Is it finally time to admit that portable 3D gaming just doesn’t work?
If you’ve been following the gaming business over the last year, you know that the Nintendo 3DS, which allows gamers to play titles in 3D without the need for special glasses, has faced a difficult market. In the second quarter of this year, Nintendo sold just 710,000 3DS units worldwide. Even worse, it could only get 110,000 units into homes in the U.S.
Last month, things looked a little better for the 3DS, thanks to the device’s $80 price cut to $169.99. According to Nintendo, it sold 235,000 3DS units during the period.
But as my fellow game-industry followers know all too well, 235,000 units sold in a single month just isn’t going to cut it for a portable device. If we look back in history, Nintendo’s other platforms, like the Game Boy and DS, were flying off store shelves for years. The 3DS, however, has not.
Unlike its predecessors, the 3DS is facing a slew of issues. For one, the 3D effect falls short for many folks, and after a while, it becomes more like a gimmick than an integral part of the gaming experience. What’s more, the 3DS’ lack of compelling games (which Nintendo says, will be addressed by the end of this year, thanks to Super Mario 3D Land), is holding it back.
But I think it goes beyond that. The 3DS is failing right now, more than any other reason, because of smartphones and tablets offering compelling gaming experiences. And when the iPhone 5 launches in the next several weeks, you can expect it to officially kill off the 3DS.
Now, I say “kill off” to drive the point home, but I don’t believe that Nintendo will actually discontinue the portable for at least another year. For some odd reason, Nintendo believes that it can turn things around with the 3DS. And it strangely feels that consumers who have yet to show that they care about the device will suddenly have a change of heart.
Here’s a news flash for you, Nintendo: consumers do not and will not care about the 3DS. And the iPhone 5, which will likely come with improved components to help deliver even better gameplay to owners, will make that abundantly clear.
But it’s not just Apple. Game developers are also flocking to portable devices, and will have a close eye on the iPhone 5 when that device launches. Companies like Electronic Arts and other prominent developers are increasingly turning to mobile operating systems, like iOS and Android, to offer their titles. And as hard as it might try, Nintendo won’t be able to stop that.
So, when the iPhone 5 launches, I see even more troubled waters ahead for Nintendo. The device will receive an inordinate amount of attention, consumers around the globe will flock to stores to buy it, and in the process, they’ll download games. And when they start playing those games in-between surfing the Web and checking e-mail, they’ll quickly find that buying that 3DS just doesn’t make all that much sense.
Sorry, Nintendo, but if smartphones and tablets already on store shelves are killing the 3DS, the iPhone 5 might just be enough to put the final nail in the device’s coffin.
Don Reisinger is a technology and video game columnist. You can see what he's up to each day on Twitter by following him @donreisinger.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SlashGear