Handhelds: Five Things Nintendo Needs to Do Right with the 3DS

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[Every week, we put out a call to our Community for blogs on a specific topic. This week, the assignment was to write a blog about handheld gaming. Our first promoted Community Blog this week is from Luis Illingworth, who talks about the problems Nintendo will need to address for the 3DS. If you want to see your own work on the front page next week, make sure you write a blog for our current topic: Being Social. — Jordan]

A couple of days ago, the Nintendo 3DS price drop took effect on the market. After showing really staggering sales these last three months that not even reach the 900,000 on a worldwide level and a whole bunch of games canceled, not to mention numerous 3DS games delayed, Nintendo realized that desperate times require desperate measures. And of course, nothing screams ‘desperate’ like a 32% price cut of a device that was released less than five months ago, while giving early buyers 20 free games … old games.

So, now that the price has been lowered and, let’s be honest, it’s more accessible to the target market Nintendo’s aiming to, has the problem been solved? Will Nintendo be again the respected video game giant that it used to be? Of course not, don’t be silly. There are numerous problems still unsolved with this system and I will now address them, not because I believe it’s a crappy system (I love the 3DS, and I want it to succeed) but because the creator doesn’t know what it’s doing with it.

So, Nintendo, if you ever read this, I just want to say that I love the handheld you have placed on my hands, but there are a couple of things you should still fix:

AR Games were a good idea since the beginning. So, what happened to them?

Indeed, what happened? It was a great idea at the beginning, and it was a nice thing to see you could fully enjoy your $250 purchase without the need of forking over extra money for a retail game. I got Pilotwings Resort on release day, and it got me going for a couple of days, but it was actually the bundled AR games that I found more interesting to play, and instantly saw potential.

My problem is: why hasn’t Nintendo seen it? AR Games are, honestly, the equivalent of Wii Sports; in which it is the best way to show off your new gadget to other people. Again, it was Wii Sports and the accessible price and appeal that made the Wii such a hit; and Nintendo took advantage of this by releasing Wii Sports Resort … and Wii Play … and Wii Fit … and Wii Party … and — all right, that’s enough examples.

I’m not asking for a full-fledged 3DS game, because I know that would be asking too much from Nintendo. How about small add-ons for a game? Nintendo tried a similar card-based idea during the Game Boy Advance era with the e-Reader, a device that let you read cards that unlocked mini-games, in-game secret items and levels. Sure, the idea did not work pretty well because it needed separate link cables, another GBA, etc., but now that the 3DS comes with an integrated camera, and AR/QR technology is growing popular among smartphones, then why not take a page from that book? Why not release boosters pack series along with an AR games software update that expands the title. Also, give this option to third-party developers, since they could also come up with great ideas.

Kid Icarus: Uprising seems to be tackling this idea from what I saw at the end of the game’s trailer, so I hope that Nintendo will at least continue to do the same thing for future games. Can you imagine getting new and exclusive items in Animal Crossing 3DS by buying more cards? Maybe even share the cards or trade QR codes online with friends that are on your friends list!

Oh, that reminds me ...

That “Friends List” needs a serious makeover.

A real makeover. I honestly wasn’t expecting Nintendo to get rid of Friend Codes anytime soon, but I appreciate the change of having to use only one twelve-digit code for all your games instead of one for every freaking game you own. I thought to myself hey, what the hell? I don’t care if I still have to use that annoying code as long as I have a good Friends List and a way to communicate with my buddies and organize online plays. However, we all think “Nintendo” when we think “crappy Internet service,” and they couldn’t exempt the Nintendo 3DS from their trademark online atrocity.

Scrolling through horizontal “Friend Code Cards” is not a huge concern when you have a nine-friend roster like me, but I can’t even imagine how annoying must be for people who have around fifty or more friends. And when you finally find that person on your list, you can see when they are online and what game they are playing at that very same moment but, do you want to tell them you want to play a match of Super Street Fighter IV? Screw that, man! Nintendo won’t let you do that extremely complicated action! Instead, use a “facebook status update” that’s just 13 characters long. You read that right, mister. Thirteen characters are all you get. And that’s if your buddy notices you changed your display message. You thought Twitter’s 140 characters were too much? Well, Nintendo’s got you covered!

If this is Nintendo’s idea of “sending messages to your friends” (and I’m quoting this from Nintendo), then they really need to start getting their crap together about a good friend list. A search bar would be nice, and organizing your buddies alphabetically instead of a “last added” sort of way would also be a nice welcome. Finally, it could also give us the option of sharing a little bit more information with our friends, like the games and genres we like and/or recommend on the eShop.

Oh, and Nintendo, now that we are on the topic of your digital store …


When Nintendo said they were going to commit to make the 3DS a more “Internet-Friendly” device, they wanted to do so by implementing downloadable content that would be sent to your 3DS automatically even while in Sleep Mode, the use of only one Friend Code, and a better digital store along with Virtual Console games that include, but are not limited to, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear, and Turbo Grafx-16, not to mention classic Nintendo titles remade as “3D Classics” and more support to indie developers. Sounds like Nintendo got their A-Game on, right?

WRONG. The 3DS’s eShop suffers from pretty much the exact same flaws that the Wii’s and the DS’ digital stores share; so nothing has actually changed. Games and options are organized on the same fashion as your friends in your Friend List; huge tiles that slide horizontally until you can find the game that you want.

