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The 3DS Launch: A Retrospective

The 3DS Launch: A Retrospective


About a month ago I wrote an article contemplating what the 3DS launch would be like. How close to the mark was I? Well, not very close at all if you put much stock in current day reviewers, but read on as we look back on the launch of the 3DS and discuss what the coming months look like for Nintendo’s newest handheld.

As it turns out, the 3DS launch didn’t exactly set the world on fire. In the end, the 3DS’s launch lineup got an aggregate metacritic review score of 62.37%; by far the lowest such average for any handheld that has scores on MetaCritic.com. According MetaCritic, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition stole the show with an average of 86%. Ubisoft got the second highest rated game with Julian Gollop’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars which averaged a 78%. Of course, Ubisoft’s other three titles were slaughtered in reviews, and in general were pretty awful efforts. In fact, I’m fairly confident in saying that, without Mr. Gollop’s involvement, Ubisoft would easily have been the worst thing to happen to the 3DS launch.

Surprisingly, Nintendo’s own first party offerings received little affection from reviewers. Nintendogs + Cats had the highest average at 72%, Pilotwings Resort was right on its tail with an average of 71%, and poor Steel Diver was simply underrated by bozos who don’t know a good game when they see it, as it has an average of 60%.

Everyone else was decisively mediocre when it came to the MetaCritic scores.

So what does this mean? Was the 3DS launch a flop in terms of software? Or are reviewers in general getting too jaded for their own good? I would argue the latter myself. As you can see from my reviews of Steel Diver and Pilotwings Resort, I felt both games were very solid (in fact, in retrospect I feel that even I underrated Steel Diver a bit). In general, the negative reviews I read about Pilotwings Resort and Steel Diver more showcased a lack of understanding of what the games were supposed to be than anything said games were lacking themselves. The general complaints didn’t make much sense (“Pilotwings Resort doesn’t have multiplayer!”, “Steel Diver is too easy/hard!”, ”Not enough content!”), and in general it seemed to me the reviewers either didn’t spend much time with either game or just missed the point of the games completely. On our boards similar complaints (about reviewers) have been made concerning Super Monkey Ball 3D as well, so maybe the low scores are more an indication of where reviewers are today, as opposed to an indication of the actual quality of the 3DS launch lineup.

That said, the 3DS launch did have an issue with a lack of originality. Most of the games were ports/remakes and had very little effort put into them. Even Pilotwings Resort reused the landscape of Wii Sports Resort, and Steel Diver is really a polished tech demo from about 7 years ago. And even now, not much has been done to shake this image for the coming months as even the big upcoming releases are ports/remakes. So when are we getting some original goods on this system?

Well, in all honesty we won’t have to wait too long. On May 10th D3 will be publishing the 3DS’s first “2D(3D?) shooter” (aka shmup) titled “Dream Trigger 3D”, and initial impressions are that it’s going to be about as original as you’re going to get. Outside of that however, we really aren’t getting much originality in the coming months. Here’s a breakdown of upcoming key releases:

May 10th – Dream Trigger 3D
May 24th – Dead or Alive: Dimensions
June 7th – Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions
June 19th – Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
June 28th – Shin Megami Tensei : Devil Survivor Overclocked
Cave Story 3D

Also, Nintendo is launching the 3DS eShop sometime in May, so we’ll also be getting some classic Gameboy/Game Gear/PC-Engine action around then.

At any rate, the next couple of months will be focused on remakes of old games, reimaginings of old franchises, and one actual “new contender”. However, E3 is in June (June 7-9 to be exact!), so hopefully Nintendo has a few tricks up their sleeves at that time. I would be especially grateful to get some news on key games like Kid Icarus and Super Mario Bros. 3D.

Another aspect that wound up underwhelming many was the sales. The 3DS sold just shy of 400,000 in its first week according to NPD numbers, and this is while analysts were predicting sales ranging between 500,000 and 700,000. Also, if you recall the original DS’s launch, you may recall that they were almost impossible to find for awhile afterwards, whereas you can walk into almost any store now and pick up a 3DS.

Why is this?

Well, we have to consider when the 3DS launched, which was in late March as opposed to November for the DS. Launching near a big gift giving holiday like, oh I don’t know, Christmas, certainly drives sales better than launching near… well, nothing really. Also, many were underwhelmed with the 3DS’s launch lineup, and are probably holding off until Nintendo brings out the big guns such as a new Mario title or Super Mario Kart 3D.

So while the 3DS certainly failed to meet many expectations for its launch, it’s certainly not time to call it the Virtual Boy 2 (in terms of success anyways). As a piece of hardware, the 3DS brings a plethora of new and innovative ideas to the table, and while Super Street Fighter IV may have been the only launch title to take advantage of most of them, I feel confident that as the platform grows it will become a great handheld.


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