Dec 4 - Dec 9

As promised, Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS is this week's game of the week.

I saw a report last month saying the 3DS is on track to clear the original DS first year numbers, and though this is good news for a system that seemed to be flagging, I can't help but feel like the news might not be as good as it seems. For one thing I recall clearly when the DS launched. I was in the retail biz at the time, so I remember it the way you remember that one nightmare you kept having when you were a 10-year-old and which still secretly eats at the edges of your soul and sanity. I recall Nintendo being highly cautious about releasing DS systems out into the wild, so that for the better part of a year that was already sort of up and down from a sales perspective, even when people did want to buy a system they were hard to come by. The long and short is that I think there were very different reasons for the DS system's relatively slow ramp up. And, a desperate price drop to drum up interest was definitely not part of that mix.

The other thing I remember is the buzz. People were talking about the DS in a way they just don't talk about the 3DS. I could go for the low hanging mobile market argument, but I don't feel like that completely describes the struggles of this latest Big N handheld system. There's just a general malaise, a casual disinterest. If you can't even get my eight year old or his class interested in this system, then your problem is much bigger than anything Apple can throw at you.

As for the rest of this week, not much else to talk about.

PC
- The Adventures of TinTin The Game

Xbox360
- The Adventures of TinTin The Game

PS3
- The Adventures of TinTin The Game
- Just Dance 3

Wii
- The Adventures of TinTin The Game
- Fortune Street
- The Oregon Trail

DS
- The Adventures of TinTin The Game
- F1 2011

3DS
- Mario Kart 7

Comments

Oddly enough, since Black Friday I've noticed a spike in interest in the 3DS. I've seen fewer games on the shelves, more things like games and point cards marked as back-ordered online, and other indicators that things might be looking up for Nintendo. I get the feeling a lot of kids are getting one for Christmas (although not nearly as many as are getting Kinected 360s).

The 3DS has already cleared the DSs first year sales according to Nintendo's press release after Black Friday, but you're right that that's not necessarily an indicator of anything.

some people might hate this image.. sure its US only.. but still..

IMAGE(http://img11.imageshack.us/img11/8524/chartusportablegamereve.png)

From here

http://blog.flurry.com/bid/77424/Is-...

I'm don't disagree that mobile plays a major factor.

I'm just wondering whether that 36% for 2011 is inevitable due to the nature of a changing market, or if there's something about what Nintendo did with the 3DS that kept them from being more competitive? I mean, with an aging DS system that shift in percentages isn't surprising on its own ... the part that seems surprising is that a new system launch didn't stem the tide.

I don't think there's any discussion to be had on whether mobile is taking the lead. I think there is discussion to be had on whether Nintendo could have done anything to change that. After all, I don't think the reason my son and his class aren't talking about 3DS is because they are talking about iOS. It seems like there was missed opportunity.

The actual numbers for PSP/DS seem about right for consoles at the end of their lifespan. 2009 was a combined $2.2b, then $1.6b and $1.4b. That slow tail is pretty typical when people are gearing up for the Vita and 3DS, or actually buying the successor in the latter case.

Minarchist wrote:

The actual numbers for PSP/DS seem about right for consoles at the end of their lifespan. 2009 was a combined $2.2b, then $1.6b and $1.4b. That slow tail is pretty typical when people are gearing up for the Vita and 3DS, or actually buying the successor in the latter case.

I don't believe the Vita and/or the 3DS will reverse this trend.. I think the ship has sailed on dedicated handheld gaming in its "traditional" format. The only thing I'm not sure of is if Nintendo, Sony can figure out how to stay relevant in this new world order as well as does Microsoft ever try to position the Xbox in a stronger way in the handheld gaming market.

The irony is that right now there are more people playing "handheld" games than ever before in the history of videogaming.. its just that Sony and Nintendo have failed to increase their market share these last 3 years... is it due to aging systems? or changing demographics?

The iPod Touch is an inferior gaming machine compared even to the DS - much of that is because of its touch interface. Moreover, its sound quality is pretty so-so as well. Aside from hand-me-down availability, I think the driving force behind the gaming habits of the new generation is cloud availability - the ability to shop for a game or try out a game, anytime, anywhere.

This is where Nintendo fails the hardest.

