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The 3DS Perception.
by Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo on 06/17/11 07:08:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


First of all, this is my first entry at Gamasutra, so welcome and thanks for reading my post, and please, say your thoughts on the topics I’m sharing because doesn’t make sense to share if we can’t discuss. Enjoy!

The 3D effect is nice.

When the 3DS was announced at the E3 in 2010 it was clear that the system was a breaking hardware with amazing display tech. The glasses-free 3D seemed to be an excellent slogan for the system and in fact, Nintendo was so impressed with the reaction of every gamer in the Nokia Theatre that they decided to increase the price of the system from an unknown amount to 250$/€. What Nintendo wasn’t expecting then was that the value perceived by the people attending the E3 would not be perceived in the same way on the mass market. Now, with the system on the selves for a few months, lots of people have tried and decided not to buy it due to a few key factors, such as the game catalogue, 3D technology, lack of second Slide Pad… but moreover, the price.   In order to gather info on how people perceive the 3DS, I performed a research on diverse popular game forums (ign, neogaf, vandal…) and asked a few people to share their 3DS and to take notes of perception. I also, lent my 3DS to tens of people and discussed if they we’re interested or not, and why.


Current sofware and some hardware limitation deceived gamers.

When talking to early adopters, it comes clear that the 3D effect and the Nintendo brand become the key point of sales, as lots of people love Nintendo games and thinking of the popular licenses of the company in 3D seems to be a major interest. However, many people didn’t jump in the 3DS wagon yet due to the lack of original and great software. Indeed, on the release there was an amazing Super Street Figther IV 3D edition which still is the biggest game on the system due to its graphics, gameplay and the online play still being a game that millions did played and bought (twice) on the X360 and PS3, but all the other software releases come to be too weak, with not enough content or lack of replay value.  Ridge Racer could have been another system seller if the game supported online play, meanwhile Nintendo’s Pilotwings and Steel Diver were good but lacked of replay value, feeling like old gaming and not with the value to sell more systems. The other good game was the Ghost Recon game, but many people just ignored it because Ubisoft’s pack of games and the other few releases have been just bleak and made more hurt than good, like Red Steel did on the Wii.

 Then, the hardware potential and online capabilities have been in doubt. Many people is issuing problems when playing on 3D like duplicated images, continuous lost of focus or headaches, when on the other hand there’s lots of people criticizing how the game graphics.  Especially when the most interesting games for gamers are half ports from the N64 days, which indeed have been updated but didn’t got a real boost on graphics, making neither the not so dedicated players to think that the system capabilities are only slightly over the N64 graphics, and clearly out of date. Thank God that SSFIV 3D is there because it’s the only game that makes people to continue trusting on the graphics and online capabilities of the hardware, which indeed is performing well for this type of game experience, but avid gamers are asking for more spectacular, online games and fixes to the issues they found when playing with the Capcom brawler, like the difficulties to play with registered friends online (no chat, no game invitation, which requires the players to seek for another channel to start a game). A nice advice to Nintendo would be to make notifications and chat as soon as possible if they want the 3DS to appeal to the gamers, and update SSFIV to make use of it.

 By the way, many gamers also found the lack of a second slide pad to be critical. When playing Rayman or Splinter Cell it was clear, however, the game that really is going to make Nintendo cry on the lack of this piece of hardware is Resident Evil Mercenaries and maybe Ocarina of Time, where players can move a bit the camera moving around the console, something that’s not only enough but hurts the 3D effect as the majority of people losses the 3D focus when moving the system. Maybe mass market will not care, but gamers do, especially when talking of one of the most popular genre: the First Person Shooter.

A mass market that is not appealed by the 3D. 

But more than thinking on early adopters and gamers, I was more interested in the mass market, and I was surprised to learn that many think the 3D is not for them because they had issues trying the system,  so there’s no need to pay the amount of cash for a technology they’ll no make use. Furthermore, the games that appeal to the mass market are both on the DS and on the 3DS. With The Sims and Nintendogs being the most wanted games for the casual players, both games that they surely tried on the original DS. This is especially harmful on countries like Spain or Italy, where the piracy levels are very high and Nintendo should look after products that are new an appealing to them, which we did not foresee soon.


A hardware lost between core gamers and mass market.  

So in the end, I found that the 3DS, which was a system designed to appeal to gamers and non-gamers, got not enought arguments to appeal both of these segments. Gamers think that the hardware lacks of impressive graphics and that the games they expect the system will offer are too old due to the limits of the hardware, and now with the PS Vita coming out soon at the same price and with the power and hardware that will permit any kind of game, seems like 3DS is in danger to appeal to this market.  Meanwhile, the casual market seems to not being appealed by the 3DS main feature and they feel like paying a high price for something they’re not going to make use, and that the experiences they can get are the same they got on the DS they got, so why buying the system?

