Thursday, July 28, 2011

The 3DS Price Drop - Is This a Good or Bad Thing?

The Nintendo 3DS represents a mixed bag of emotions for me. On one hand, I've been a Nintendo fan for well over 20 years and have seemingly bought every generation of every console they ever released. The Wii was a slam dunk for Nintendo because of it's then-innovative motion control scheme and it seemed that they were onto another winner with the 3DS. As the launch drew near and more details emerged, the palpable excitement from fans and the innovations from Nintendo nearly pushed me to getting one. What held me back? The lackluster launch titles. The games we were tantalized with prior to launch such as Kid Icarus, Starfox, Super Mario 3D, and of course, an enhanced port of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time were not ready at launch and we were instead left with a few decent but more than a few mediocre titles At $249.99, the price was too much to pay for a system that held few interesting games. 

Some have written the 3DS off as a failure despite the fact that it has sold well, albeit below projections, but the news that greeted me today is something that is likely to put the 3DS in a very positive or very negative depending on which way the winds of consumer confidence blow. The price will be reduced from $249.99 to $169.99, a cut almost unheard this early in a systems life. On the positive side, those who were jilted by the high price of the system at launch will have fewer reasons to hold out, plus let's not forget the fact that the 3D technology and the system itself is still good. The 3D effect is not used to it's full potential yet, however it's still early and we often don't see the truly ground-breaking games come out until well into a system's life cycle. Simply put, this will shift more units, as it historically has with all gaming platforms that have experienced price cuts. Additionally, the recent E3 announcements have shown that Nintendo is putting their full support behind the console and finally releasing the games that Nintendo fans have been craving. The Nintendo haters who were hoping the 3DS would be another repeat of the follies of the Virtual Boy are likely to be disappointed. The other positive side is the likelihood that Nintendo is feeling the pressure from the upcoming Sony Vita which will also retail for $249.99 and boast a substantial number of features that gamers will likely flock to. The price drop represents a move by Nintendo to secure as much of the handheld market while they are the only kids in town. Historically, Nintendo has dominated the handheld market despite a strong play by Sony with the PSP, however times have changed and Nintendo knows it.

The downside of this price reduction exists for people who bought the 3DS at full price and who are, understandably, hurt to see it go down in price that quickly. Every new technology always has the early adopters and this is one of the pitfalls they face, especially when we all know that the prices will eventually drop and the technology will improve. Purchasing a console at launch means you're getting the most expensive, least feature-packed and sometimes the buggiest iteration of the system. Subsequent generations usually iron out these issues and offer greater value, so there are benefits to waiting. However, I also understand wanting to be first out of the gate and the excitement that comes with that. So yes, a price drop this early is a bad thing for some people, however Nintendo has softened the blow by offering 3DS owners 20 downloadable games from the eShop if they own the system prior to August 12, 2011, so all is not lost for the early adopters. The other potential downside comes from consumer confidence in a product that has seen a dramatic price cut after only a few months on the market. In most cases, and this is at least partially true for Nintendo, this is a sign that the system is not selling well and the company is verging on selling their stock at a loss. This is something that is not sustainable and could, in the eyes of some, be a sign of the 3DS being a sinking ship. If Nintendo is not hitting their target profits, who should they continue to support it? This perception might hurt 3DS sales somewhat, but it remains to be seen.

So will I be purchasing a 3DS with the newly reduced price. In short, not now but possibly later. I have never purchased a system during the first run and this is a move that has always paid off. I bought the DS Lite, a big improvement over the clunky original, and I have an Xbox 360 that is far less likely than the launch models to get the dreaded Red Ring of Death. I'm content to wait and my hope is that the second generation of the 3DS will see improvements in how DS games look, the placement of the stylus pen and the battery life, which is the biggest bone of contention for many 3DS owners and it's a problem that almost always improves with newer generations. Added to which, by that time, better games will be out and I'll have a vast library of quality titles to choose from. $169.99 is a good price, but I want to wait to see if these improvements will come.

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