Nintendo is a very reserved company; it doesn’t talk much about its feelings. Nevertheless, there’s little doubt President Satoru Iwata has loosened his collar and let loose a sigh of uneasy relief since sales of the Nintendo 3DS picked up over summer’s end.
The Nintendo 3DS continues to do well at retail, and will probably remain solid through the holiday season thanks in part to the gradual arrival of must-have games like Star Fox 64 3D, Mario Kart 7, and Super Mario Land 3D. Still, Nintendo probably isn’t content to lean back and watch sales of the Nintendo 3DS trickle in. The handheld is selling well enough, but “well enough” doesn’t suit a company that has dominated the portable game market for three generations.
There’s a lot Nintendo can do to keep the 3DS healthy, and it can start by taking a good look at what its competition is doing right. Nintendo and Apple have an odd rivalry going on: each company offers very different games, with Apple specializing in cheap, fun entertainment while Nintendo dishes out full-priced titles that are fine-tuned to present hours of exploration. A portable gaming enthusiast can be equally in love with the Nintendo 3DS and their iPhone 4G, but even the biggest Nintendo fan has only so much free time to play games, and, more likely than not, a limited budget to spend on those games. The company needs to do what it can to keep the eyes of its faithful away from the “enemy.”
A few tricks Nintendo might consider to ensure the longevity of the 3DS:
Take the 3DS eShop and Virtual Console seriously — Nintendo has an unfortunate habit of coming up with great ideas, and then letting them sicken and die. Few will argue that the Wii’s Virtual Console was not used to its fullest potential, as only a fraction of the SNES’s stellar library actually made it onto the service (and that’s not counting the overlooked NES, Genesis, and TurboGrafix games). Nintendo DSiWare has been something of a joke too, with only a handful of games that are truly worth dishing out for (Zenonia, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, Cave Story).
The 3DS eShop and Virtual Console service is off to an okay start with offerings like Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition, Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. But a tiny trickle of downloadable games on the 3DS versus the gush that’s constantly flowing over the App Store simply won’t cut it for Nintendo’s contribution to the digital market.
That’s not to say Nintendo should disregard quality in favor of quantity, of course, but neither should it repeat the mistakes it made with the Wii’s Virtual Console, WiiWare, and DSiWare. Nintendo’s strength is in the games it sells at retail, but it’s not doing itself any favors by undeserving its digital market–not when there’s a whole generation of gamers that’s learning how to supplement its retail purchases with downloads.
Better pricing for 3DS Virtual Console games — It’s worth paying $5 or so for a deep game like Link’s Awakening, Super Mario Land 2, or Pokemon Red/Blue (should either game ever land on the Virtual Console), but truthfully, most Game Boy games are comparatively quick jaunts. Folks aren’t going to be thrilled about laying down a lot of change for old black-and-white games that can be completed in a couple of hours, especially with the App Store offering increasingly complex games around the $5 mark.
More 3D Classics — 3D Classics are old Nintendo games that are re-imagined with 3D effects. The effect worked very well on Excitebike, and most of us would gladly pay a reasonable price to have our childhood favorites pop out at us.
Let third party developers have more control over pricing their DSiWare/eShop games — Nintendo is not excited about the free-to-play formula, or the game industry’s general “race to the bottom” as far as game pricing is concerned. Its concerns are valid, but it should do more to help out developers who want to bring free-to-play social games, etc, to the eShop. The free-to-play model is far from perfect, but it can serve as a solid starting point for a small development team that doesn’t want to surrender its creative properties to a big publisher in exchange for funding.
More Nintendo 3DS color options — This is a small thing, but offering more color choices for the 3DS can be incentive enough for hold-outs to pick up the system.
Bring a discounted “Big Hits” line to the stores as soon as possible — Nobody expects Nintendo to discount Super Mario 3D Land in January of 2012, but the sooner we can buy top-tier 3DS games at a cheaper price, the better.
Stop treating the Slider Pad like a dirty secret — Everybody who keeps up with video game news knows about the Nintendo 3DS Slider Pad, which slips onto the Nintendo 3DS to give the system a second circle pad and an “R2” button. We’ve all snickered, made our jokes, and cut our remarks about Nintendo supposedly jumping the shark. Now it’s time for Nintendo to slink out into the open and tell us why we should be excited about this thing.
The Slider Pad isn’t pretty, but it’s intriguing, and Nintendo should make some effort to get us all acquainted. Is the Slider Pad coming to North America? If so, how much will it cost? When will we see it?
Once we have introductions out of the way, we’d like to see some live examples of how the Slider Pad will help the Nintendo 3DS elevate above the iPhone 4S. We’d also like to see how examples of how it’ll help the 3DS compete against the PlayStation Vita. The Slider Pad is out there: there’s no point in Nintendo trying to pretend it doesn’t exist.