Just as the iTunes store (and other DL music stores) is the current expression of monetizing P2P audio streams, the iTunes app store is the evolving and future face of monetizing the demand for an online, cheap (efficient distribution) game product.

Jobs may or may not have realized it, but massive online pirate activity was predictive of this demand, and is currently indicative of market forces surrounding respective products.

The extremely high volume of DS pirate activity suggests that Nintendo only has to set up their online infrastructure in order to benefit from the revenue streams. It's not too late, but they need to get going soon, and fast.

All things considered, I think going 3D was a mistake in direction for the DS. It should have gone online first.

I just finished 3-starring all the 50CC cups in single player.

There isn't a single track in this game I don't like. And several of the classic ones are better than they've ever been, thanks to the addition of stuff like aerial / underwater sections, jump boosting (this alone makes Airship Fortress a whole new course I think), and just neat ambient stuff. I love how the thwomps distort the track in SNES Rainbow Road. I love the 3D leaves floating around in Maple Treeway.

It's brilliant. I still love you, Mario Kart DS, but they may have done you one better. Between this and Super Mario 3D Land, the 3DS has absolutely justified its existence to me, even considering that I bought it before the price drop. If Nintendo can keep putting out stuff of this quality, the system will do fine. It could well be their swansong in the handheld market in the long run, but there's stuff on it that people should play now (that aren't remakes of decade+ old games), and more will likely come.

On to 100 and 150CC!

I don't fully buy the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad argument. I think those are good companion devices for gamers (for stuff like #sworcery and Infinity Blade), but I have yet to find a virtual control stick implementation that doesn't suck. I think the growth rate on mobile phones will decrease with time, but the data is hard to compare because you're comparing a general purpose system like a smartphone (which is going to have a much larger appeal) with a very domain specific device like a DS or a PSP.

I think the debate will settle down in a couple years and we'll find, surprise surprise, that both smart phones and mobile platforms are co-existing. Handheld systems still function very well as a personal entertainment device you can take in a room where you might not have a TV. Also, with 3DS and Vita offering about 3-5 hours of battery life I wouldn't be surprised if the usage of handhelds around the home overtake their use on the road.

LarryC wrote:

All things considered, I think going 3D was a mistake in direction for the DS. It should have gone online first.

To their credit they have started talking about making the eShop accessible via a standard web browser, much like you can do with Steam, XBLM, etc. That's a step in the right direction. But overall, this is an area where Nintendo has continued to lag behind and it is starting to catch up to them.

I agree chasing the 3D aspect was a misstep. But without this you're just left with a DS with specs comparable to a PSP. A lot of the appeal of the DS was the new experiences we received with the plethora of features they crammed into the original DS. Touch controls! Blowing the mic! Two screens! The 3DS is an evolutionary device, unlike the original DS' revolution.

One of the guys on Weekend Confirmed had a good point about the 3D feature too, which is unfortunate I think. With the top screen being the 3D screen we're going to see a lot more games where the action is predominantly on the top screen. Something like Canvas Curse where you're interacting with the main screen of the game isn't going to be as popular design wise because they can't take advantage of the system's core gimmick. There's also the loss of the "book" orientation (where again, no 3D) which was a fun change of dimensions for games like Brain Age and Bowser's Inside Story. Yes, you can shut the 3D off and these will still work, but you're basically circumventing the core feature they were trying to hook people with. I can only imagine the marketing department wouldn't be very pleased for that to happen.

I wouldn't be surprised if the 3D slider gets less usage in a year or two. Just like how after a couple of years Nintendo started rolling out Wii platforming games with no or minimal motion controls.

That issue with the top screen being 3D and thus the main focus for attention is going to come up, in a way, with the WiiU, and it will be interesting to see how developers handle each. In both cases, the top screen/television will be the defacto focal point of the device while the bottom/controller screen will be relegated to secondary roles. I'm sure we'll see some innovative solutions for this, but we'll also see a fair amount of use of the secondary touch screen for little more than maps, inventories, and stats.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

That issue with the top screen being 3D and thus the main focus for attention is going to come up, in a way, with the WiiU, and it will be interesting to see how developers handle each. In both cases, the top screen/television will be the defacto focal point of the device while the bottom/controller screen will be relegated to secondary roles. I'm sure we'll see some innovative solutions for this, but we'll also see a fair amount of use of the secondary touch screen for little more than maps, inventories, and stats.

