It took a while for Nintendo to convince me that now is the time to own a 3DS. Yes, it the midst of new consoles raining down from the heavens, one of which I did pre-order, I still forked out the cabbage for the 3DS XL. The road from it’s February 2011 launch to today (November 3rd), was certainly rocky for the company synonymous with gaming. For the 3DS, like all consoles, making a purchase comes down to games. And now, finally, Nintendo have some great games for my enjoyment. Additionally, the trajectory Nintendo are taking appears to be the extreme end of the Microsoft vs. Sony battle.
I’ve elected to start with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Fire Emblem: Awakening. Thus far, my experience with Luigi’s Mansion has been satisfying. While the 3D effects are neat, they’re not the reason I enjoy the game. It’s the funny character that Luigi has become. He sings along to the creepy music, walks around like he’s nervous, and jumps when he sees ghosts. When combined, these make for a really fun experience. With regard to Fire Emblem, I have not yet opened the box - impressions coming soon. I have other games on my list as well: Ocarina of Time, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nov 22 release date),the countless Mario titles, and Kid Icarus. This isn’t as stunning a list as the PS Vita lineup, but they are unique experiences you cannot find anywhere else.
Consider this: Microsoft have invested in cloud-computing to move a portion of the graphics and processing need off of the console. Presumably, if this works well, they can eventually move all of the computing to the cloud. Meaning as consumers we would only need a box that can handle the stream of graphics and sound. This could be a cell phone or tablet, dedicated box (like the Vita-TV), or dedicated handheld. They’re building what Sony chose to buy when they purchased Gaikai. Inevitably, it appears these two gaming giants will reduce the cost for consumers to consume games by removing the need for what know of as consoles today. Perhaps the generation of “consoles” to follow the PS4 and Xbox-One will be the size of an Apple TV. One would expect the price to drop from $400-$500 to $99-$129. If this path is to be expected, two of the 3 major games device manufacturers are reshaping the market. Leaving one, Nintendo, behind. So what are we seeing from Nintendo that we can digest as a response?
Nintendo have been hit hard by the press, the consumer and even me, over the past 2 years. Granted, they continue to dominate the handheld market with the 3DS, but the home console battle has been hard-fought and it appears Nintendo are losing. Yet if you consider the above-mentioned speculation of Microsoft and Sony’s plans for the future, it would appear Nintendo are setting themselves up for victory. By allowing the PlayStation and Xbox brands to become synonymous, the only standout is Nintendo. They continue to remain relevant in the handheld market and are quietly waiting for their time to return to form in with a new, Nintendo-like console that takes advantage of input method. I believe they’re also waiting for certain technologies to become affordable. And given these technologies, Nintendo will have another Wii-like moment, where subsequently stocks rise, the market grows, and Nintendo enjoy several years of success.
From another angle, consider the industry stakeholders: Developers and Publishers. There is tremendous value in the indie scene, which has never been Nintendo’s angle. If this scenario proves true, would indies put their game on a Sony or Microsoft console that is the ultimate home entertainment center? Where that valuable ad space on the virtual storefront is shared by NFL games, popular TV shows, and Call of Duty? Nope. You’re going to publish on a gaming console which hopefully has a significant installed base. So, either PC or Nintendo. I’m the proud owner of the PS Vita where the indie scene is rockin’ and console-type games have been proved successful (this is a good time to point out that Killzone: Mercenary for Vita may be the best portable game available today). While I would love that on the 3DS as well, I don’t need it. I need a games-focused company that continues to publish some of the best exclusives in the business: Zelda, Mario, Metroid, etc. And, right now, I love the fact that Nintendo are just pumping out great games while Sony and Microsoft are battling. Everything from a marketing perspective seems to have them both claiming to be games oriented while providing entertainment. But I think the facts about the hardware and commerce support speak loudly. Microsoft, more strongly than Sony, are preparing to take over your living room.
The Final Thought
I now own a 3DS and I love it. Perhaps that is the only conclusion that matters. Forget the reasons and put aside the industry and it’s players. This is a sweet portable gaming device.