Sunday, August 7, 2011

3DS Rant!

I am surprised that people are saying the 3DS is a failure, it is doomed, etc. According to the information I can get my hands on, which may or may not be accurate, the 3DS has sold nearly 5 million units in about 6 months – the same amount the Nintendo DS sold in its’ first 6 months of release.

One of the big differences between the 3DS and DS launches is the launch date. The 3DS launched in February/ March, while the DS launched in November/December. The DS was able to take advantage of the Christmas holiday sales, a time when more people typically purchase items for gifts and such. Therefore, it seems impressive to me that the 3DS has sold an equal number of units considering it had no holiday to take advantage of. I admit that I am not an expert on Japanese holidays, so there may be a big Christmas-like event in February/March which helped sales of the 3DS in Japan. Even so, sales of the 3DS being equal to that of the DS within the same timeframe seems like a positive start for the platform, especially considering the hefty price tag of $250.

Now, fair enough, sales of the 3DS dropped dramatically after the initial launch, and this seems obviously tied to the fact that there are a serious lack of decent games to purchase – a big mistake. But, as an owner of a 3DS, I am happy to see that successful brands like Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Cave Story 3D, Shinobi, and Bit. Trip Saga are being released in 2011. These well-known titles should give a lot of people a reason to buy the 3DS for Christmas, or before. And, we can’t forget the enhanced ports Zelda 64 and Star Fox 64 to whet the appetite.

The future looks bright. So, what really disappoints me about all of this is how publishers are reacting to the situation. Before the price drop and news of Nintendo’s financial situation were released, publishers were already playing the wait-and-see game. They wanted to see how the 3DS performed at Christmas. Sure, games were being developed, but at a cautious level. We were fortunate enough to already be working with Majesco on Face Racers: Photo Finish, which was originally destined to be a DS title that took advantage of the DSi camera, but switched to become a 3DS title shortly after the new handheld was announced. We were also fortunate enough to sign on with Ignition to develop Planet Crashers 3D for the 3DS prior to the dramatic news of the price cut et al. And, we’re publishing Mutant Mudds on Nintendo eShop ourselves!

It has always been difficult to find funding for original third-party games on handheld devices. Even though there have been some truly amazing original third-party games released on handheld platforms in the past. I expect it was not easy for the creators to convince their publishers to fund them to market. We managed to release four original titles on the DS, and I am confident we’ll develop many original games for the 3DS in the future. But, right now the outlook of publishers for original content on the 3DS is not good in the short-term.

Publishers say that they are waiting to see the sales of the 3DS over Christmas before committing to any new titles. But… why? Sales so far are pretty darn good. Sales of the aforementioned titles are sure to increase sales of the hardware. So, right now seems like a perfect time to start the development of a title so it can be released next year, when the number of 3DS owners has doubled from today. Unfortunately, it seems as though publishers do not have long-term vision. Short-term is their world, and this is probably largely due to being public-companies and such, but that’s a different story. The reality is that the majority of third-party publishers (I say majority, because there are still some great publishers out there that “get it”, and are in the business for the right reasons) are waiting on Nintendo to release their awesome first-party games to increase sales of the platform before third-party publishers will step up and release their own. Unfortunately, history tells us that publishers will more-than-likely opt for licensed titles over original titles in 2012 and beyond. It is a safer bet, and there are always plenty of licenses out there to take advantage of. And, when I say take advantage of, you know what I mean!

So, there you go. Take what you will from my polite rant. Personally, I think it is a foregone conclusion that the 3DS will be successful. The writing is on the wall. The success of the 3DS is reliant on the games released for it. And, as usual, (most) third-party publishers will rely on Nintendo’s great first-party games to fuel hardware sales and let the same ol’ story play out. You can also bet they’ll complain about Nintendo dominating the market and it not being “fair” for third-party publisher to “compete”. Give me a break. Third-party publishers, this is your chance to shine. Shine get!


  1. Another great article Jools,I agree with you but abou the sales I would say 3.8 million.
    I hate when people compare the 3DS with the Virtual Boy,the VB sold less than 500.000 units,while the 3DS sold more than that in 1 month.
    I really liked the 3DS,but they need to improve that Friend Menu,we need a online message system,Nintendo need to invest more in online things.

    Sorry for my bad english,I'm brazilian.

  2. Other Thing
    i really want see a Dementium 3D,I'm a big fan of the franchise and I want see you pushing the 3DS to it's limits like you made with Moon and Dementium for the DS.

  3. As an avid DS fan who has ignored the 3DS I can see a lot of people in the same boat as me. 3D doesn't work properly for me (my eyes don't work correctly for it) but the main reason above all was the region locking. My DS collection is 70% USA imports and 25% JPN imports. waiting for things to actually get released in europe is just a hassle I don't need.

    So while it's not a factor for publishers to be taking the wait and see approach it is encouraging the consumers to take it which in turn will effect the publishers willingness to commit to developers pitching games.