The difference is that with the 3DS this is a step back in many ways from what made the DS a good machine.

For instance, Contra 4 is not a game that would be made on the 3DS because it uses both the top and bottom screens for action (we could talk all day about hating the break between screens, but that's a conversation for, oh, 2007).

For the WiiU it will be a limitation of the setup, but not a step backwards as the second screen is an addition. The 3DS's bottom screen is still a touch screen and can do many cool things with it, but you're basically stuck playing games on the top screen, which lessens the overall real estate.

At the end of the day though, not many games too advantage of playing on both screens, so it's somewhat moot.

I realize that it's a step back to a degree. It's just interesting to me that Nintendo has created home and portable consoles that will have, in some very important ways, parallel design issues.

I'm lamenting the disparity between the screens on the 3DS as much as the next guy. I'm plaything through Phantom Hourglass right now, and I love the touch control scheme. That's pretty much a design that wouldn't happen now as the 3D screen wouldn't be relegated to simply displaying a map.

On the other hand, something like Dawn of Sorrow, which had the bottom screen used for gameplay and the top screen for auxiliary, wouldn't really suffer for having those screens reversed.

The iPod Touch is an inferior gaming machine compared even to the DS - much of that is because of its touch interface. Moreover, its sound quality is pretty so-so as well

I subscribe to the "Good Enough" Theory of adoption. It seems to hold up pretty damn well to scrutiny.

Isn't the battery life on the 3DS terrible? My DS was pretty good, and my iPhone's really good.

ChrisGwinn wrote:

Isn't the battery life on the 3DS terrible? My DS was pretty good, and my iPhone's really good.

Your iPhone battery life is really good while playing games? My 3GS lasted all of an hour with a technologically demanding game, and my 4S doesn't get much more than 2. It's certainly no better than the 3DS.

Dyni wrote:
ChrisGwinn wrote:

Isn't the battery life on the 3DS terrible? My DS was pretty good, and my iPhone's really good.

Your iPhone battery life is really good while playing games? My 3GS lasted all of an hour with a technologically demanding game, and my 4S doesn't get much more than 2. It's certainly no better than the 3DS.

My 4S has worse battery life than my previous 4 so I'm not sure what that's about. But I frequently took the 4 with me on plane trips and happily played Plants vs. Zombies, Peggle or Civ Rev for 4, 5 hours without killing the battery and with having time to spare. That's airplane mode, which makes a world of difference, but the point still stands. An iPad or iPod is perfectly fine for gaming for what most people want.

TheGameguru wrote:
The iPod Touch is an inferior gaming machine compared even to the DS - much of that is because of its touch interface. Moreover, its sound quality is pretty so-so as well

I subscribe to the "Good Enough" Theory of adoption. It seems to hold up pretty damn well to scrutiny.

Basically this. Actually, I think the DS was in this camp when it was released. It wasn't as powerful as the PSP and it didn't yet have many Nintendo 1st party titles or RPGs. But it was good enough to do the job and fairly cheap.

By contrast the 3DS released at a much higher price, with less features than an iOS device and with a hook (3D) that no one was terribly enthused about.

The relative decline of the DS platform vs. the iOS platform is all about App store, IMHO. You want a game to take with you? You tap a few times and in ten seconds you have one. Nintendo and Sony just can't come close to that experience.

psu_13 wrote:

The relative decline of the DS platform vs. the iOS platform is all about App store, IMHO. You want a game to take with you? You tap a few times and in ten seconds you have one. Nintendo and Sony just can't come close to that experience.

That and the device is always in your pocket. To me, at least. I still have a PSP. Loaded with games. But it's not in my pocket all of the time. Same with the 3DS.

I think that not only did the 3D gimmick not help Nintendo as much as they predicted (or as much as the DS' gimmicks did), it actively HURTS them. The device came out right as the backlash against 3D movies and 3D television is reaching its zenith. The advertising for the Muppet movie actually treats the fact that the film is not available in 3D as a SELLING point. The average consumer doesn't give a crap about graphics and processing power: they see the name. Three. Dee. Ess. Aka, the device I already have, with a feature I've come to associate with price-gouging and eyestrain. No thanks.

