In case you haven't heard the recent news from the Big N, their newest portable, the 3DS, has had its retail price slashed down to $169.99 from $249.99. This is especially surprising since the 3DS isn't even six months old yet.
In the wake of this announcement, Nintendo stock is tumbling, and the gaming forums are swarming with doom and gloom propaganda. Anti-Nintendo fanatics are busting out their "Die, Mario, Die!" t-shirts, while the faithful-till-the-end fanboys are desperately squinting to find a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Those of us who just love games are left in the middle, anxiously questioning the future of the 3DS. Does it have enough punch to get back into the ring? Will the competition deliver a swift and brutal knockout? Will Nintendo throw in the towel? I am here to extend my poly-partisan answer to all three of these questions.
Does it have enough punch to get back into the ring?
It's a fair assumption to say that the 3DS had a premature birth, with neither the firmware nor software needed to survive in the harsh retail world. Trying to beat the competition to the field, a lot of shortcuts were made, which inevitably made the 3DS a poorly supported device. Additionally, the innovative hub of the system, the glasses-free 3D, has received far more criticism than praise, bringing forth a plethora of notions that the 3DS is the second coming of the Virtual Boy.
But before slapping an "Epic Fail" sticker on the portable, take stock of the redeeming features of the system, many of which are either underused or have just recently joined the party. The system launched sans a web browser, video player, and shopping channel, leaving us with little else to do. Those three features are now up and running, with a Netflix app to boot.
At this point, you could easily say, "Who cares? My smart phone or tablet can do all that." And you'd be right. This is where the 3DS needs to hold strong against the gale force winds and muscle its way forward. With Nintendo, it's always been about the games, and no other first-party developer can match the quality titles they produce. Take the fact that they don't syndicate to other platforms, and the 3DS could turn into your pocket device of choice once its list of exclusive games gets stronger.
There are, however, two issues Nintendo needs to address sooner rather than later. The first is a design overhaul. We want it slimmer. We want it lighter. We want more juice in the battery. We want a flat, textured finish, higher quality buttons, and a better overall layout. These were all nice improvements when the DSi took control of its predecessors, so in this respect, the 3DS feels like a step backwards.
The second thing the 3DS needs is one or two fresh and groundbreaking titles. Despite your personal feelings, games like Nintendogs and Brain Age sold systems, with the former doing an excellent job of showcasing the touchscreen capabilities, and the latter making the DS a must-have for the casual gamer. Sure, the big guns like Star Fox, Super Mario, Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Animal Crossing, Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil are all on the way, but Nintendo can't simply rest on the glory of these recurring titles alone.
Ultimately, any brand new IP can't simply empty the piggy banks of children and use up the grocery money of moms; it must also be strong enough for the hardcore gamers to keep the PS Vita on the shelf. And this brings me to the second question.
Will the competition deliver a swift and brutal knockout?
If the 3DS doesn't pick up the pace before the holiday, the PlayStation Vita could possibly deliver a crushing blow in the handheld wars. From all the hands-on goodness the Vita provided at E3, everyone left fully assured that it would fare better than the PSP. It has all the control schemes of the 3DS and then some, and it will have nice cross-platform capabilities with the PS3. This is something that hasn't even whispered about when it comes to 3DS/Wii U connectivity.