Can Developers Prosper on Nintendo 3DS?

Can Developers Prosper on Nintendo 3DS?

The Nintendo 3DS will be launching in North America on March 27 with 18 games. That’s a pretty impressive library on its own, but the 3DS’s launch lineup is worth a special mention for what it lacks: Namely, first-party titles. Out of the 18 launch games, only three belong to Nintendo’s development teams. Those include Nintendogs + Cats, Steel Diver, and Pilotwings Resort.

That’s not to say Nintendo is lacking for content. The Nintendo 3DS’s “launch window”–that is, the handful of months buffering the launch of the 3DS and E3–will see the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Kid Icarus Uprising, Star Fox 64 3D and more.

It never hurts a game to have a few extra months for a spit-shine, but it’s likely Nintendo could have had any of its most-hyped 3DS games in tip-top shape for the system’s launch. Nintendo has instead chosen to pull back a little on the reins in order to give its third-party developers a chance to shine at launch, which will prove to be the most crucial moment of the 3DS’s life.

This is an interesting gesture from Nintendo–it’s one part a business decision, and one part sentimental. It’s rough to be a third-party developer on a Nintendo platform; Nintendo’s games are so well-known, so universally loved that buyers flock to them immediately and ignore many third-party offerings. This trend was especially bad on the Wii. Developers like Capcom, Cing, and Sega all came up with fun, original properties like Little King Story and Zak and Wiki that withered in the grand shadow of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Third-party support for the Wii has since dwindled to nearly nothing as jaded developers took their ideas elsewhere.

It’s difficult to say if Nintendo’s gesture to its third-party 3DS developers will help said developers’ profits. Even so, there’s an underlying message that outside companies won’t miss: “Nintendo believes in your products, and we trust your talents will hook the first wave of 3DS purchasers.” Realistically, Nintendo could have put Ocarina of Time 3D up at launch and watched frenzied shoppers beat each other over the head in a mad surge to grab the game and the 3DS.

It’s not to say Nintendo is a saintly company that never steers its third parties wrong, nor will third parties necessarily get preferable treatment from Nintendo versus Microsoft or Sony. But it’s nice to see the Big N support the people who work with them.

It’s also a smart gesture on Nintendo’s part. The company won’t survive by dishing out Mario games forever.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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