    5 million units is a lot but when the DS first released it was an untested thing and was surprising for some how well it took off the 3DS has the DS backing it and comparisons won't work the same way. The 3DS should have out performed the DS in launch but it didn't and has had a lukewarm reception from most places.

    I do hope for those who like the system that the games come but as long as the line on region locking and homebrew remains the same I will not be getting one.

  4. Great write-up Jools. Absolutely agree. Gamers (and unfortunately now, publishers) can be so shortsighted. It's now a foregone conclusion the 3DS will take off like a bullet with the new $170 price, and all the publishers who were backing off since launch will be caught with their pants down, just like they were for DS and Wii.

    Side note, I'm really interested in how the eShop does. If I was a licensed 3DS developer that's probably what I would commit all my resources to. Hrm, what's the limits on that anyways, I wonder?

  5. I agree with everything you said! I'm looking forward to Mutant Mudds and would love to see a dementium 3DS!

  6. I completely agree with you and it's good to see someone in the industry call them on their BS. It's amazing that publishers can still insist on a wait and see approach after Nintendo had dominated and done everything to appease them with the 3DS launch, and I bet they won't take the same approach to the Vita even though Sony has absolutely floundered this past generation.

    It's getting to a point where it's hard to deny that there is an element of bias.

  7. As someone who has had to be a handheld gamer, there were many GBC,GBA, and even some DS projects that have become lost to time due to companies not wanting to publish them.

    What has become even harsher is that major 3rd parties will kill off their own IP's or projects as well. I want remakes of the 4 Phantasy Stars or a Chu Two Rocket.

  8. See, the problem with many publishers is that they wait for other publishers to test a market for them, instead of trying something new themselves. It could be understandable to some extent considering some games are risky and whatnot, but I feel that in general they are playing the wait-and-see game far too much. Nowadays a game basically has to be an FPS if it's on a console, just because Halo and COD are successful (even if many of the FPS's that aren't Halo end up losing money).

    It reminds me of the popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When that show came out it became a huge success with because it was so original, and shortly afterward many shows tried to imitate it. But those shows never gained its popularity because they weren't as original.

  9. I totally agree, Mr. Watsham; the 3DS isn't as "doomed" as people deem it to be. However, like you mentioned, the lack of quality software right now is not helping the 3DS' reputation in the short-term. You can't exactly blame big third-party publishers for jumping ship so soon after launch since the 3DS has quickly become the butt of the "it has no games!" joke previously held by the PS3 - nobody wants to buy a console if it has no games, especially if it's as expensive as the 3DS' original price point. As soon as Nintendo start bringing out its big titles in the near future (not to mention the helpful price drop), I'm sure there will be an increase of hardware sales and a renewed sense of will to develop for the console in wary devs/publishers.

    Thanks for having faith in the 3DS, Mr. Watsham! I look forward to playing your games, and I REALLY hope you find a publisher for ATV Wild Ride 3D! I'm loving the DS version and hope the "franchise" will be a successful one for you!

  10. 3DS is not a failure. Definitely.

  11. My favorite games on the 3DS so far are Dead or Alive - Dimensions and Ghost Recon - Shadow Wars. Both of these were made exclusively for the 3DS and DoA - Dimensions takes advantage of every feature the 3DS has except for the VR cards.

    Zelda OoT sold the system, but it is these two games that get most of my play time. I don't see a reason to play SF IV on 3DS, when I didn't like it on PS3.

  12. Completely agree 100% every time I see something negative about 3DS sales the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that it hasn't gone through a holiday season yet. Other than the "hardcore" (I hate using that term) most people buy consoles around the holiday season. The only time I got a console and it wasn't for Xmas was the SNES which I got as a birthday/first communion gift. If this time next year there is still a drought of software and sales are abysmal then we can start talking about the possibility of a failure but for now I think the system is still in it's grace period.

  13. Agreed here too. People forget how much of a slow start the DS had until 1 year on, when they cracked out:
    - the DS Lite
    - Brain Training
    - an aggresive marketing campaign

    Looking forward to late 2011 / early 2012 for the 3DS's main kick-off.

  14. Watsham, I agree with all you've said about the 3DS. I'm an owner of one, and even I admit, I was skeptical on the 3DS from day one. I was excited for the good games coming out on it, but I was afraid the 3D wouldn't be worth it. Honestly, the price tag was at the bottom of my concerns. I got to demo one early, and I can say the 3D effects surpass 3D seen in theaters these days, and although Nintendo made a big mistake by not releasing any worthwhile games with it, the mistake will soon be corrected, when you look at the titles they are working on! =)

    Speaking of, Watsham, weren't you going to make a third Dementium for the 3DS?

  15. Where you at man? You've not posted in a while.

  16. Nice blog..I am looking forward to read your next great article.

  17. I completely agree. Anyway how are people suposed to but games if the developers won't make them.

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