Nintendo yesterday revealed the price of its next dedicated handheld gaming system, the 3DS: $249.99. The Aqua Blue and Cosmo Black 3DS systems will be available in the United States starting March 27 and will include ambient data-sharing, Wi-Fi Web access, glasses-free stereoscopic 3D (top screen), touch control (bottom screen), and motion and gyro sensors. Moreover, the 3DS will play most DS and DSi legacy games and will feature a retro games service for downloadable Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles.
With so many impressive features, the 3DS will no doubt be a hot item among tech junkies and hobbyist gamers. New gaming hardware routinely sells out initial shipments, and the 3DS is sure to be scarce shortly after release. As history has showed, people with disposable income will always splurge on the hottest tech toys.
Of course, Nintendo needs to sell the 3DS to as many people as possible, and mass-market consumers are generally far more price-sensitive than avid technophiles and gamers. For many consumers, $250 is too much to pay for a handheld system, feature-packed though it may be.
The 3DS goes beyond gaming. The system has three cameras, two of which take 3D pictures, and internal storage space for music (MP3 and AAC files). What’s more, users will be able to surf the Internet via an upgraded browser, though that feature won’t come with the 3DS. Nintendo will release a system update to allow the newer Web browser. Unfortunately, for Nintendo, Apple’s game-playing, Web-connected iPhone takes pictures and plays music, too. A gaming system is generally viewed as a luxury item; a phone is largely seen as a necessity. As the iOS game market matures and developers push for better games, consumers might not see a need for Sony- or Nintendo-branded handhelds.
Revenues for dedicated gaming handhelds have declined noticeably since the explosion of the iTunes App Store. Sales generally decline as products age, but the correlation can’t be ignored. After all, if people can purchase a sleek multifunctional phone that plays games, stores photos, plays videos and browses the web, then do consumers really need to carry a 3DS or a PlayStation Portable?
Nintendo recognizes Apple’s App Store as a serious competitor, too.
In an interview with Forbes, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime pegged Apple as more of a threat under current market conditions than rival platform holder Microsoft.
Apple sold 16.24 million iPhones, 7.33 million iPads and 19.45 million iPods during the first quarter of fiscal 2011, as reported by video game news site Gamasutra. With constant revisions to its iOS devices, Apple is likely to keep consumer interest stoked for years to come. Apple’s iPod touch and iPad devices are also game-ready.
Aggregator gaming blog Joystiq compared the launch price of the 3DS to those of previous handheld gaming systems with inflation considered. Most consumers, though, don’t account for inflation when shopping but rather judge products based on the immediately visible sticker price. A hefty price is a hefty price, regardless of how it compares to previous products. The 3DS might be a hard sell if it is sitting near a cheaper Xbox 360.
The 3DS is without doubt the most impressive dedicated gaming handheld to date, and, unlike many recent Nintendo machines, it has substantial support from third parties. Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D are two of the more impressive third-party games. Nintendo is also developing its own slate of appealing titles: Kid Icarus: Uprising, Pilotwings Resort, Paper Mario, Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D, to name a few. Appealing though it might be, the 3DS might be too expensive for many consumers. Nintendo does not sell hardware at a loss, so many analysts and gamers expected a premium price for the 3DS. Though, that hardly makes it any easier to swallow.
Moreover, players will have to support the 3DS with software, the cheapest of which Gamestop and Amazon currently list at $39.99. Nintendo has not yet unveiled official prices for its 3DS games.
Gamers will no doubt make the 3DS scarce at launch, but the true test of success will come in the ensuing months and years. Price could be an issue early on, and Apple, possibly SCE as well, will provide stiff competition for consumers’ money and time.
Detailed 3DS information available at Nintendo.com
3DS hardware specs
Official Nintendo of America press release