Will the 3DS be relevant?
I wrote, quite negatively, about the Nintendo 3DS a couple months ago, when its lack of launch titles and low battery life were announced. Now that it’s out, we’re hearing that demand isn’t quite as strong as Nintendo would hope. This would be a shame if I didn’t despise the idea of 3D technology. Can’t say I’m not a little gleeful.
We got a chance to play the thing, and…is the 3D important? Will it be relevent? That’s why you go under the cut!
The problem is, is it redefiningly neat? The DS allowed for completely new types of games. The Wii did, too. These were game changers, that allowed for fundamentally different experiences. The difficulty the 3DS is going to have is that that’s not necessarily true of 3D. 3D is neat, sure, and it’s well implemented here, but the 3DS is the first Nintendo console since the Gamecube to be entirely graphical. That’s what it boils down to: you’re not going to get different experiences from the 3DS that you wouldn’t be able to get from the DS, except graphically. It’s a hardware update, and, especially for $250, it feels decidedly like an underwhelming one.
If you’re wondering about games, the one I played was the packed in alternate reality one. It definitely showed some neat tricks: it’s a good example of the 3D, and it’s a trip to see something appear in the real world. Moving yourself to play the game is interesting, but its functionality is limited: while it brings that Wii sort of motion gaming to a handheld, you’d have to be absolutely bonkers to take it anywhere with you.
What other games did I play? Silly reader, the 3DS doesn’t have any other games. This isn’t like with the Wii, where we said it had no games but it had a couple killer apps. The 3DS, legitimately, has no games. It has a port of Super Street Fighter, and Nintendogs and Cats. That’s it. What does it have on the horizon? Nothing confirmed for the next couple for months besides virtual console. That’s doom number one for the console. Sure, it can be overcome (the DS didn’t have a lot of launch titles, or good games until Kirby’s Canvas Course came along), but it’s a hole that’s been dug, and unlike the Wii and DS I don’t know if it has the pure potential to hook customers.
The other launch problems are the big elephants in the room. The price tag is the first. $250 is a lot of money, especially in this economy, especially for a console which doesn’t revolutionize the way we play games. They can rationalize it however they want, but most people don’t spend $250 on video games in a month (I sure don’t, except in times of great trouble!) This means they’re competing with months of releases, and if I say to myself, “I could have Dragon Age 2, LA Noire, Portal 2, Shogun 2, and Pokemon Black or a 3DS!” I wonder which one most people would pick. Especially when the console’s games are more expensive, and there aren’t any, anyway.
The second elephant is portability. I didn’t get a chance to put the battery through any sort of paces, but I believe reports of a relatively short battery life. And this is very problematic, especially with the price. The combination of them means that I am more likely to compare the 3DS with a PS3 or Xbox 360 instead of with a portable; in effect, this is the PSP curse. My friends with PSPs rarely use them outside of their houses. This explains, in large part, the system’s failure: it had to compete with the PS3, rather than being a truly portable device. The 3DS feels like that. It doesn’t feel like something you’d take on a trip without a charger, which is kind of a shame.
All this contributes to the bigger answer to the question, can the 3DS be relevant? I’m optimistic that it’s got a shot, but I’m not holding my breath. Quite frankly, it doesn’t have too much going for it, and with no killer app on the horizon, there’s not a whole lot of reason to own it, unless your DS breaks down.