Even if you take as a given that they were married to 3D and it was too late to turn back by the time the backlash started happening, the implementation is terrible. 3D is just plain a bad fit for a two-screen device, especially when only one screen is in 3D. Every time you flick your eyes down to that 2D display, they have to readjust to the 3D when they go back to the top screen. It takes the worst part of the 3D experience and makes it happen every thirty seconds.

hbi2k wrote:

I think that not only did the 3D gimmick not help Nintendo as much as they predicted (or as much as the DS' gimmicks did), it actively HURTS them. The device came out right as the backlash against 3D movies and 3D television is reaching its zenith.

This is a great point. And I think you're right. When I think of the 3DS, as a gamer I think of it essentially as the DS2. Which is what I wish we would have gotten instead. Consumers who don't post on message boards or listen to gaming podcasts probably see that and immediately draw associations with what 3D is. Which is generally a gimmick, pricier and often headache-inducing.

I can't say they're wrong, either. Nintendo could have delivered a portable SMG on the 3DS and I would have been over the moon. Instead we got artificial camera angles in the service of trying to show off the 3D.

DSGamer wrote:
hbi2k wrote:

I think that not only did the 3D gimmick not help Nintendo as much as they predicted (or as much as the DS' gimmicks did), it actively HURTS them. The device came out right as the backlash against 3D movies and 3D television is reaching its zenith.

This is a great point. And I think you're right. When I think of the 3DS, as a gamer I think of it essentially as the DS2. Which is what I wish we would have gotten instead. Consumers who don't post on message boards or listen to gaming podcasts probably see that and immediately draw associations with what 3D is. Which is generally a gimmick, pricier and often headache-inducing.

I can't say they're wrong, either. Nintendo could have delivered a portable SMG on the 3DS and I would have been over the moon. Instead we got artificial camera angles in the service of trying to show off the 3D.

This.

Nintendo's business model has been heavy on gimmicks this last cycle. For the Wii and DS, it just happened that the gimmicks were marketable. Next they come up with 3DS, which sounds really cool on paper except: 1) Nobody cares 2) you can't show anyone how it actually looks without the actual hardware and 3) it's expensive as heck.

The Wii and 3DS benefitted greatly because of their low price points in comparison to the competition. Every other system on the market when the Wii launched was twice the price of a Wii. I think what Nintendo actually learned from the Wii's success was not "we can sell a crapload with an interesting hook and a low price" but instead was "look how well our unique widgets sell! Let's come up with more unique widgets!"

It would help if the 3DS had games that gamers cared about, but it's kind of got the same problem that the Wii has; They release something that the GWJ conference callers talk maybe what, once a year? You can't build market share with a Zelda game every five years unless you've got something special, and the 3DS doesn't have anything special enough for people to care.

If Nintendo isn't careful, they could wind up where Sony was this generation: Trying really hard to remind people of how awesome they were last generation while seeming to misunderstand what made them awesome last time.

Of course, now that I've said this, Nintendo will release 50 new must-play double-plus-awesome games and the 3DS will be next generation's dominant platform. How do I know? Because every time I decide not to buy a system, that system wins NPD game for an entire generation. (I did choose a PS3 over an Xbox360, after all)

DSGamer wrote:
psu_13 wrote:

The relative decline of the DS platform vs. the iOS platform is all about App store, IMHO. You want a game to take with you? You tap a few times and in ten seconds you have one. Nintendo and Sony just can't come close to that experience.

That and the device is always in your pocket. To me, at least. I still have a PSP. Loaded with games. But it's not in my pocket all of the time. Same with the 3DS.

This is where I'm at too. I loves me some Nintendo first party releases, and I'm really wishing I could play Mario 3D Land and the new Kart, but my schedule cannot justify making the purchase right now. My gaming over the last several+ months has been very sporadic and limited to five or ten minutes at a time. That's perfect for gaming on my phone but not for a 3DS (my DS and PSP have collected dust but not for lack of great titles). The phone games haven't replaced a true handheld gaming experience for me but my schedule is dictating my gaming formats at this point in my life.

I'm sorry; but am I the only one that finds iOS and Android games completely vapid versions of the free web browser games I was playing in 2004? They have tricked us into thinking the miracle of the App makes them somehow better because you can play them on your phone with touch instead of a mouse.

