Releases a thing that regular people don’t understand
// Mike Bastian

This past week, the Tokyo Game Show took place, where gaming juggernaut Nintendo revealed its next breakthrough in gaming. The company that first brought us portable touch based games, motion controls, and 3D without glasses repeats its magic again with a second analog nub.

Nintendo is naming this new add-on peripheral for the 3DS the “Slide Pad.” The slide pad will snap onto the bottom of the 3DS and provide an additional analog nub protruding from the right side of the hand-held. The peripheral is expected to retail for $20 and require a single AAA battery to operate.

The new device is clearly marketed toward the “hard-core” gamer. Typically, the hard-core label is saved for those who have large amounts of time and money invested in their gaming hobby. They often play games at a competitive level, and tend to take gaming more seriously than casual consumers.

The NPD Group, a global market research company, reported that the action genre, made up of adventure and shooter games and most popular with the hard-core market, made up 22 per cent of all games sold in 2010. Modern games like Call of Duty, Uncharted, or Resident Evil are all built around the inclusion of a second analog stick. All seven of the announced games to utilize the new 3DS peripheral belong to the action genre, two of which are Kingdom Hearts 3D and Resident Evil Revelations. Having played both Kingdom Hearts and Resident Evil on the original DS, it's arguable that the add-on will greatly improve the gameplay, giving the player dynamic control of the in-game camera, and a high degree of accuracy with on-screen targeting.

It is speculated that Nintendo is releasing the slide pad in an attempt to save the failing 3DS. After the massive success of both the original DS and the Wii, it is hard to believe that a Nintendo console isn’t selling. The handheld had a record opening week in North America, selling 400,000 units. However, sales of the handheld dropped sharply to 194,000 units sold in the entire month of April.

After only 24 weeks of declining sales, Nintendo issued a massive price drop, slashing the price from $250 to $170. According to the Nintendo website, sales jumped to 185,000 units immediately after the price drop, an increase of 260%. Since recent sales figures have not yet been released, it is unknown if sales are increasing or declining again after the price drop, but it is likely that there will be an explosion of sales during the Christmas season.

There are several reasons why the 3DS isn’t selling well, but the biggest problem that Nintendo is facing is Apple. Due to its massive appeal, the iPhone has almost completely consumed the “casual gamer” audience that Nintendo used to have a firm grasp on. The iPhone provides internet access, plays music and videos, makes phone calls, sends texts, and more thanks the versatility and sheer number of apps. This is something a purely gaming focused device cannot compete with. The iPhone also has revolutionized the gaming market by providing full games for only $1. It is almost certain that if a casual gamer were to spend $40 on videogames, they would get more enjoyment and value out of 40 iPhone games, rather than buying only one 3DS game.

The only market on which Nintendo can now rely is the hard-core gamers, who aren’t yet fully supporting them. At fault may be a glaring lack of exclusive triple “A” titles available for the fledgling console. According to Metacritic, the three best rated 3DS games are Legend of Zelda: Orcarina of Time 3D, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D edition, and Star Fox 64 3D. Two of these games are graphically over-hauled remakes of ten-year-old N64 titles. The other is a port of a fighter with far superior versions on both the Xbox 360 and PS3.

If the 3DS fails despite the new peripheral, it shouldn’t be the end of Nintendo. While some companies, such as Sega, have gone belly-up due to a failed console, Nintendo has a ton of money and an army of fanboys to fall upon. The last Nintendo portable to bomb was the Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s first attempt at portable 3D technology. Despite the Virtual Boy gracing Time’s “Top 50 worst inventions,” Nintendo could still rely on its console sales to keep it afloat. This combination of portable and home consoles is the key to Nintendo’s success. In order for Nintendo to fail, their next home console, the Wii U, will also have to bomb.

This situation is similar to Sony being saved by the PS3 after the PSP underperformed in sales. The most common complaint about Sony’s PSP was the lack of a second analog nub, yet no one ever complained about the original DS’s controls. The DS sold well because it offered simple games without much competition. Now, with Apple, things have changed, and Nintendo has to go after the hard-core demographic, and fast, if it wants to save the 3DS.

// Mike Bastien

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