5. Lackluster 3D
The idea of gaming in 3D isn’t exactly new, and the whole 3D viewing thing goes back at least as far as the 1800s. There have been surges of support for 3D movies, but we’re in the middle of what may be the biggest show of support for 3D ever. Even still, there’s a reason it’s taken so long to catch on.
Early 3D viewing methods were complex and unsatisfying to the viewer, and the most recent methods require the use of glasses. Nintendo says that 3DS users won’t have to wear glasses to see the 3D effects, which means rather than the old-school red and blue anaglyph glasses, or the stereoscopic method used in televisions and theaters, the 3DS will be auto-stereoscopic.
I’ve gone to CES for the last three years, and I can tell you that none of the auto-stereoscopic displays I saw even came close to being good enough to sell to the general public. In a large scale, they’re not ready.
There’s a distinct possibility here that Nintendo has jumped into the 3D space without being fully prepared. If journalists go hands on with the 3DS at E3 this year and it doesn’t look amazing, Nintendo’s in trouble.
4. The Price
“The Playstation 3 will retail for five hundred and ninety-nine US dollars” - Kaz Hi
The price of a game system can directly determine how successful it will be, and how quickly it’s picked up by the general public. I’m not talking about the core audience here. No matter what the price, there will be people lined up to buy the 3DS on launch day, but how it does the next week, the next month, and the next year all comes down to price.
Nintendo has been raising the price of handheld gaming, and it’s a worrying trend. The Nintendo DS launched at an incredibly reasonable $149 and the DS Lite launched for an even lower $129. More recently though, the DSi raised the price of handheld entry to $169, and the DSi XL takes it even farther up to $189.
All of Nintendo’s handheld systems are still cheaper than the PSPgo and are just a touch cheaper than the Wii, but a high priced launch could kill the 3DS before it even gets started. If Nintendo can keep this at $199 or less, they’re going to do great.
3. No 3rd Party Support
Once upon a time Nintendo was one of many companies making quality games for Nintendo systems. Capcom’s Mega Man series got its start on the NES
, and what would the Super Nintendo be without Squaresoft games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger? My third favorite SNES game, E.V.O., was made by Enix. The system wouldn’t have been the same without those companies.
Not listening to third party companies means that Nintendo missed out on some great games. The mega-hit Final Fantasy 7 was originally slated for the N64, but Nintendo’s refusal to deal with discs meant that Sony got the exclusive.
The Wii and the DS have, thus far, been able to float on what Nintendo’s brought out. Third party support is weak at best, and third party games are, with a few exceptions, absolutely awful. So why does the 3DS need third party support?
Unlike the Wii, which was a bit of a gamble, 3D gaming is a sure thing. People want it. Developers want to make 3D games. Nintendo, hopefully, wants good games on their system. If they’re not helping other companies out, they’ll develop for the next 3D handheld that hits, and if Sony’s smart, it’ll be theirs.
Keeping those developers happy can make all the difference in the world.
2. No Mario at Launch
Only a few systems in the history of Nintendo have launched without a proper Mario game: The Game Boy Color, which had Wario Land II; the Virtual Boy, which had Mario tennis, but that’s not the same; the Gamecube, which had Luigi’s Mansion; and the Wii. Two of those systems did incredibly well, and the other two did not.
Twilight Princess and the no
vel Wii Sports carried the Wii for a full year until Super Mario Galaxy hit, but that’s a strong exception. The Game Boy Color had multiple playable Mario games at launch, but the Pokemon craze was the main drive behind sales. Launching without a proper Mario game is a risk that Nintendo really shouldn’t take, especially on a handheld with such potential.
At the very least, one of the big franchises needs to be present to make the 3DS worth picking up for hardcore Nintendo fans. If there’s not a Mario Bros, Mario Kart, Legend of Zelda, Metroid, or even a Super Smash Bros at launch - one that was built from the ground up for 3D - Nintendo may be in trouble.
Giving players a reason to pick up the system, aside from a Wii Sports like tech demo, is essential. Especially if Nintendo wants to recapture the core audience.
1. Ignoring the Competition
Nintendo’s innovation with the Wii paid off, but there’s a lot that the system doesn’t do. There’s no high definition, for starters. Playing games online more difficult than on the 360 and the PS3. Game selection is weak unless you’re into a very specific type of experience, and Netflix streaming came later on the Wii than on either system.
It’s worked out fine so far, but the GameCube is a great example of when it doesn’t. The PS2 played DVDs right out of the box, and the GameCub
e didn’t. The Xbox began a legacy of online play and downloadable content, which the GameCube steered clear of. Nintendo put the GameCube a completely separate class from the other two, making it quickly irrelevant to consumers.
Microsoft and Sony have been slow to adapt the motion controls of the Wii, since it’s not something that’s aimed towards their audiences. Both companies are coming out with their own brand of motion control, but it’s one of those scenarios where it’s too little, too late. They missed out on the motion control trend, but that’s not going to work this time.
There is no doubt in my mind that as soon as Sony caught wind of the plans for the Nintendo 3DS, they got to work on making a PSP to beat it. According to some sources, they’ve already been working on a similar device. If Sony can have something ready to announce at E3, there’s going to be competition, and Nintendo needs to keep up with it.
It’s not just Sony either. The iPhone and iPod Touch are legitimate competitors to the DS. Digital content delivery, low priced games, a built-in hard drive and surprisingly good graphics give Apple an edge. Nintendo has to give people a reason to want a handheld system instead of just playing games on their phones.