The recent rumblings at Nintendo show the 3D market for games is still very shaky. By the time you have read this article the price of the 3DS may have dropped even further. Have Nintendo once again missed the mark ? Is 3D ever going to be anything other than a fad ? Retrobear casts his critical eye below….


When it comes to 3D, frankly my dears gamers don't give a damn


It really comes as no surprise that Nintendo’s launch of the 3DS console has been nothing short of a minor disaster for the company. It wouldn’t be the first time that they have totally overestimated the appeal of a new launch product, or mishandled a new release. I know because I was one of the few who ran out and purchased a Gamecube on launch day (there is another article covering this on this website and it still marks the last time I did such a thing)


I will take you back to the Virtual Boy, which was meant to be the next thing in bringing Virtual Reality into the home. It was meant to bring 3D gaming and a more virtual experience, but instead gave gamers nothing more than a sore neck and crippling headaches. So much so that the creator of the Virtual Boy, – , who had previously been Nintendo’s Golden Boy Gunpei Yoki, lost his job. The console failed to find a market and was a rare blip in the company’s history. Now it is nothing more than a collectable curio and a footnote in gaming history.


Looking cool or looking like a twat ?


The Gamecube suffered from a lack of decent launch titles. The fact the console could not play DVD’s was also a downer, as both the PS2 and XBOX provided that function. If you then factor in that Nintendo were incredibly late in getting the product to market and had seen that particular ship sail into the distance, then you have another failed console on your hands – although to be fair the Gamecube was a pretty decent console.


Which brings me nicely on to the 3DS. We already have the DS, DS Lite and DSi on the market, so why on earth do we need a fourth version ? You may argue that the Gameboy had many variants ; the original brick, the slimline, the Color (yes spelt this way as opposed to Colour), the Pocket, the Advance (which was the one where you couldn’t use Advance cartridges on older machines) and the Micro. However at the end of the day they were fairly similar, and they sold by the bucketload.


An artist's impression of what doesn't happen when you play on the 3DS


The selling point of the 3DS is the fact the games are in 3D, and that my retro friends is the downfall. I have preached this long and hard and as wide as I can but for those of you who haven’t heard me yet, let me tell you this : 3D is a fad. Back in the 1950’s film makers, film studio owners and cinemas came up with a wide variety of technological advances to entice people back to the cinema and to keep them away from the growing success of the television. Of course entertainment options were much simpler back then, television was still relatively new and expensive but it began denting attendance figures.


So they launched 3D, Cinemascope (a wider picture on a bigger screen – which unfortunately sees a film suffer now when shown on television as the film was not made with a small screen in mind), Panavision and even had the novel idea of incorporating large speakers into cinemas to beef up the sound effects – of which a very early example was The Towering Inferno. All well and good I hear you say but it was what the product gave you which is what kept people interested. After a string of highly expensive flops and musicals that no one wanted to see, Hollywood went back to the drawing board to make films we would want to see. In some senses we are still waiting….


Not enticing people to the cinema - the only angry feeling you'll get from this film is when you realise you spent £10 to watch it


The whole 3D thing really hasn’t taken off. I have seen 3D televisions and will admit they do look very good but it doesn’t make me want to run out and buy one. I have no desire to go to the cinema and watch films in 3D (and be charged extra for the privilege) and seeing as there is such little support out there for the format it’s taking a long old time in grabbing the imagination. It’s like HD – you don’t need to see things in HD, so why would I need to see something in 3D I can watch normally ? I just don’t get it.


And herein lies the problem with the 3DS. It’s like a DS except in 3D. All well and good if that’s your sort of thing and sales figures in Europe have been very good. On the flip slide in both the US and Japanese markets, ironically the only numbers that seem to matter one jot when it comes to sales figures, the console has stayed on the shelves. Nintendo have therefore announced sweeping price cuts to boost sales and also offer some free GBA ROMS as a way of sweetening the deal. Now if that doesn’t smell of panic I don’t know what does.


It’s too early to call the 3DS a white elephant but when you are having to slash prices, adjust profit forecasts and see your share price tumble on the basis of that console’ sales alone it might be wise to try and bolt the door before the horse really does get a chance to get through that gate once and for all.


Nintendo 3DS not pictured - but maybe sooner than you think ?