3DS launch delay more than just ‘stock issues’
Last Wednesday was a big day for every Nintendo fan, with gamers desperate to find out when the 3DS would be launched, and how much such a potentially brilliant machine would cost to buy. And we got a somewhat surprising answer from Nintendo…
For those of you who don’t know, Nintendo gave a 26th February release date for the 3DS in Japan, at a price roughly equating to $300, but did not give prices or dates for any other territories, other than stating that the US and European launches would happen in March 2011. For European gamers, this was basically already known, with the system always likely to launch at the end of Nintendo’s estimated launch window. But for the US and Japan, the date was a matter of much controversy.
Since rumours of the 3DS circled at the start of this year up until it’s unveiling at E3, developers have been hinting that they will have their games ready by the end of the year, and many expected the console to launch then as a result. At the very least, a Japanese launch was all but expected for this year, with a US launch either around Christmas or just after, with Europe, as ever, coming in last in March. Nintendo surprised us all by pushing everyone back to the March launch, and cited ‘stock issues’ as their motivating factor for this. But is this really the case?
It is an understandable move by Nintendo, who have clearly been producing 3DS’s from E3 onwards, with very little in the way of design tweaks visible since E3. The Wii launch was plagued by stock issues, especially in the UK, and the launch cycle of that system operated under a very similar system. So Nintendo have learnt from their mistakes and said that they will hold back the launch by 3 months to counter the inevitably huge demand from gamers. It makes perfect sense, except when you consider that the technology is now widely known, and someone could easily steal Nintendo’s thunder on this one.
When the Wii was unveiled, it was a matter of months before it was launched, and was seen as the very first motion controlled system. With the 3DS, the window for someone to sneak in is now wider than ever, and Nintendo could lose a ‘first to market’ claim on the glasses-free technology, which will naturally impact the marketing side of things. It would be unlike Nintendo to unveil something so early and then release it so late while citing ‘stock issues’, which will still be a problem no matter how long they wait. So there must be something else going on.
If we look at what the developers who dropped hints at the then dubbed ‘DS2’ said back in January/February, all the comments were on tilt/motion control functionality and an enhanced GPU for the system, which would bring it up to spec with the Gamecube and Wii. There was no mention of 3D technology, and if this was on the initial ‘DS2’, then someone would have mentioned it. After all, the tilt and GPU information was under embargo, and that’s hardly the most exciting information ever, so a 3D capable display would surely have leaked. At the time, the developers made note of the fact that the new GPU made it easier to create games, and that games would be ready to go by the end of the year due to this ease. So, if the games are ready to go, and the system is seemingly ready to go, something has changed. And that thing is the 3D display.
See, if Nintendo had sent out 3D units to the developers, the information would have been hinted at, and it would have been a matter of time before the 3DS was confirmed, as it eventually was in March. This leads me to believe that the 3D was a last minute addition, due in part to the success of 3D cinema and TVs. Nintendo knew that the ‘DS2’ would be a 5+ year lifecycle system like the DS, so it needed to have a killer feature on it that would always draw people in. Yes, motion control is still a big thing, but it’s been done now, and with PS Move and Kinect also hitting the market, motion control is becoming the new Carnival Games – everyone’s doing it and no one’s doing it well. So Nintendo brought in a new feature – 3D. Essentially all they did was bolt a 3D screen to the top of the unit, but it has clearly done the job, as the world has gone crazy for the 3DS.
One last piece of information leads me to believe this is true. The system has motion-sensing control, yet the 3DS has a single sweet spot when the system is held normally, flat in front of you. When motion control comes into play, the 3D will be out of sync, and therefore not display in 3D correctly. This screams out to me that the 3D was a last minute addition, which brings us back to the initial point.
The 3D is the cause of the delay. The system is still all set to go, but now developers are scrambling to put 3D into their games. True, no one is complaining, but it’s worth noting that the very feature that is going to sell this system through the roof is most likely the thing that’s stopping you playing on it at this very moment.