We are approaching the two month mark since 3DS was released in North America, so plenty of people have had the opportunity to try or purchase the systems for themselves. Of course, while most gamers are simply enjoying the system, the video game press is analyzing the system’s launch and throwing their two cents into the conversation.
Generally speaking, the press appears to have adopted a rather negative opinion of how 3DS has performed so far. Granted, many are impressed with the hardware itself, but most seem to be underwhelmed by the system’s library up to this point and see the system’s sales as a reason to predict doom for its future. More times than not, these numbers and opinions seem readily apparent to just about everybody, but I can’t help but thoroughly disagree.
First, let’s discuss 3DS’s line-up of games at launch. When a new system is released the buzz word that inevitably gets floated around its initial selection of games is “killer app”, the one game that will define the system and convince everybody to fork over the money for the system just to play that one game. Halo is probably the best example of a killer app; by itself it defined Microsoft’s original foray into console gaming and was pretty much the only game most early adopters were interested in for months after the launch. Wii was interesting in that it had a couple of killer apps; core gamers had Twilight Princess to drool over while the casual crowd was drawn in by Wii Sports in ridiculously huge numbers. We can keep going: GBA had Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, SNES had Super Mario World, N64 had Super Mario 64, Dreamcast had Soul Calibur, and Xbox 360 had Call of Duty 2. However, a system doesn’t need to have a killer app right at launch to succeed, nor does having one guarantee continued success.
Soul Calibur is one of the most acclaimed games of all time– a lot of good that did the Dreamcast.
For failing to have that one, must-own title, many have been critical of the 3DS launch but I am going to stick my head and make the claim that 3DS has one of the best launch line-ups ever. Is it the absolute best? No, that honor goes to GameCube with Luigi’s Mansion, Rogue Squadron II, Smash Bros. Melee, and Pikmin all being released in the first few weeks. What 3DS did well was offer a surprisingly large collection of solid games across a broad range of genres and interests. Super Street Fighter IV has received the most acclaim up to this point and is the first in a group of titles that will make 3DS very appealing for fans of fighters; its brothers in arms are the soon to be released Dead of Alive: Dimensions and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift.
The second most acclaimed title proved to be a bit of a surprise, as Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars kind of came out of left field as a challenging turn based strategy game with plenty of content– altogether a pretty choice for the “hardcore” crowd. Racing gamers who have picked up 3DS have a great option in the form of Ridge Racer 3D, another title that proved surprisingly impressive with plenty to do, fun gameplay, and some of the best use of 3D on the system. Nintendo has, of course, delivered a selection of games that cater to both casual and core audiences; Nintendogs + Cats delivers as promised while Pilotwings Resort falls in that inbetween area with simple core mechanics for the casual crowd but enough difficulty and collectibles to get the interest of more serious gamers. Steel Diver is admittedly a little too serious to appeal to the masses but its quirky controls and surprisingly puzzle-like levels definitely have a place for fans of more esoteric experiences. For fans of more straight up action there is Samurai Warriors, a hack and slash that uses 3D brilliantly but suffers simply from being in a series of games that the press loathes but I will always champion.
Not one of these games is a killer app– some have enough flaws to make them fall short of true greatness, while others simply belong to genres that really don’t have mass appeal. Regardless, every title mentioned above is at least going to be a solid choice for somebody and that at least should be enough to earn at least some measure of serious consideration. This isn’t to say there aren’t some very real problems. Several major genres are not represented at all, with first person shooters and RPGs being the most notable.
Ubisoft seems to have been a little too overeager to have as many titles available around launch as possible with some rushed ports (Rayman 3D and Splinter Cell) and unimpressive new entries in other series (Combat of Giants and Rabbids) to boot. And then there was the biggest problem for the core audience that probably went unnoticed by many casual gamers– the lack of the eShop at launch. Many were excited for the opportunity to transfer their DSiWare to the new handheld, check out the Game Boy Virtual Console, or get a glimpse of what the new 3DSWares would be like, only to learn that they would have wait a couple months.
For a game that received zero hype, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars has done quite well for itself.
Finally there are the sales figures, where Nintendo has actually fallen short of its estimates. The company had hoped to move more than four million units within the first few weeks, but managed to only sell 3.6 million in that timeframe while the system sat on store shelves, readily available. Some chalked this up to the major earthquake that hit Japan, others blamed the lack of a killer app and some even proclaimed that the system was doomed due to the rise of phone and tablet gaming as well as one or all of the above or maybe even Sony’s upcoming PSP successor.
The truth of the matter is that it is way too early to make any such claims. The original DS sold only marginally better in its first month yet it has managed to sell around 150 million units, and it too launched with a rather unimpressive selection of games and had the shadow of the technologically more impressive PSP approaching from just beyond the horizon. It really took a year for DS to gain major traction with the release of Nintendogs and Mario Kart DS. Thanks to these two titles, DS quickly became a must-have system and managed to draw in sales throughout the 2005 holidays just as well as the recently released Xbox 360.
While it is an unavoidable truth that 3DS has not yet lived up to the lofty standards Nintendo set for it, nobody should be blaming the launch line-up or predicting the system’s impending doom. Instead of launching with that one, system defining masterpiece, 3DS has been treated to a varied assortment of really good games. The course of video gaming history has programmed us to always be pumped up for that killer app but let’s be practical for a moment; which is really better? It’s always great to delve into a truly masterful game, but sometimes it is better to have a collection of enjoyable games that will provide many more hours and types of entertainment than a single game that is technically better than the rest.
Imagine if all you owned was an Xbox for the first year or so and all you had to play was Halo. it’s definitely a great game but it could only hold your interest for so long. 3DS owners have a strong selection of solid titles to play as we wait for Ocarina of Time 3D, Resident Evil: Mercenaries and Revelations, Kid Icarus, Metal Gear Solid, Tales of the Abyss, Star Fox 64, Kingdom Hearts, and the slew of titles that are bound to be announced at E3 next month. Sometimes when it comes to quantity versus quality, quantity wins out.