PROLOGUE: If you think everyone should share your view of reality, or if you becomeÂ enragedÂ when encountering aÂ differenceÂ of opinion, I advise you to skip this post. In other words, hang on, Nintendo fans. This is gonna hurt:
Nintendo is expected to pull a Netflix and and pile on even more crap numbers this Thursday, adding to the already crappy quarterlies they’ve posted over the last year.
In the comment thread of the above article, one observer reacted as follows: “3DS will $99 soon and likelyÂ discontinued.”
I wouldn’t go quite that far. But I could see 3DS beingÂ discontinuedÂ prematurely. Whether that’s “soon” or not remains to be seen. But there’s no other way to put it: This thing is a sinking ship. Not Titanic fast or Virtual Boy fast. But fast enough to search the deck for life boats.
The reason: Mainstream on-the-go gamers are more interested in iOS games now than dedicated portable consoles like the 3DS. The former’s games are 1/40 the price of most 3DS games (if not free). And 78% of people think stereoscopic 3D games are worthless.
Can you blame them?Â Since the 3DS’sÂ unprecedented 32% price drop in August, the system reportedly has sold only a quarter million additional units to bring life to date sales of 3DS to a discouraging 4.32 million worldwide.
Meanwhile, Apple has sold a mind-blowing 189 million iOS devices (iPhones + iPads) and still has lightening in a bottle. Yes, DS cracked 150 million, the most successful dedicated game system ever. But those stopped selling two years ago. And 3DS games can’t be played on those 150 million DSs like most iPhone games can be played on older iPhones.
As is, the 3DS is trending as the worst selling Nintendo portable ever. No where near the hundreds of millions the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS sold. Simply put, 3DS sales are way off target fromÂ where Nintendo portables usually are globally by month seven.
As I predicted last month, it’s highly unlikely the 3DS will reach even 5 or 6 million global units by year’s endâ€”a far cry from the 16 million Nintendo was hoping to move by Dec 31. Admittedly, 3DS is performing better than the Virtual Boy, the only one of nine major Nintendo platforms (10 if you include Game Boy Color) to have failed.
That doesn’tÂ instillÂ a lot of confidence, though. Especially since 3DSÂ simplyÂ doesn’t have the kind of traction that other usuallyÂ successfulÂ Nintendo systems have hadâ€”including the second to worst-selling but stillÂ successfulÂ N64. Of the eight profitable Nintendo systems, including N64, all have been solid to phenomenal successes. 3DS, while not a complete bustâ€”atÂ leastÂ not yetâ€”has been neither.
Assuming the 3DS is incapable of delivering must-have, all original games (read: 3D has to mean something to games), it will likely be game over for the system. Would that forceÂ Nintendo to pull a Sega or Atari? Ditch hardware and release their games on other viable platforms, like iOS?
As Eugene wisely said last month, “not likely.” As Nintendo has shown in the past, so long as one of their two gaming fronts stays in the black, be it portable or home console, they can survive, even thrive.
The problem is for the first time in Nintendo’s history, its handheld front is tanking. And a lot of people are skeptical about the complex Wii U, arriving in homes next year.
No, Nintendo is not in its darkest hour (even though their net income is near a 30 year low). That will only happen if the Wii U, like its portable companion the 3DS, fails to excite consumers.
Still, the darkest hour could be around the corner. Particularly if Nintendo continues to denyÂ Apple as a competitor.
Coincidentally, that’s how both Microsoft and Sony previously viewed Nintendo, when the latter was putting the hurt on them.