

Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

Ridge Racer 3D

Super Monkey Ball 3D

Bust-A-Move Universe

Samurai Warriors: Chronicles

Asphalt 3D

Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D

Rayman 3D

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Shadow Wars

Steel Diver

Pilotwings Resort

Nintendogs + Cats (x3)

That’s it. No Mario, no Zelda, no crazy new experimental IP, no sign of any franchise that has made Nintendo the gaming giant it is today.  This strongly reminds me of the disappointment I had during the Wii’s launch back in 2006: I wanted a red Wii with Dragon Quest and Smashbros, all of which Nintendo had originally promised. (I went 0 for 3, by the way.)  The point is, you can’t just launch an innovative new piece of hardware and expect people to buy it without any decent software to back it up.  I believe great games are on the way; many people, (myself included,) waited for the release of either The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D or Starfox 64 3D to get a 3DS, and many more will happily jump on the bandwagon once Super Mario 3D Land and the new Mario Kart games enter the mix.  That being said, I also think that had any one of these games been available at launch, Nintendo may not have needed the price drop at all.

Questionable Consumers

Alas, the finger of blame for the 3DS’s rocky start partly points at us as well. Gamers as a whole criticize change, as while we like new experiences, there’s also a certain comfort in familiarity.  All great changes were initially fought by the gaming community, such as the switch from 2D to traditional 3D gaming, or motion controls. Don’t get me wrong; 3D has become gimmicky in the movies just as it will on the 3DS, but only if it’s used improperly. The technology can look amazing in brightly animated worlds, and who’s better fit to create colorful, vibrant adventures than Nintendo?  True, it’s highly plausible that most third party titles won’t handle the system well, but for the first time in a long while I don’t think I care; Nintendo has always been a breath of fresh air from the rest of the gaming industry, following their own path, for better and for worse.  Despite its early struggles, the 3DS represents a chance for us to put down our sniper rifles and revisit the magic that drew us into becoming the gamers we are today, if only for a moment.  If we don’t, I think we could miss out on something truly special.