updated 07:50 am EDT, Thu July 28, 2011
Nintendo 3DS price drop to drive sales
Nintendo has taken the dramatic step of slashing the price of its 3DS handheld less than six months after its launch. In a statement on its US website, the company says that on August 12, the 3DS will drop from $249 to $169. The company added that it would assuage the 830,000 existing owners of the console in the US with 20 free games after they sign up to its Ambassador program.
To get the free games, existing owners must log into the Nintendo eShop over a broadband connection at least once before August 11:59PM on August 11. These users will automatically be registered as part of the Ambassador program. Starting September 1, Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors will be able to download 10 NES Virtual Console games at no charge and before they are available in the Nintendo eShop to the general public.
The games, which include Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Jr., Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, and The Legend of Zelda, are slated to become paid downloadable games, but Ambassadors get them early for free. Once the paid versions of the games are posted to the Nintendo eShop later in the year, the updated versions will be available to Ambassadors for download at no cost.
A second batch of ten games will arrive by the end of 2011 and will be exclusive to current owners. Nintendo will provide Ambassadors with 10 Game Boy Advance Virtual Console games. These include games like Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$, and Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Nintendo says that it currently has no plans to make these 10 games available to the general public on the Nintendo 3DS in the future.
The sudden price drop, while good news for gamers, is reflective of severe financial pressure (PDF) that the slow sales of the 3DS and the Wii are placing on Nintendo. The company posted its first ever quarterly loss in the spring, an equivalent to $475.98 million, and now expected its entire profit for its fiscal year to hit just $450.25 million. It had originally been expecting a profit of $2.25 billion.
Most credit the slump to Apple, whose iPod touch has almost inadvertently become the most serious threat to the dominance Nintendo held on the handheld gaming market until just recently. Its mix of multimedia functionality and huge range of relatively cheap gaming titles has eaten into Nintendo's sales. Further, smartphones like the iPhone and Android have also had a similar effect.
As phones and media players become more capable handheld gaming devices, users have seen less of a need to carry around a dedicated gaming device. Companies like Apple and Samsung are by necessity also much more aggressive in upgrading their hardware, updating it once a year or more where Nintendo didn't upgrade the performance of its handhelds after DS launch in 2004 until the 3DS, seven years later.