Did Nintendo just admit the death of dedicated handheld gaming?

Like many of you, I awoke to news yesterday that Nintendo had cut the price of the 3DS by an unprecedented 32% in one fell swoop. Wired Magazine called it a “fire sale.”

More unprecedented was how quickly it happened; only four months after the 3DS launch. (NOTE: Nintendo’s other slow selling systems, N64 and GameCube, saw 25% price drops six months after launch. Virtual Boy was pulled after less than a year.)

Said Nintendo President Satoru Iwata following the shocking news, “While it has happened in the past that a game system would be reduced in price in order to increase sales, it has never happened in Nintendo’s history that a console would be reduced in price so drastically and after less than six months.”

What does this all mean? I’d say it’s one of the following: A) No original games’aka 3D doesn’t add to gameplay like touch or motion does; B) Overpriced; C) Not as convenient as smartphone/tablet gaming; or D) All of the above.

My gut tells me it’s a mix of all of the above. After all, the 3DS has been criticized for the lack of original games, for being overpriced, and for not being as convenient, cheap, or as easy as existing but admittedly more shallow smartphone games.

In reading reactions across the web yesterday, the following comment really stood out: “My take on the price drop: Nintendo just admitted the death of dedicated handheld gaming.”

That may be premature. But it begs the question: Is this what happens when an industry begins dying’in this case the end of dedicated handheld gaming? Heck if I know. But it’s certainly a watershed moment. Not only for Nintendo, but for dedicated gaming in general.

No matter how you slice it, the intensity and speed of the price drop speak volumes. Maybe it’s just a minor setback on the road to a more palatable price and great original games. Maybe not. Maybe the inventor of handheld gaming got burned for good. Maybe not.

What do you think?