Nintendo Disappointed in 3DS Sales Drop-Off

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Let’s say you walk into your local video game emporium on the hunt for a Nintendo 3DS. Maybe it’s for your sweetie, your nephew or your own 3D-crazy self. Expecting the worst, you go up to a helpful sales person and hesitantly ask if they have any 3DSes in stock. “Why, yes,” he answers. “What color would you like?”

Huh? Isn’t this thing supposed to be selling like ice water in Hades?

Sure, the 3DS debuted with a record-setting first week with 400,000 units sold, but it was still very easy to find. Initial statements by Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime claimed that Nintendo had adjusted its supply chain in accordance with what the company learned after months and months of Wii shortages. Then, it came out that the 3DS was outsold by its older sibling the DS during the first weeks of availability, largely on the strength of blockbuster Pokemon: Black and Pokemon: White.

Well, according to Nintendo’s top man, their newest handheld is indeed under-performing and they’re not happy about it. At a recent investor meeting, president Satoru Iwata acknowledged that sales are not where they want them to be, saying, “The initial sales were healthy; however, the sales speed slowed down from the third week after its launch which is not what we had expected for the start-up transition.”

Iwata said that it’s hard to market the 3DS’s main selling point, the stereoscopic capability, even in person. At retail locations where it’s been made available to try out, would-be consumers can still have the adjustable 3D slider at a setting that’s not ideal for them and walk away being less than impressed. He also indirectly noted that their launch software might’ve been a bit weak, too:

There might be consumers who are interested in Nintendo 3DS, but they are unable to find software which they want to play, and they are in the “wait-and-see mode,” so I would like to inform you of the launch dates of software titles in Japan.

Among the games Iwata mentioned were  The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D, both remakes of old Nintendo 64 games. Meanwhile, if you measure the 3DS launch cycle against that of recent successful game hardware like Kinect, the challenge facing Nintendo is apparent. Like the 3DS, Kinect was marketed on technology and novelty. Unlike Kinect, though, the 3DS’ appeal may be a slippery one to define. Here’s hoping that Nintendo delivers a gameplay experience that shows off the 3DS magic in a way that sells units.