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!