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Looking Back At The 3DS Launch: What Did We Expect?

Sunday 25th March 2012 by Josh Jackson

Time sure does fly, doesn’t it? We’re only a few days away from the one year anniversary of the 3DS. Since it launced, the handheld has sold millions of units, even outpacing the original DS during the same amount of time. Not bad at all considering the DS is on track to be the best selling gaming platform of all time. But I remember sitting in front of the computer trying to churn out reviews for the games at or near launch. Not many were great.

In fact, most of them were outright bad. The internet was filled with predictions of doom, saying that Nintendo was destined to fail, the 3DS was horrible and that the launch was compared, (laughably,) to the Virtual Boy. When the company is known for incredible titles like Mario and Zelda, who could argue otherwise when all they gave us was Steel Diver, (a DS tech demo,) a dumbed down Pilotwings and a sequel to Nintendogs, a game that was never going to have “hardcore” gamers lined up at the door to play. I’m not going to sit here and say the launch was great, but really, gamers… what else did you expect?

Over the last few console generations, I can’t remember a launch that was pulled off well. For all of the complaints over the 3DS, is it really worse than say… the PS3? Where aside from about two games, had nothing good to play for about two years? Or how the original DS blew our minds with… a mini game collection where you molested a faceless woman, a poor controlling port of Mario 64 and the revolutionary Yoshi’s Touch and Go? All game of the year candidates, I know. Last I heard, the PS3 is doing pretty well for itself now, and the DS is considered one of the greatest handhelds of all time.

Nothing says high quality launch like scraping scorpions off of a woman's back!

On the flip side, let’s look at the PSP and Wii. I remember Adam Sessler on X-Play claiming that the DS was living in a “PSP World” during their Polarium review. Game Informer said Nintendo could learn how to launch a system from Sony, because of the PSP’s amazing launch of over 20 games. Most of them were ports, but they looked pretty, so who cares? Anyway, fast forward to today, and aside from Monster Hunter and a ton of Square Enix spinoffs, what is there to play on the PSP again? Mostly poorly controlling ports pretending to be console games, remade or updated versions of old classics and the occaisional gem once every year or so. And while I don’t share the opinion, many gamers feel the Wii was an overall letdown. But who would have guessed that when it launched? It had so many fun, unique ways to use the motion controls. And it launched with a Zelda title. Freakin ZELDA!

Let’s not pretend that the PS2 launched with Metal Gear Solid 3, Final Fantasy X or Shadow of the Colossus. I remember being forced to buy Madden at launch because that and SSX were the only games that didn’t look like complete ass. And while the PS1 is one of the most fondly remembered consoles, I know this wasn’t because of it’s earth shattering launch of Jumping Flash and Battle Arena Toshinden.

The highlight of the Playstation's launch days.

Besides, it’s not like the 3DS’ opening months weren’t available for everyone to see either. I was shocked at how many people who bought it were acting surprised that there weren’t any new high profile games for early adopters. I mean, seriously? It’s not like they promised Mario Kart, Pikmin 3 and Super Smash Bros at launch. We knew what we were getting at the time, and to me, there were really only three reasons to get it at or on March 27th.

One would be to experience the new technology from day one, being able to watch it evolve. Secondly, being that one “cool guy” who had the newest gadget. The third reason would be to buy it knowing it would suck, just to be that person who wants to sound smart by complaining about a system that you knew you wouldn’t like to begin with.

That’s not to say that Nintendo didn’t make some huge mistakes with the system in the beginning, and the quick price drop was an admission of guilt to me. First, they focused too much on the 3D and not on the games. Sure, I get that the average consumer would be attracted to the 3D concept since it was all the rage at the time, (or at least more so than now,) but they never told us why we needed it as opposed to a DSi, which was $80 cheaper. Which brings me to their other mistake, the cost was way too high. Gamers knew it wouldn’t have much to play in the beginning. Parents would see the DSi next to it and likely go for the cheaper alternative. So how could it have ever sold without its own identity and without games to justify the higher price? Of course, we all know how that went, and I ended up with a ton of free games as an apology thank you for my early purchase. You’re welcome Nintendo.

The 3DS Ambassador program. Also known as the "Please don't trade it in towards a Vita initiative."

It just goes to show that launches don’t define a console’s life. Today, 3DS owners are much happier. The claims of the 3DS being the next Virtual Boy have been replaced with excitement over the next Kingdom Hearts. Those who begged for a solid Nintendo offering have long finished Super Mario 3D Land and are firing away online with Kid Icarus. The cheaper price definitely doesn’t hurt things.

My point is that next time a system launches, whether it’s the Vita, WiiU or Playstation 5000, know that the launch doesn’t define the system. Developers are just starting to sink their teeth into what these new systems are capable of, and the best titles are always yet to come. And next time, save the theories of armageddon to Nostradamus and just enjoy your games.

Josh Jackson

Josh is a long time video game, anime and wrestling fan. As a proud XboxWii60 gamer and beyond, there's not a gaming subject that he shies away from. Follow him on Twitter @InuJoshua for your fill of opinionated goodness!