Nintendo Slashes 3DS Price In Bid To Boost Weak Demand

The newest 3D-flavored handheld from Nintendo may have sold like gangbusters on launch day, but purchases since then have fallen sharply. Current estimates indicate that the company has sold just 830,000 3DS'since the system's March debut. That's particularly significant once we include the 400,000 units Nintendo claims it sold at launch. Subtract those numbers from the total, and the 3DS may be struggling to break 100K a month.

With game publishers like Sega already delaying titles in a supposed bid to improve sales farther down the line, the 3DS risks being caught in a downward spiral. Nintendo's price cut, which is scheduled to take place on August 12, may be enough to reverse disappointing sales. At $169.99, the 3DS will match the standard DSi's price, with the larger DSi XL at $189 and the DS Lite at $129. At these prices, the 3DS should be a no-brainer--it offers a higher resolution display, improved color reproduction, more internal memory, and a 3D mode users are free to enable or disable as they see fit.

Up until now, there's been some debate over whether or not the 3DS' less-than-fabulous sales figures are the result of increased competition from the likes of the iPhone / iPad, or if the lack of 3D titles has left customers uninterested in the more expensive 3DS. If 3DS sales increase sharply following the price cut, it may be a sign that the company's faithful simply aren't interested in paying top-dollar for 3D content--particularly if 3DS sales grow more quickly than standard DS sales decline. It's also possible that the 3DS won't really take off until Nintendo launches its first-tier titles for the platform (Kid Icarus, Mario Kart 7, Star Fox 64 3D, and Super Mario 3D Land are all inbound for Christmas 2011).

The 3DS is...under there somewhere.

Smartphone gaming could be eating into Nintendo's handheld market share, but it's a bit too early to conclude that, in our opinion. We've already
seen evidence that consumers aren't really sold on 3D content, no matter what form it takes. The 3DS' $249 price point was nearly 50 percent higher than the standard Nintendo DSi; that gap is more than large enough to explain weak sales given a general dearth of 3D titles.

If neither price matching against the DSi nor first-party titles soothe the 3DS' woes, it may indeed be evidence that smartphone gaming is poised to gobble the handheld market like a fat chocobo on Gysahl Greens. Given Nintendo's historicalfly strong first-tier title performance, however, we're going to wait for more data.