Fusing Kinstones is a series examining both sides of divisive issues in the world of gaming, both current and recurring, in the hopes of finding some common ground both sides can agree upon. Or, failing that, I'm just going to make fun of both sides' weaker arguments, so if you must fight about things, you'll at least consider bringing better arms with you.
For the inaugural installment of Fusing Kinstones, I'd like to address the debate raging currently about whether the 3DS's floundering is sounding a death knell for Nintendo as a hardware producer. Decriers of the 3DS, typically Wii U skeptics as well, seem to widely be of the opinion that Nintendo should (or will be forced to) follow the path of Sega and become a software producer, thus opening their classic franchises up to Sony and/or Microsoft, and abandon console and handheld production altogether. On the other side, we have those claiming the 3DS is not the failure their opponents make it out to be, and that the system, and the company behind it, still need and have the time to make it something great.
Let's begin with a look at the former camp, shall we?
Nintendo Is Dead
First things first, this is far from Nintendo's first abortive maneuver with a piece of hardware. Remember the Virtual Boy? You may not, as it lasted only from mid-1995 to 1996. The Pokémon Mini? I didn't think so; it was a blip on the radar in 2000, and a whole lot of nobody decided to get their hands on one. The Game Boy Advance e-Reader? Game Boy Camera, and its partner in crime, the Game Boy Printer? The Power Glove on the NES? Nintendo's screwed the pooch on plenty of products, from accessories all the way up to full-blown systems, and they've weathered the storm time and time again. Even if the 3DS is discontinued by the time the Wii U is coming out, it's not as if Nintendo's a stranger to this sort of thing.
Secondly, the price drop, despite an obviously desperate attempt after initially slow sales, has only been in effect for a month and half, and has yet to see a holiday season. Now that the 3DS is poised at a price point that puts it on par with the DSi XL, its nearest predecessor, parents looking to get their kids a new handheld that plays DS games (whether they're ones the kids already own or this is the family's first foray into DS gaming) have that much more of an incentive to get the newer, more-featureful 3DS. Couple that with the the pile of decent titles (finally) due to come out for the 2011 holiday season, and we may finally see the 3DS gain some steam.
Finally, the comparisons of Nintendo's 3DS situation to Sega's death in the wake of the Dreamcast's failure are completely unfair. What many such accusations fail to mention is that by the point the Dreamcast's run was falling apart, Sega was already
in a fair amount of trouble. The Dreamcast's big brother, the Saturn, had done quite poorly as well, thanks to an ill-concieved surprise release, a weak launch library, and a $399 initial price. Admittedly, the 3DS did have similar launch game selection issues and a high MSRP for a handheld, but in that case, one would infer that a failure of the next
Nintendo system, the Wii U, would be what should be watched as a potential iceberg to the Nintentanic. Trying to keep the comparison to just handhelds, you may find some leverage in the DSi and XL collectively being the Game Boy Micro of the DS line, but neither of those two systems made a particularly negative impact on the DS brand as a whole; they still print money.
Long Live Nintendo
Those who have Nintendo's back in this whole affair seem to have blinders on to several realities, as well. As recently as the latest 3DS press conference, Nintendo advocates have been attempting to cite the announcement of Monster Hunter Tri-G and Monster Hunter 4 coming to the 3DS as a savior for the system, citing how Monster Hunter titles helped float PSP sales when they were sagging. This is certainly true... in Japan
. While there is
a market for Monster Hunter in the West, it's much more niche, which throws the assumption that Capcom's lizard-murder simulation franchise can singlehandedly save the 3DS worldwide right out the window.
And when is Monster Hunter Tri-G due out on the 3DS, anyway? December, in Japan
again? Kind of reduces the likelihood of it hitting U.S. shores until Q1 2012, unless it's already been localized and is getting packed up as I type this. The system's been out for six months with very little worth playing on it, and the fall-to-holiday rush of games, at least in the USA, consists of about thirty games, half or fewer of which actually seem to be worth playing or at least worthy of being hyped by their producers. Without a decent amount of these titles doing well and not getting pushed back to 2012 (like Kid Icarus: Uprising), and/or an explosion of content on the eShop, this holiday season may prove a harbinger for the 3DS' fall after all.
Some have said that Nintendo has some insurance in the fact that their holy trinity of Mario Bros., The Legend Of Zelda, and Metroid, along with more archangelic properties such as Pokémon, Kid Icarus, and Animal Crossing, can and will only appear on the 3DS, and not its soon-to-arrive direct competitor, the Playstation Vita. While I made my aversion to comparing the 3DS and the Dreamcast earlier, I would like to point out that the presence of Sonic The Hedgehog, Fighting Vipers, House (and Typing) Of The Dead, Virtua Fighter, and Phantasy Star (Online-flavored) on the DC weren't enough to keep it afloat. Jumping back to the Saturn comparison, we again see Sonic, Virtua Fighter, Fighting Vipers, and House Of The Dead making appearances, and again, first party legacies weren't enough to salvage things. Having long-running franchises, regardless of their success and expansiveness, does not necessarily make a company invincible.
The Hardest Part
What it comes down to, I believe, is that all of you need to stop shouting and wait for whatever reckoning comes for the 3DS this holiday sales season, and, as hinted earlier, to keep tabs on the progress of the Wii U. If the 3DS can gain some momentum with an increase in quality titles, there's a good chance it'll be merely outpaced by the Playstation Vita rather than being entirely left in the dust. Sorry, but I honestly cannot see the big N remaining on top of the handheld heap for much longer. If the game drought isn't
solved by Q1 2012 at the very latest, I'd be surprised to see 3DSes on store shelves next Christmas.
The other key factor in Nintendo's survival in the hardware jungle is the success of the Wii U. Both the N64 and Gamecube, while having some great games between the two of them, didn't do particularly well compared to their competitors, and unless Nintendo is able to convince Wii adopters to step up to playing their games in HD, and/or make the tablet controller the next big thing (rather than round two of the short-lived, underutilized Game Boy Advance/GameCube connectivity experiment), they may indeed be toast.
The earliest anyone's going to be know anything for sure is somewhere between December 26th and 31st, most likely, so it'd be nice if most of you doomsayers and you evangelists could shut the hell up until then.
Or, at the very least, stop crying about the nub. It's not like you all went apeshit over WiiMotion Plus, or the GameCube microphone, or the Game Boy transfer pack for the N64.
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