#oneaday 12: 3D to go: Nintendo strikes again

It seemed like the whole of the UK games industry media along with some developers and most publishers descended on Amsterdam yesterday to get ‘hands on’ for the first time with the hotly anticipated Nintendo 3DS. Sadly, for personal reasons I could not travel, but from those that I have spoken to it seems that the hype lived up to the reality. I have been told that when you get hands on, the 3DS really does deliver an awesome experience. According to Nintendo , the 3DS will ship worldwide in March 2011 and is set to be the biggest hardware launch in their history. Bigger than the DS and bigger than the Wii. For all Nintendo fans and all technology fans, this is surely good news.

I have no doubt at all that the 3DS will sell a huge amount of units. In turn, software sales, which is the real profit driver for Nintendo themselves and third party publishers, developers and retailers, will also have massive potential. After all this is 3D tech, that needs no stupid glasses and is available for $249 plus the cost of games, likely to be $35-45. Alternatively, if you are in the UK it will cost anywhere between £220 – 230 for the system and £25-35 for the games. So compared with a 3D TV set up, this is amazingly cheap, sorry good value. Add to that the fact that Nintendo have also secured a deal with BT in the UK which allows owners to use the BT Wi-Fi hotspots to download content and a struck a deal with Sky which will bring ‘short form 3D content’ to owners. Details on what this actually is are not available, but you could easily see 3D Premier League highlights being made available for a small charge. The target demographic will lap that up, provided the price is right.

But we live in a changed and ever changing world.  This world is connected and we have so much vibrant, exciting, innovative and cool content available to us all that you do wonder if the 3DS has the potential to become truly mass market, the way that the DS did for example. Instinct says it will, but, there are a number of ‘buts’.

In the last 2 years, tens if not hundreds of millions of people around the world have experienced content via their mobile phones. most notably but not exclusively their iPhones. iPhones and iPod Touches deliver a 2D experience, but that experience is fantastic value and often free. And it is really accessible, really immediate and it really works!  With a pretty hefty price tag, the 3DS will still sell and if retailers want margin, then they can try and make some as no suggested retail price (SRP) will be set by Nintendo. Crucially however, if the software and Apps are expensive, when compared with iOS or Android content, even though the experience will be three dimensional, it does beg the question as to whether there is a sustainable market for third party content makers. Let’s hope that the route to market and the associated costs of bringing Apps and games to consumers,  whether as packaged goods or via download, is slick, easy and efficient.

I totally ‘get’ Nintendo’s pricing approach. The 3DS is more expensive than the DS or DSi, but it delivers more. If they set that price, then they should stick to it and importantly make the 3DS aspirational for a generation. Indeed if Nintendo take the approach that Apple have taken, namely one which embraces and encourages third party innovation whilst ensuring that the customer experience online is amazing, then it will be simply brilliant for them, third parties and consumers alike. A win, win, win. Competition and innovation go hand in hand.

If however, they do not learn some of the lessons of the recent past centred around content creation and distribution, then I for one will question the long term sustainability of that universe, outside of the confines of The Nintendo Company of Japan of course.

Must rush, although we have  a test machine arriving next week for the office, I am off to place my pre-order with Game or HMV;-)

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