July 29, 2011, 7:53 AM — Yesterday morning North American gamers woke up to quite a surprise: Nintendo announced that it is slashing the price of its new 3DS handheld gaming console from $250 to $170, effective August 12th. This after just four months on the market.
Nintendo felt that drastic measures were needed in order to get some momentum for the 3DS going. In its first quarter, the company lost $328.3 million and sold only 110,000 3DS units, according to Cnet.
Customers who already bought the 3DS at $250 will be getting 20 free games as compensation for having paid about 50% more than customers to come, which seems quite generous until you learn that 10 of them will be old NES games, and the other 10 will be old Game Boy Advance games. I suppose it's better than nothing but couldn't Nintendo have coughed up a free game that was actually designed to run on the 3DS?
So that's the Nintendo situation but I'm wondering what impact, if any, this will have on Sony's Playstation Vita launch. When the Vita's price of $250 was announced most observers thought it was very aggressive, particularly since it matched the cost of the Nintendo 3DS. Will the Vita seem too expensive now that it's $80 more than Nintendo's new handheld? If so, is there anything Sony can do about it? It's hard to imagine Sony dropping the launch price lower than it already is.
Further, is this the signal that all the predictions about the death of dedicated handheld gaming consoles were spot on? Did the 3DS not sell because the glasses-free 3D gimmick didn't connect with consumers? Or was it because of the lackluster game library available? Or was it just that no one could be bothered to stop playing Cut The Rope and Words With Friends on their smartphones long enough to buy a new handheld?
Is the Playstation Vita doomed to the same low sales figures that the 3DS has seen? And will this price cut be enough to jump-start sales of the 3DS?
Lots of questions and I have very few answers beyond "Let's wait and see." It's going to be very interesting to watch the handheld gaming space over the next 6-12 months.
For me, my Vita pre-order still stands, but the new $170 3DS price hasn't tempted me to buy one; I just haven't seen many games I want to play on it yet, and the screens are too small to make it a compelling media device. I'm not sure my Vita pre-order is wise, but the device is so packed-full of interesting tech that it calls to me. It's an emotional, rather than rational, purchase, and not one I'd necessarily advise my friends to make.
Has the 3DS price drop influenced you to change your handheld gaming plans?