Nintendo 3DS eShop rolling out in early June; will it help sales?

We're coming up on two months since Nintendo launched its 3DS handheld gaming system in North America and the buzz around the system seems to have died down a bit. In week-to-week hardware sales figures out of Japan, the aging Sony PSP seems to outsell the 3DS as often as not. Here in the States, Nintendo enjoyed what they called record-breaking first day sales when the device launched but sales still didn't meet analyst expectations (see 3DS Launch Sales Fail to Surpass Analysts’ Expectations at Gamezone). Yesterday (after NPD numbers came out) Nintendo announced it'd sold just 194,000 3DS units in April (for the sake of comparison, Microsoft sold 297,000 Xbox 360s and Sony's PS3, even with all its troubles, managed to outsell the 3DS with a total of 204,000 units). Granted we're comparing home consoles to handheld, but one would expect a brand new system to handily outsell hardware that's been on store shelves for 5 years. [Source]

While the 3DS is hardly a flop it's safe to say it could be doing better, and it's easy to speculate that the problem with getting the public interested enough to buy has been a lack of compelling software. The launch titles weren't all that exciting and there hasn't been much in the way of new content since (actually I don't know if anything new has surfaced since launch). It'll take time for game developers to ramp up production of their 3DS titles and to figure out how to put the features of the device to best use.

But there's finally some good news. The 3DS is getting its "eShop" on June 7th (the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo) according to GamesIndustry.biz. A web browser will also be pushed out that day, but I think the eShop is key to keeping the 3DS in people's minds and hands while the game development cycle spins up.

Digital downloads seem perfect for a device with a gimmick (and I mean that in a good way) like glasses-free 3D. Quirky little $2-$5 games are the perfect vehicle for game designers to experiment with what can be accomplished with the new system's features, without risking huge amounts of development dollars. The low prices of digital downloads means that we consumers are more apt to try a lot of different titles, too. Nintendo needs to be 'training' us to check in every week to see what new titles are available. This gives us a reason to keep our 3DSs charged up and ready to go, which in turn leads to word-of-mouth as gamers invariably ask each other "Watcha been playin?"

Backing up the GI news is a post at Destructoid saying that its readers have spotted pre-paid cards for the 3DS eShop at certain Best Buy stores.

We're still waiting for Netflix and 3D movie trailers to hit the device, but the eShop is certainly a good start. I've held off on picking up a 3DS but I'll probably add one to my gaming collection some time before June 7th. How about you? Is this enough to spur your interest or are you content with giving the 3DS a pass? Alternatively, if you were an early adopter, how much use is your 3DS getting these days, and are you happy with your purchase?

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