I was browsing gaming sites yesterday, and eventually stumbled upon a great editorial featured on Nintendo World Report – the author broke down the Nintendo 3DS’s hardware sales, which have been quietly dwindling over the past few years. As he points out, the 3DS actually started off very poorly in 2014.
The 3DS has been trending downward for the past year, and the absence of the system’s November output from Nintendo’s press release shows that 3DS system sales are either flat or down. Judging by the recent history, I’m more inclined to think it’s the latter.
To be more specific, here are some of the numbers over the course of the year…
In the first three months of 2014, the 3DS only sold around 600,000 units, less than half of the total system sales from the same period a year prior. April, May, and June were similar, as about 800,000 3DS systems were sold worldwide, down from the more than 1.3 million from a year earlier. The summer was similarly sad as 3DS system sales halved again. If the 3DS keeps up the pace of 2014, it’ll sell about 4 million worldwide in the final three months of the year, which would pale in comparison to the 7.75 million from the year before.
The editorial mentions the launch of the New Nintendo 3DS in Japan and Australia, and declares that the purpose of the new hardware isn’t necessarily attracting new customers:
While there is likely a small sect of people who were holding out to buy a 3DS for a second analog stick, the New 3DS isn’t meant to attract a whole new market. The purpose of the New 3DS is to sell the system again to owners of the 3DS or 3DS XL. That kind of upgrade has worked out for Nintendo in the past, with the DSi and 3DS XL both boosting sales of both console families.
Full disclosure, I rarely respond to editorials or columns, but felt like I could chime in quite a bit about this particular topic. Specifically, I think the Nintendo 3DS has been doing a solid job throughout 2014 – particularly the eShop – but it definitely needs a boost next year. Whether it’s the New 3DS or new installments of popular franchises, I think there is quite a lot that can be done to address this issue. Here was my response:
I think the eShop has actually been surprisingly strong this year, especially stuff like Shovel Knight, Azure Striker, Xeodrifter, Retro City Rampage, Shantae…I think eShop has been effectively pushed by Nintendo in 2014, an improvement over past years. I think the first half of the year was just excruciatingly slow. Bravely Default was utterly fantastic, but not necessarily a system-pusher. Arguably the three biggest 3DS releases in 2014 (SSB 3DS / OR&AS) were not received quite as strongly as 2013’s (Zelda: ALBW / X&Y).
I think Nintendo would be wise to put the New 3DS on North American and European shelves as soon as possible in 2015. Why not March 27 – the four-year anniversary of the original 3DS launch? Why not give the people looking forward to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate the best experience possible? Just another thought, with Amiibo really taking off the past few weeks, I started thinking about how cool it would be for past 3DS titles to make use of the figures on the New 3DS. Perhaps you could swap weapon gems in Kid Icarus: Uprising with Pit’s Amiibo, or use the Marth figure to battle friends in Fire Emblem: Awakening. Maybe they could generate some interest in past games like Mario Kart 7 by offering updated Amiibo functionality.
I know Majora’s Mask is coming up next year, I really wish Nintendo would follow up with another N64 re-make like 2011 (Ocarina 3D / Star Fox 64 3D). Maybe port the second DKC Returns game – Tropical Freeze – to the New 3DS, or bring back the original Luigi’s Mansion with 3D effects. I have also been hoping for more installments of stuff like F-Zero, but a new Metroid game would be my first choice if given the option. What about Wario Land 5 or another handheld WarioWare? I still think WW: Touched was one of the best NDS games; if nothing else it went a long way to show what the hardware was capable of. I have always seen it as a missed opportunity that there is no 3D-based WarioWare game on the 3DS.
The issue of the skimpy 3DS Virtual Console library is one thing that could go away; why not at least give everyone access to purchase the “Ambassador” GBA games? I’m glad I already have them, but I feel like it just makes very little sense to hold back so much on the 3DS VC. I library so much. I think a lot of people would really enjoy more options. Why can’t there be Super Nintendo games? It really gets me that Sega released a bunch of 3D-enhanced classics, but Nintendo hasn’t done so in a while.
Now is the time to shine for the Wii U, and I respect that – but the 3DS and Nintendo handhelds in general could definitely use an energizer. It would be really cool if third-parties would be more supportive; it’s not like the original DS lacked solid third-party games – what ever happened to Square-Enix’s incredible Final Fantasy remasters? I was really pulling for FFV on the DS or 3DS shortly after playing FFIV and FF: 4 Heroes of Light. If it gets us one step closer to an eventual FFVI remaster, I’ll take it. Dare I entertain the idea of a sequel or “3D-make” for The World Ends With You? Where’s Rockstar with another GTA: Chinatown Wars? Where’s a great Sonic side-scroller like Sonic Rush or Sonic Rush Adventure? Where’s a Castlevania side-scroller worth talking about?