Don't get me wrong; I have a few of them on my phone but it simply won't replace the experience of a Dragon Quest IX, Mario Kart, or Mario Bros on my hand held device. They may be competing for the same market share; but it's like comparing Cosmopolitan magazine to the latest book in the Star Wars universe.

Dyni wrote:
ChrisGwinn wrote:

Isn't the battery life on the 3DS terrible? My DS was pretty good, and my iPhone's really good.

Your iPhone battery life is really good while playing games? My 3GS lasted all of an hour with a technologically demanding game, and my 4S doesn't get much more than 2. It's certainly no better than the 3DS.

It depends on what I'm playing. I played a lot of King of Dragon Pass before the battery ran down, but I expect Infinity Blade would chew through it. It'll get me through a plane trip, and I can play some games here and there without having to charge the battery mid-day.

Blondish83 wrote:

I'm sorry; but am I the only one that finds iOS and Android games completely vapid versions of the free web browser games I was playing in 2004? They have tricked us into thinking the miracle of the App makes them somehow better because you can play them on your phone with touch instead of a mouse.

Don't get me wrong; I have a few of them on my phone but it simply won't replace the experience of a Dragon Quest IX, Mario Kart, or Mario Bros on my hand held device. They may be competing for the same market share; but it's like comparing Cosmopolitan magazine to the latest book in the Star Wars universe.

Not the only one, but it doesn't mesh with my experience.

I've been playing King of Dragon Pass (which was a classic on the PC), Ascension (which is a port of a fairly good boardgame), the first Phoenix Wright (DS game) and Scribblenauts (DS game). None of those strike me as being ports of 2004 browser games.

But I don't read Star Wars books, so I may be missing some part of your analogy.

Dyni wrote:
ChrisGwinn wrote:

Isn't the battery life on the 3DS terrible? My DS was pretty good, and my iPhone's really good.

Your iPhone battery life is really good while playing games? My 3GS lasted all of an hour with a technologically demanding game, and my 4S doesn't get much more than 2. It's certainly no better than the 3DS.

Same here, gaming on my 3GS, especially something like Infinity Blade, will suck up the battery life in an hour or two, tops. Hell, even web browsing a bunch in a single day will kill it dead. Sure the 3DS has terrible battery life, the difference is that when my dedicated portable gaming device dies, I'm only stuck without said dedicated portable gaming device. When my non-dedicated portable gaming device dies I'm now stuck without a phone.

In all honesty, I had way more fun with the games available on my stupid verizon flip phone (Doom RPG was friggin' awesome) that I only charged every couple of weeks than I have with the shallow, flash-esque touch screen only games I can play on my iPhone that I have to charge nearly every day. Progress? Meh.

Add on top of this the fact that the phone market is one with a yearly update to the $400 minimum top line hardware that becomes the new game development target. I've had my 3gs for about a year and a half and it's in terrible shape (apple DOES NOT make durable hardware) and now 2, soon probably 3, hardware revisions behind.

On the other hand, I have a DS Lite sitting in the bottom of my backpack that I bring to work every day. I've owned this DS for over 3 years now and it looks nearly as good as it did day one, the battery life lasts me weeks of intermittent playing on the train and it's really, really good at playing really, really good games (Oh thank merciful heaven, BUTTONS!).

I don't have any insights that merit prognostication, but I can say if the dedicated portable gaming hardware goes away, I don't intend to replace it with phone gaming. Because phone gaming as it stands now pretty much sucks.

ChrisGwinn wrote:
Blondish83 wrote:

I'm sorry; but am I the only one that finds iOS and Android games completely vapid versions of the free web browser games I was playing in 2004? They have tricked us into thinking the miracle of the App makes them somehow better because you can play them on your phone with touch instead of a mouse.

Don't get me wrong; I have a few of them on my phone but it simply won't replace the experience of a Dragon Quest IX, Mario Kart, or Mario Bros on my hand held device. They may be competing for the same market share; but it's like comparing Cosmopolitan magazine to the latest book in the Star Wars universe.

Not the only one, but it doesn't mesh with my experience.

I've been playing King of Dragon Pass (which was a classic on the PC), Ascension (which is a port of a fairly good boardgame), the first Phoenix Wright (DS game) and Scribblenauts (DS game). None of those strike me as being ports of 2004 browser games.

