Grumpy Gurevitz: Does anyone know if the 3DS is ready to use yet?

Nintendo discovered the mainstream casual market but for some reason missed the fact that this audience had migrated to phones and tablets. Evidence: launching with Nintendodogs; a game which is no longer relevant to the typical dedicated gaming handheld consumer.

It says something when the best reason to switch on a games console is to see if that firmware update you have been waiting for has actually been released yet. Normally this level of excitement might be associated with a never quite on schedule Blackberry release, or possibly the once a year Xbox Live update. However, my first few months of owning a 3DS was spent waiting for it to become functional.

Without wanting to pre-empt the whole article, I should add that it is now functional, and it is all the better for being so. Yet, it seems strange that a company as wise and rich as Nintendo would bring a product to market which would turn its own ‘early adopters’ into its worst possible ‘word of mouth’ marketing team. I am yet to read an article, or meet a fellow owner, who was not full of dismay and scorn at the device resulting in them questioning whether the 3DS represented Nintendo’s first great marketing misstep since the birth of the Gamecube.

The 3DS launched with a lot of razzle and dazzle, with celebrities and events globally. The official magazines, and not so official magazines along with websites had previews of exciting first and third party games which, although not PS3 level of graphics, still looked great and would arrive within weeks of launch. As the launch approached, retailers started changing the launch line-up as games (the ones people might want to actually play) were delayed. The machine launched with very few good games, very few good games that justified £35 a pop, in a world where PS3/Xbox games retail soon after launch at £40 and apps for the iphone and ipad are £1. The good games were Ridge Racer (no online racing mind you), Street Fighter 4 and, er, yeah….

Months later Dead or Alive arrived, (superb) and a remastered and repackaged Ocarina of Time (amazing), followed by Resident Evil Mercenaries (great but way overpriced) and then another vacuum.

This might have made a great E-Store launch title. However, who ever thought it would justify £20-£35?

Now, perhaps Nintendo have realised that charging too much for 3DS games will cancel out the issue that there are actually very few worth buying. The few that are worth having can just about claim to be worth £35, at a push, so owners might buy one every two months. To be honest though, they probably won’t, not if the experience is so limited such as it is with Resident Evil Mercenaries. 3DS owners want and expect handheld versions of full console games, and this is what the publishers and developers need to bring to the party. Of course we live in a digital age, the age of the download and of the stream, and Nintendo had supposedly taken this on board with the 3DS, which was going to be made super E-Friendly. The way in which they best demonstrated this level of E-Friendlyness was to launch the system with no Browser or E-store, saying it’ll be along in a couple of months, maybe, perhaps, possibly – if you close one eye whilst standing on one leg singing the French national anthem backwards.

May came, and the store arrived. As app stores go, this is very well designed and easy to use. The store makes good use of the fact the 3DS has 2 screens, and it’s easy to navigate using the buttons on the 3DS or the touch screen using your finger. In fact as an aside, many people criticise the 3DS for still using a stylus. This criticism is not fair as the resolution of the bottom screen is much higher than that of the original DS which most of the time, results in you not needing a stylus as it is very responsive. Anyway, back to that E-Store…..

It’s easy to find what you want and there are a nice number of trailers appearing adding the idea that it’s not just an E-Store but a general content delivery system for trailers and everything Nintendo. You would think that with the time Nintendo had available to it whilst arranging the release of the E-Store it would arrive full of games and videos from the get-go. Hell no; it launched with one free game, that being a remastered version of ExciteBike, a couple of Gameboy games (including the amazing Super Mario Land) and then a best of DSi highlights. Strangely the DSi games seem much more appealing on this system, not least because you can have quite a few of them installed without running out of memory.

Yet Nintendo have missed a trick here. If they are willing to allow us to have new 3DS-only titles saved onto our SD card, then why not the DSi games too? Having to copy and move games from one storage medium to another is absurd in this ‘click now and play in 30 seconds’ lifestyle we live in. Even if you do have the patience for such stupidity, it results in your save data being lost. This in turn results in you never buying another DSi game, once you have reached your storage limit, if you don’t want either inconvenience. For new 3DS-only games though, there is no such trouble. Save away onto your SD card, and all will be well. The store is an Xbox Live experience in that it also offers regularly updated trailers and channels and hence encourages you to visit regularly to see what else is new.

Whilst I appreciate Nintendo do not want their E-Store reaching saturation point with an ios level of apps and games, they are still too far the other extreme. They should be adding many more games to the store, and certainly more 3DS exclusive games. These don’t all have to be major releases, and could even include free downloads with paid DLC as on ios, which can offer longer lasting revenue streams for certain types of games.

A game which really does justify the investment into the console. More remakes or original titles to this standard must hit the shelves month after month.

So, where now for the 3DS? At last it seems the pieces are in place and the technology works. The release list for major games though still looks brittle and is worrying, but if the promised first party games are delivered on schedule they should drive sales and create a community attractive enough for third party support. I have a sneaking suspicion that in a year’s time, when the PS Vita is out, Nintendo might be regretting not putting a second analogue slider on the device, where there is already space for one. Yet if they can get the price down to £150 or even closer to £120 within a year (quite possible) I think it’ll be a device that can overcome its troubled start and carve out a space for itself in a very congested portable technology landscape.

Editor’s note: This article was originally submitted mere hours before Nintendo announced they were reducing the trade price of the 3DS by about a third, so Steven actually pre-empted this. Honest.

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to

One comment

  1. half_empty80 /

    The 3DS launch has been a shambles. Shouldn’t have been called a 3DS, people don’t realise it is a new console and think it is the next version of the DS. Retailers don’t have a clue either and lump the 3DS games on the DS shelves. As you say the eshop wasn’t ready at launch. Where are the games!!????

    If Nintendo don’t get some decent games out by Xmas and start selling more then I can see major problems for them. Handheld Dreamcast anyone?

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