This may be the cause of the slow start of the system, however, we all must remember that transitions from successful consoles are always slower than expected. It happened from PSX to PS2, and from PS2 to PS3, and it happened with the DS too, with a low start until the market got Nintendogs and Brain Training, new experiences by then that changed the market. I hope that Nintendo tries to fix the issues for the multiplayer experience to gather more gamers, while trying to create new and innovative software that appeals to the mass market once again, but we all now that there are many other platform out there getting the attention of this segment (Social networks and iPhone). 

Thanks for reading my thoughts and please, comment whatever you think!

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David Clair
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A few other things to note about the 3DS lauch was the date, it was not relased around the buildup to the holiday buying season (think Sept-Dec).. If it had been held back there would have been even more titles available for launch which would potentially appeal to more people.

It will be interesting to see how the system fares ove the holiday season this year and if it can build some momentum in the market.

Great Blog!

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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Hi David,

Thanks for your comment. I don't know if the lack of powerful games is related to the launch date. I think it's more lack of developer effort (or maybe late shipment of the SDKs). As we can see on the releases, there's a lot of draft that got in the final games, like for example, the backgrounds of SSFIV 3D. I guess that you're right saying that publishers may be at that time, planning the releases for the year end, but then, they missed the opportunity of getting new players and morever, capitalice on with good games like Capcom did with SSFIV.

On the other hand, I think that Nintendo did choice to release the system in march so early adopters have time enough to cast word of mouth and showcase the system to everyone around them. This is very important with a system like the 3DS. Whem I show the system to my friends and family, the all love the hardware and how it looks, but then, they don't feel like there's something else to pay the price for (a brain training, Wii Sports...).

However, we must think that Nintendo are specialist of the holiday season, and they're pressing the teams to have ready Mario Kart, Mario Bros 3D and Kid Icarus ready for this timeframe, which indeed is an amazing trio to sell systems to fans of the company and fans of Mario games. Add a few games that third parties can release (Resident Evil?) and you get a boom on sales.

By the way, I've been checking reactions to Ocarina of Time 3D on forums... and people is very very happy with the product and seems that some people is buying the system. As ever, what sells systems are games, and still, 3DS has to get these games :)

Robert Boyd
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I think another factor is that Nintendo has released too many DS SKUs in recent years - DSi in 2009, DSi XL in 2010, and now 3DS in 2011. This could have several negative effects on 3DS sales such as:

1 - People who have recently bought a DSi or DSi XL are unlikely to purchase a 3DS soon thereafter.

2 - People may think that the 3DS is another minor upgrade like the DSi was and not an entirely new system.

3 - People may be disappointed with the lack of DSi exclusive games and may expect that the 3DS will have a similar lack of exciting titles.

4 - People may expect an enhanced version of the 3DS to come out in the next year or two and may be waiting for that.

These ideas aren't necessarily valid, but if a significant portion of the population has them, they could definitely account for poor sales of the system.

As for me personally, the main reasons I haven't gotten a 3DS as of yet are..

1 - Lack of games. Ports and remakes aren't system sellers to me (although I would buy a few if I already owned the system). High quality sequels and original content are.

2 - The 3D effect looks really cool when it works, but how consistently would it work for me?

3 - The PSV looks more appealing to me, both in hardware (better visuals, better controls), software (reliable bets like Uncharted & Wipeout plus interesting new games like Sound Shapes & Gravity Daze), and digital distribution (I love my PSP Go so the fact that all retail games will also be available on the PSN is a big selling point).

Eric Schwarz
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This, this, definitely this. I own a DS "Phat". Every single time a new DS model came out, I'd look at it and say "well, nice, but I already have a DS... maybe when the price drops." But of course, by the time the price actually has dropped, out comes a new and improved DS model, and that's not counting pack-in games and accessories you'd occasionally see. I really want to check the 3DS out, not quite enough to buy it, but just to see what it's like, but I don't know anyone who owns one and I have no interest in buying one when I know the inevitably new-and-improved version will be out in a year anyway.

Maurício Gomes
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I do not like the 3DS because the 3D effect do not work at all for me.

And even if it did, it is a 250 for a stupid gimmick.

* hugs his 48 USD dingoo *

Philip Michael Norris
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I am currently developing games for this platform and when testing, I do so w/ the 3D option turned off. Not only does the device need to be held at exactly the right angle for the full 2.5D effect (which is nearly impossible given it is a handheld device), but it also brings on a headache after only so long for many people.

Malcolm Miskel
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While I agree with the majority of your arguments, you're sadly mistaken when it comes to the second analog stick/slider pad. Metroid Prime Hunters proved that a higher level of accuracy can be given by the touchscreen, as it's really only second to a mouse in precision and reaction time.

I won't say that consumers don't perceive it to be that way, but perception is not to be confused with reality.