But I don't read Star Wars books, so I may be missing some part of your analogy.

How was the latest issue of Cosmo?

I'm behind. No spoilers, please.

ChrisGwinn wrote:
Blondish83 wrote:

I'm sorry; but am I the only one that finds iOS and Android games completely vapid versions of the free web browser games I was playing in 2004? They have tricked us into thinking the miracle of the App makes them somehow better because you can play them on your phone with touch instead of a mouse.

Don't get me wrong; I have a few of them on my phone but it simply won't replace the experience of a Dragon Quest IX, Mario Kart, or Mario Bros on my hand held device. They may be competing for the same market share; but it's like comparing Cosmopolitan magazine to the latest book in the Star Wars universe.

Not the only one, but it doesn't mesh with my experience.

I've been playing King of Dragon Pass (which was a classic on the PC), Ascension (which is a port of a fairly good boardgame), the first Phoenix Wright (DS game) and Scribblenauts (DS game). None of those strike me as being ports of 2004 browser games.

There are a number of classic RPGs available on iOS, too.

Besides, it's not a trick to make people believe that there's an added value in being able to play on a phone instead of a mouse. I've tried using a laptop while walking to work or standing in a subway car — the phone works much better.

Blondish83 wrote:

I'm sorry; but am I the only one that finds iOS and Android games completely vapid versions of the free web browser games I was playing in 2004? They have tricked us into thinking the miracle of the App makes them somehow better because you can play them on your phone with touch instead of a mouse.

Don't get me wrong; I have a few of them on my phone but it simply won't replace the experience of a Dragon Quest IX, Mario Kart, or Mario Bros on my hand held device. They may be competing for the same market share; but it's like comparing Cosmopolitan magazine to the latest book in the Star Wars universe.

That kind of misses the point though... If people are buying and playing then they havent tricked anyone..so us is really you.

Additionally it would be one thing if it was as simple as the market (handheld gaming) was growing (which it is) and Nintendo and Sony were in fact growing as well.. This would show that while "smartphone" gaming was introducing new users into the handheld market they were eventually either migrating to a better experience (as you claim and rightfully so) and thus growing Sony and Nintendo's profits in handheld gaming as well.

But the reverse is happening.. while the market size is growing.. Nintendo and Sony are shrinking.

It's really just the micro-transaction ecosystem in a slightly different wrapper.. instead of $40-$50 a month from a smaller group of people you get smaller bite sized pieces from a much larger pool of people.. so individually you might have people who buy next to nothing a year and then other people that buy a huge amount a year...

Again I go to the "Good Enough" theory...it really holds up remarkably well and if you apply it to what is currently happening to handheld gaming it makes a ton of sense.

Enough people simply don't care about 3D gaming and huge in-depth gameplay when they arent in front of their console or PC.

TheGameguru wrote:

Enough people simply don't care about 3D gaming and huge in-depth gameplay when they arent in front of their console or PC.

I could be wrong, but I'm not seeing anyone in this thread panning Android / iOS gaming for its lack of 3D (in either sense of the term) or in-depth gameplay. The biggest complaint I'm seeing against those platforms as excellent gaming platforms is the lack of dedicated gaming controls, aka buttons. Which I think is a valid complaint. There's a really big limitation on what kind of games work on a platform that's touchscreen-only, especially when you factor in a relatively small screen size, which leads to problems with genres that traditionally work well with pointer-type controls like RTSs.

If someone could marry the strengths of the dedicated gaming portables (buttons, a hardware standard to code to that doesn't change every year, relatively affordable price) and the strengths of Android and iOS (excellent delivery model for smaller games, low barrier to entry for indie devs, excellent media features), I'd be ecstatic. I don't think it even has to be a phone: that's important to the sort of people who carry smartphones around, but the core demographic for portable gaming devices (school-aged kids) aren't rocking iPhones, they're carrying around mp3 players or MAYBE a second-hand iPod Touch.

Slap a d-pad and four face buttons on an iPod Touch, or a decent amount of storage and an excellent interface for media playback (instead of the afterthought its been on the PSP and the absolute non-feature on the DS line) on a gaming portable, and I think you have a winner.