Are you feeling confused?

When the Nintendo 3DS was revealed, critics and fans alike believed Nintendo had miraculously produced another masterpiece that would solidify its never ending dominance of the handheld market.

Boasting the unique selling point of ‘glasses free 3D’, innovative features such as ‘StreetPass’, an atheistically pleasing design, and for once, extremely strong third party support, it appeared Nintendo had once again reinvented itself.

Unfortunately, after a more than lacklustre launch line-up, notably missing key Nintendo first party titles, the initial anticipation for the Nintendo 3DS began to subside. A high retail price point (£219.99 in the UK) did little to help consumer demand, not to mention the lack of missing features at launch such as the eShop. Many people were left wondering why Nintendo decided to launch so hastily.

It would be premature to call the Nintendo 3DS a failure, however, Nintendo’s omnipotent-like presence in the handheld market is certainly under threat. Sales forecasts have been reduced, the retail price slashed considerably by a 1/3 and key games have been delayed or cancelled. Underlying these issues is the fact that many consumers have been left rather perplexed, so much so that many are unaware that the Nintendo 3DS is in fact a completely new system and not another minor upgrade. There are a number of reasons why this is the case.

It Worked! The Consumer Is Confused!

During the lifespan of the Nintendo DS, three new iterations and models were released. First of all there was the original DS, which was a bulky, rather ungainly first attempt at Nintendo’s money printing machine. Shortly after the original DS launched, the Nintendo DS Lite was born, dramatically improving the console in every possible way. The Nintendo DS Lite quickly replaced the original DS and was sold for a good few years until Nintendo got bored and admittedly, a bit carried away.

Nintendo believed they could further improve upon the monumental, runaway success of the Nintendo DS Lite by releasing the Nintendo DSi. The DSi looked strikingly similar to the DS Lite; however, it now sported a camera, access to the DSi online store, better screens and a more svelte design.

Overall, the DSi was a nice revision of the hardware, complementing the existing DS Lite with enough features that made it distinctive. It’s common practice for hardware developers to minimise the size of their existing products, adding new features to an already enticing package. Conversely, Nintendo later decided to do a bit of U-turn.

During the DS’s six year life span there have been four consoles, three of them by way of a revision or re-design.

After capturing the imaginations of a more diverse gaming audience (your grandma for example), Nintendo decided to provide another new iteration of the DS, this time in the gargantuan form of the DSi XL. The DSi XL was essentially a super-sized DSi, boasting larger screens, a larger stylus and it was available in more mature colours such as ‘wine red’. *ahem*

To recap then, during the DS’s six year life span there have been four consoles, three of them by way of a revision or re-design. Now this may seem reasonable in comparison to Apple, who notoriously seem to upgrade their products every six months, but all these comparable looking, performing products have certainly hampered the potential sales of the Nintendo 3DS. Here’s why…

I’d Like To Purchase A Nintendo DS, Please

Thanks to some clever marketing and vomit inducing celebrity endorsements, Nintendo enticed many non-gamers with the DS. Therefore, naturally, the question of purchasing a DS falls into the hands of less experienced and knowledgeable consumers. They know that they want a DS, but which one, and why should they choose the 3DS?

For example, grandma decides it’s time to buy a new shiny DS, so she goes to her local store. Whoa, granny, be careful! Remember, you want a Nintendo 3DS, not a Nintendo DS Lite, DSi or DSi XL. Poor granny; she’s walked into a minefield. Hopefully a helpful shop assistant could negate these problems but the majority of people will buy any DS, regardless of whether they have access to the DSi store or whether it has a camera. In fact, if a person’s favourite colour is ‘wine red’ (what do you mean yours isn’t?) then this may be enough to be the deciding factor alone. This point becomes even more applicable when the consumer determines whether they need to upgrade.

Gotta Buy Them All!

Unless you must have the latest and greatest when it comes to a product, the majority of people are happy to wait for a significant upgrade or revision that will justify their hard earned money, or make their current product look a little bit sad. Here lies the problem: Nintendo hasn’t done a great job at distinguishing the 3DS to their less knowledgeable customers. Not only does the 3DS look very similar to the DSi but the game cases look exactly like DS games, the name isn’t distinctive enough and even the advertising style is alike. It is almost impossible to showcase the 3DS’s main selling point, the 3D capabilities, without the consumer going hands-on with the product. The fact that the Nintendo 3DS is still missing truly, compelling software, and plays all DS games (though slightly gimped due to being resized for the screens) could result in customers sticking with their already trusty DS.

Questions then arise on what the consumer actually wants. Do they want a 3D screen? Do they yearn for better graphics? Will the recently announced addition of a second analogue stick (why wasn’t it included in the first place) provide them with greater gaming satisfaction? In hindsight, it seems like Nintendo may have overlooked many key areas.

Nintendo has openly admitted that public confusion is affecting sales. There may be better and bigger games approaching on the horizon, which will undoubtedly provide the platform with a significant boost, but this could be rendered insignificant unless Nintendo can effectively and quickly educate its less knowledgeable consumers of why the Nintendo 3DS is more than just an another upgrade.

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