Nintendo Cuts 3DS Handheld Price From $249 To $169 Starting August 12

The Nintendo 3DS was, at least in part, an experiment. The company had never launched a 3D-enabled console or handheld of any kind prior to it, so there was no baseline for how it would do in a market still curious about the true, tangible benefits of 3D. In fact, Nintendo has made reference in the past to avoid a 3D at-home console until adoption was stronger, and while there's no telling if the 3DS met or exceeding Nintendo's internal sales goals, a dramatic price cut usually indicates that they aren't selling enough.

Just under a million of the handhelds were sold in the U.S., but that number is likely to jump up in the coming weeks and month, because the 3DS has dropped from $249 to $169. That's a monumental cut for a relatively new system, and since early adopters may be (rightfully) angered about the sudden change, Nintendo is promising them 20 free games as compensation.

The new price will become effective August 12th, so hold off on buying one until that day. As for the free game program, the free games are available to anyone who owns a Nintendo 3DS system and uses a wireless broadband Internet signal to connect to the Nintendo eShop at least once before 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Aug. 11. These users will automatically be registered in the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador program. The program contains two elements:

Starting Sept. 1, Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors will be able to download 10 NES Virtual Console games at no charge and before they are available in the Nintendo eShop to the general public. These games, including Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Jr., Balloon Fight, Ice Climber and The Legend of Zelda, are slated to become paid downloadable games, but Ambassadors get them early for free. Once the paid versions of the games are posted to the Nintendo eShop later in the year, the updated versions will be available to Ambassadors for download at no cost.

By the end of 2011, Nintendo will provide Ambassadors with 10 Game Boy Advance Virtual Console games. These include games like Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ and Mario vs. Donkey Kong. These games will be available exclusively to Ambassadors, and Nintendo currently has no plans to make these 10 games available to the general public on the Nintendo 3DS in the future.

Whether the price cut will boost sales remains to be seen, but at least there is an indicator that Nintendo is trying to make up the losses.