What about the Virtual Console? Well, I can clearly say that Nintendo’s taking care of putting the very important first party games out there really fast. If you thought they weren’t going to upload Game Boy game of the decade Tennis or the mighty Baseball and Alleyway, then your worries can disappear now. I mean, thank god they aren’t filling the store with crap like Metroid II or Wario Land, am I right? In all seriousness, do you want to know what the last good game I got was? Game Boy Donkey Kong. And that two months ago. I guess I could count Kirby’s Dream Land, but since the game doesn’t have the power copying mechanic, I didn’t enjoy it as much.

The biggest problem with the eShop is not the fact that there are still no Game Gear, Turbo Grafx-16, and Game Boy Color games (other than Link’s Awakening) on sight. It’s the fact that Nintendo continues to keep this trend of uploading just one Virtual Console game a week; every Thursday. They just keep putting mediocre games one after another and maybe once a month there’s a good game there (this month was Mario’s Picross) but, after that, it’s a very limited digital store.

I can clearly see Nintendo trying to make something different with their eShop while trying to keep up with today’s market but, seriously, what’s with all these stupid names you keep giving your new weekly sections and selections of games? For Your Road Trip? Leading Ladies? Games with Aliens? HUNGRY!? Are you kidding me? I know you’re trying to be different Nintendo, but no one’s going to take you seriously with this crap. Just stick to more commons groupings of games, ok? And give us Pokémon Red/Blue with the multiplayer enabled already, for God’s sake!

3D is not that important. The 3DS has better features.

The 3DS hasn’t been what people would call “the hottest selling console ever” and that’s because Nintendo decided to focus on 3D. It was all and the only thing that Nintendo advertised, without the understanding of the fact that relying on 3D is a double-edged sword. Of course, the 3D in the 3DS is no cheap gimmick, and I don’t say that because I paid $250; and the added depth makes some games like Ocarina of Time 3D look crisper. But here are the facts: people aren’t sold on the idea that 3D is really that essential and, if you advertise your system on the idea that “you need to pay $250 in order to see the real thing,” then consumers will definitely think that your product, the 3DS, is not that essential to own.

My solution to this problem is not to take away the 3D out of the equation, but to focus on all the other features that the 3DS has to offer. There’s StreetPass, there’s the eShop (but you need to fix that first), the AR Games, and more! Heck, I would even advertise the hell out of the circle pad; it provides great and smooth control for 3D games!

Of course, you can always play it safe with great exclusive games and show these titles, and the system would practically sell itself. But, in order to do that, Nintendo, you need to fix your biggest problem of them all …

Lack of original games and too many remakes and compilations.

Yes, I wanted to leave the most obvious issue with the 3DS last because, let’s face it, it’s the issue everyone has with the 3DS right now. Look Nintendo, it’s nice that you drop the price so that more people have access to it, but $170 is still a lot of money and, if you don’t have the games for a video game console, then all that people would be buying is an expensive dust-collector … in 3D. We are already past the lackluster launch lineup, and we still have no new games. Right now, if you were to ask me what’s the must-own game of the 3DS, I would probably say Ocarina of Time 3D … which is a remake of an N64 game. Second to OoT is Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, a port of the PS3/Xbox 360 hit. And what are the next two anticipated and good games soon to be released? Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor OverClocked and Star Fox 64 3D. One of those is a remix of a Nintendo DS game and the other one is … well, an N64 remake! Are you starting to see a pattern?

What Nintendo really needs is, just like they said it themselves, more third-party support; encourage them to try new ideas instead of making a quick cash-in or a port of a game we probably already have on our home consoles. But since the 3DS is not selling well, developers decide to can games like Assassin’s Creed: Lost Legacy and Mega Man Legends 3. And why would I want to buy Cave Story 3D if I already bought it through the DSi Shop and have it for free on my computer? And you know what the worst part is? I’m still going to buy Cave Story 3D — because there’s nothing out there to play!

Look, I know that a lot of people say that the Nintendo DS was also running into financial troubles when it was released back in 2004, but that’s because it also launched with a slightly above average lineup. One would think that Nintendo would have learned their lesson. It took some time for the Nintendo DS to be successful, and it was thanks to the help of first-party games and third-party alike. Franchises like Ace Attorney and Professor Layton were born here. That’s what the 3DS needs right now; another Professor Layton. I am aware that great games are coming this holiday. I’ll make sure I get Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land and Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Square-Enix’s Heroes of Ruin is definitely a game I’m keeping an eye out for its 2012 release.

Nintendo, I’m writing this because I love the Nintendo 3DS and I definitely see enough potential to surpass the Nintendo DS as a worthy successor. I’m “hating” this system out of love right now, and I’m writing this to because I care about you, Nintendo. Seeing how Satoru Iwata took a massive 50% pay cut was a very noble thing to do, especially for your company and for what you believe in. He took a big hit for the 3DS, and I can sympathize on that because I overpaid for this system. I just don’t want to see the 3DS becoming Nintendo’s PlayStation 3 or, even worse, another Virtual Boy.

Hopefully, the 3DS will become a must-have console by the holidays, and you will realize the potential of this machine, Nintendo. And to the readers, I’m sorry if this sounded like fanboyism or hate mail but, as a consumer and, more importantly, as a 3DS Ambassador, I feel I have the rights to help shape the Nintendo 3DS into a system in which people can find great value.

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