This summer has been one of many surprises Microsoft announced and released a new Xbox One-sans-Kinect and now Nintendo have announced the ‘New’ 3DS. Both these SKU’s claim to have a power boost that’ll make better games possible and both garnered a lot of media coverage on the internet.
My question is though, are these new SKU’s really good for business? Is fracturing your install-base really a good move?
The issues with a new SKU.
Nintendo have a history in introducing new SKU’s of existing hardware, more importantly they have a history in creating incredibly successful SKUs – one just has to look at the Gameboy Color or the DSi to see how much a new SKU can do for a hardware developer. The interesting thing here is that Nintendo stated that the color also had a power boost – albeit a moderate one – which could suggest that the power boost for the ‘New’ 3DS is also quite small. It’s here that things get more complicated, and it’s here that I feel that Nintendo may face some very sticky patches.
First is the fact not the 3DS’ are not all interchangable. Let me elaborate:
1) The ‘New’ 3DS will play all existing 3DS games and ‘New’ 3DS titles and amiibos without the need for a peripheral. It will not allow for peripherals designed for the original 3DS.
2) The 2DS will play all 3DS titles (in 2D), but not ‘New’ titles or Amiibos without a peripheral
3) The 3DS will play all 3DS titles, but not ‘New’ titles or Amiibos without a peripheral.
This is all well and good for the hardcore gamers, but i foresee a problem with mothers and younger gamers buying games/peripherals that are incompatible. Judging by Nintendo’s handling of the 3DS and WiiU marketing I think that they will fail to communicate the difference to the masses and this will lead to severe teething problems that will be difficult to save face on…can Nintendo afford another botched hardware release? Or have they learned lessons? Time will tell.
Second is the design choices made, while the NES style buttons look kick-ass, the little analogue ‘nub’ looks less than ideal, I still fumble for the PS4 start button and that looks significantly bigger than the second stick. The placement of said stick is also questionable, why is it right under the screen? Is this an indication that it will not be used in many games? If so, why bother?
Third is the name, the ‘New’ 3DS. ‘New’ is notoriously a hard notion to market..the current Kings of marketing, Apple, famously rebranded their ‘New iPad’ within six months of release primarily because their audience had no idea what was ‘new’ about it (it became the iPad with Retina Display). We can all agree that Nintendo are no Apple when it comes to communicating anything…can they pull it off? Look at Nintendo’s official page for the Amiibo, doesn’t really look like they are effectively communicating that aspect of the ‘New’ 3DS; or infact the ‘New’ 3DS at all (http://www.nintendo.com/amiibo).
Is it worth it?
As I have already said Nintendo saw massive increases in hardware sales with the Gameboy Color and the DSi so they have good reason to pursue this avenue. However if we look at the sales figures for the Kinect-less Xbox One we see a distinctly different picture.
Microsoft were very bombastic in Feburary and March in releasing figures in the wake of Titanfall, however in August they said the following about the Xbox One;
“Xbox One continues to sell at a strong and steady pace following the release of the $399 console in June, when month-to-month sales more than doubled,” a Microsoft spokesperson told GamesBeat. “We continued to see this momentum in July.”
A very vague and non-committal statement that leaves plenty to the imagination. This is incredibly strange as the internet we vociferous in their condemnation of Microsoft in forcing the Kinect upon them in November; yet many are now NOT buying the kinect-less model…Nintendo must ask themselves why this is…come to a conclusion and act before they release their ‘New’ 3DS.
Consumers aren’t the only group that get ‘shafted’ with the release of new SKU’s, developers do too. In response to Microsoft’s announcement of the Kinect-less SKU Harmonix (creators of the only high profile Kinect 2.0 titles) felt the burn so much they felt the need to tweet their derision;
This new SKU will impact the sales of Dance Central: Spotlight (which is awesome) and Fantasia: Music Evolved.
New SKU’s are at the core of our hobby, as technology gets more efficient it is inevitable that developers will capitalise on this and the consumers need to have the latest and greatest (I include myself in this as i have owned the Mega Drive 2, PSOne, GB Color, DSi and i’ll probably buy a ‘New’ 3DS).
If they act responsibly and fairly it really shouldn’t be a problem (the DSi had enhanced versions playable on all DS’) however if they begin releasing SKU exclusive titles this is a very dangerous road to travel, gamers are; by nature, complainers. You DO NOT want to cross them. If people feel they are being treated unfairly they will kick back…google search Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Are you excited about the ‘New’ 3DS?
Do you own a kinect-less Xbox One?
Do you have a history with hardware revisions?
Please tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.