Joe McGinn
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True Malcolm, but it remains to be seen if that would work as well on the 3DS. A new problem is that the touchscreen is not the 3D screen. People expect the main gameplay to be on the 3D screen. So instead of a "touch-sensitive FPS with a mouse-look feel" as you had on the DSi, it's more akin to playing an FPS on your laptop PC and using the trackpad for camera control.

Techni I don't think it's laziness, I think the touchscreen does not work nearly as well as an interface when the gameplay is displayed on a different screen.

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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Hi Malcom,

I agree with you. The Touchscreen could be used nicely to move the camera, however, it's more dificult to learn than using a second analog and it's hard to grab the system with one hand and use the other for the pointer. Also, remember that if you're aiming for a market that is used with an standard, you need to give something better, which is not the case of using the touchscreen for moving the camera.

BTW, I think that using the gyroscope it's going to be better and more natural than the touchscreen, and it's a perfect fit for FPS. However, for third person 3d camera control it's not good enough.

Paul Shirley
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The mass market lack of interest reflects the same lack of interest shown in 3D TV, the public just don't believe 3D is worth the hefty premium being charged. Nintendo (and the rest of the industry) need to stop deluding themselves that stereo 3D is a sales driver, the bulk of the public don't care and pretending 'they don't understand it' is wrong, I think they understand it far too well. Far too well for the sales teams at Nintendo at least.

Alex Leighton
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I think you've hit the nail on the head. Essentially for the last few years companies have been telling people that they want 3d, instead of listening to people saying that they don't want it, or that it's not worth the extra money to them.

It comes down to the amount of content as well. I know a few people who were early adopters of 3dTV, and they say that they so rarely even use the 3d features because most of the content they're consuming is only available in 2d.

Joe McGinn
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Fair point Paul. I think 3D will actually be huge one day ... but not until there's a quantum leap in the technology's display quality.

Ian Fisch
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3d is not a gimmick. It will actually enhance the gameplay in genres like 3d platformers and racing games.

The problem with the 3ds so far is weak software that fails to make the case for 3d. 3d adds nothing to a 2d fighting game like street figther 4.

Eric Schwarz
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I have to agree here. In a 3D platform title, racing game, flight sim, even a sports game or 3D fighter, the depth perception could go a long way towards enhancing that core gameplay experience, making it not just easier and more enjoyable to get into, but providing a much-needed "sixth sense" for understanding the game world. So much of visual design in games relies on little tricks in order to aid in our perception of depth... shadows and lighting, depth of field, distance and height fog, etc., but they're still ultimately substitutes for the "real thing" that 3D can bring to the table.

The funny thing is that Nintendo has a long history of doing just this. Super Mario Bros. taught players the fundamentals of 2D gameplay and did it using expert-level design in both levels and mechanics. Super Nintendo further refined those ideas and used the now-standard save battery to create lengthy, epic adventure titles like Final Fantasy III/VI and A Link to the Past. Nintendo 64 taught players how to navigate a 3D world with Super Mario 64. The GameCube saw Nintendo build Luigi's Mansion around the new dual-analogue design of the system's controller. The Wii, well, everyone knows Wii Sports and how it's still one of the better games on the Wii despite being little more than a tech demo. With the 3DS? Considering all we have are some more Wii Sports follow-ups and an Ocarina of Time remake, I'm not sure even Nintendo is quite sure how to take advantage of their new handheld and its unique technology.

Playing a traditional "3D" game is something that's second nature to most people, because so many gamers and developers have been doing it for so long... but put Half-Life, Mario Galaxy, etc. in the hands of a novice and they'll spend most of their time bumping into walls because they have yet to learn the spatial reality of videogames, and how it's different from the real world. Throw in camera controls that need to be learned, aiming, six or seven different possible button inputs, multiple camera modes, different movement speeds, characters that all play differently, etc. and you're asking to exclude huge numbers of new gamers.

There's a reason Super Mario 64 was such a success. beyond just being Mario: it managed to teach the first concepts of 3D movement within a game, using an analogue stick, to a completely new generation of gamers, in a way that complemented the design of the fundamental game actions (running, jumping, climbing, etc.) while also excellently pacing out new design and gameplay concepts that weren't just new to the game, but new to players everywhere at the time. If developers and publishers want 3D to really catch on, they need to take a page from some of the earlier classics and create games that teach the rules of true 3D play to gamers who are picking it up for the first time, and then run with them to build games that fully factor in the experience rather than treating it as another pixel shader effect.

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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3D Is not a gimmick at all. We all agree with that. The problem is the technology itself, which is being proved to be not for everyone. Despite this, many people is enjoying the system and in fact when a good game taking good results with the 3D get on the shelves, I guess that the system will sell tons.

Bet that Mario Kart and Mario Bros will do greatly.