3DS Software Canceled and Delayed : Is the 3DS Nintendo’s Sinking Ship?

mario sinking shipIt is obvious that the 3DS, Nintendo’s glasses-free 3D follow up to the wildly successful Nintendo DS line of handhelds,  has had a rocky start. Launching at $250 USD, more than double the price of current DS models, the 3DS has been a disappointment at retail since launch. Currently sales remain slow with older DS models outselling it 2 to 1.

Yesterday, news hit of game publisher Capcom canceling upcoming 3DS title Mega Man Legends 3. While the press was quick to point to the recent departure of Keiji Inafune, Capcom quickly disputed this fact stating “Unfortunately it was not felt that the Mega Man Legends 3 Project met the required criteria,” ie. It wouldn’t make money.

Hot on the heels of Capcom’s announcement was the report that Sega will be delaying two of its upcoming 3ds titles, Crush 3D (until February 21, 2012) and Shinobi (until November 15, 2011).

So what happened? How could Nintendo, unarguably the top player in the handheld gaming market since its inception, be staring into the inky waters of the abyss? Let us take a quick look at the 3DS so far:

The Launch Lineup: Here is the Big N’s launch titles for the 3DS followed by their Metacritic score:

  • Pilotwings Resort (71)
  • Steel Diver (58)
  • Nintendogs + Cats (71)

    That’s it. No Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, Donkey Kong, or even Brain Age. The promised flagship title for the system, Kid Icarus Uprising, the game shown as the 3DS’ killer app, is listed at Gamestop without a release date four months after the system’s North American launch.

    The eShop: Nintendo’s online store debuted similarly late. Finally arriving nearly three months after the system launched, the 3DS eShop launched with an obnoxious interface and a miniscule selection of software showcasing the new system's technical chops. Instead of new, 3D experiences, the eShop was bloated with apps from last generation’s DSi-ware online store; Hardly the goods sought by early adopters looking to show off the new machine.

    Technical Troubles: As it turns out, 3D did not blossom into the ‘killer app’ marketers were anticipating. Between saturation from the movie industry bolting on mediocre 3D experiences to films and the still questionable effects of the technology on children, 3D has ridden a bumpy road. The integration of this technology into Nintendo’s handheld has left the system at a significant disadvantage in terms of usability when compared to its predecessors, such as drastically reduced battery life.

    N64 Ports: Looking into the future of Nintendo’s plans for the 3DS library shows many familiar titles such as Star Fox 64 and the recently released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. These ‘new’ titles are re-releases of games originally sold in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Nintendo has elected to shovel ports of 13 year old games rather than craft a new experience for its cutting edge system.

    Pricing: Not only does the system itself sport a price tag far beyond what Nintendo has launched any of its previous handhelds with, the software now costs $5-10USD more than the previous handheld generation’s games. This is an astronomical price tag to consider when stacked up against a 800 pound, $1 game wielding gorilla known as…

    The Smartphone: Between the low cost of software and annual iterations, the smartphone seems to be the oft neglected, yet easily accessible, up-and-coming king of handheld gaming. Even families that do not have a spare device lying around can pick up the iPhone 3GS for $50USD on contract. Games ranging from RPGs to Flight Simulators can be owned for less than $5. In addition, if your child is old enough to tote around a $250 3DS, they are probably already working to score themselves a cell phone as well.

    Obviously it is far too early to discount the 3DS as a failure. Nintendo’s marketing pockets are deep and the system has yet to face its first holiday shopping rush. However, the Big N sure has a steep slope to climb after a woefully mishandled launch. The high price of both hardware and software, stiff competition, unimaginative software lineup, and a gimmick  that has yet to catch fire with either consumers or critics simply make the 3DS a hard sell.

    …To say nothing of the fact that the future face of handheld gaming may already be in your pocket, waiting for you to call your Mom.

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