Mistaken Identity, Consumer Confusion: Does 3DS Look Too Much Like DS?
The 3DS' slow start may have something to do with its familiar design.
Over the past couple of months, the 3DS has become more appealing. Nintendo launched the virtual eShop June 6, along with Super Mario Land and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX, then followed that up with the retail release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. With other exciting games (Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, June 28) on the way, the system has slowly become more desirable to a wider audience.
That said, the publisher still finds itself in the unfamiliar position of having to scratch and claw to remain the undisputed king of handhelds. In its first month, the 3DS fell below the company's target of four million units sold, and with competition from Apple (iPad, iPhone) and Sony (the upcoming PlayStation Vita), there exists the possibility, however slight, that Nintendo has a huge fight on its hands.
As for its recent woes, critics cite the expensive $250 price tag, the wait for the aforementioned eShop and a lackluster launch lineup, all of which are excellent points.
On that note, we'd like to propose one more: the 3DS looks too much like a DS.
When Nintendo first unveiled the system, we were a little taken back that the publisher chose to retain the largely successful design of the immensely popular DS, complete with two screens, d-pad/button placement and clamshell exterior. Even the game carts are similar, aside from some extra plastic and a color swap from black to light gray.
Whenever a system is in need of a sales boost, the hardware manufacturer improves upon the original design. Nintendo, for example, has achieved great success by remodeling Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and DS. Doing this not only attracts hardcore fanatics that crave the latest and greatest gadget, but also the non/casual gamers.
The 3DS features a proven and comfortable design while offering standout features like glasses free 3D, StreetPass and a built-in gyroscope, all of which are tough to market without placing the device in consumers' hands. It puts Nintendo in a bind, especially since there's no way to convey the 3D effects through images and video.
Now place yourself in the shoes of a cash strapped casual gamer and/or parent interested in purchasing a 3DS. Here's a system that resembles a DS, plays DS games and costs $250, exactly $100 more than the old reliable DSi. Unless that person experiences 3DS first hand, it's a tough sell, and even tougher convincing this buyer that it's little more than a DS revamp.
A ridiculous concept? Probably, if you're a gamer that follows the industry, but not everyone does. As strange as this may sound, some people don't know a PSP from a DS. Doesn't mean they're incompetent. They just don't have an interest in video games.
The worst part: these are the sorts of folks Nintendo needs to attract in order to rack up sales. If it fails to convey the message: that 3DS is in fact a brand new system, it could be in for a bumpy ride.