Four months after its North American release, there’s a lot of hooplah out there about Nintendo losing millions of dollars on the 3DS, the first hand-held which is capable of 3D graphics. But in the mix of all the dismal financial reports, it’s easy to lose track of the actual facts. Here’s a brief summary of why I believe the Nintendo 3DS isn’t selling, as well as some personal recommendations as to why this hand-held is actually a worthwhile investment.

3 Reasons why the Nintendo 3DS isn’t selling:

The PlayStation Vita represents new competition for the Nintendo 3Ds.

1)      Lack of games. With a recent spate of cancellations, players are worried about investing money in a handheld for which virtually no games exist. I’ve written here about the cancellation of games like Assassin’s Creed: Lost Legacy and Mega Man Legends 3. The problem is, not a lot of games were released alongside the actual release of the handheld. The ‘big one’ is Ocarina of Time 3D, but the 3DS needs a lot more to go on than just one remastered title.

2)      Competition from other hand-held devices. Apple has made huge strides recently when it comes to mobile gaming. They’ve released a ton of easy-to-download apps which sell for a far lesser price than your average 3DS game. Games on mobile devices tend to be simpler and more straight-forward, meaning that the learning curve is less steep for players new to gaming. And they are also highly addictive.

3)      Confusion about 3D mechanics. Do you have full control over the level of 3D? In what ways does changing the 3D level alter the game? These are just some of the questions being asked of the hand-held’s technical capabilities. As players of this hand-held know, using the full 3D graphics requires a bit of ‘finesse’—you need to hold the 3DS a certain distance away from your face in order to see the graphics properly. It’s really not complicated, once you get the hang of it, but as long as questions about the system’s mechanics linger, sales are probably going to be less than stellar.

3 Reasons why the Nintendo 3DS is a worthwhile investment:

Now that’s dedication! A 3DS fan shows off a tattoo of an AR card.

1)      The online store. Players can expand their game libraries with a touch of the stylus by logging on to the handheld’s virtual console. E3 also revealed several high-profile titles for the 3DS which are forthcoming, including Mario Kart, Luigi’s Mansion, StarFox and Kid Icarus. There are also multiple online campaigns, such as this one, to bring remastered titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask to the 3DS in the future.

2)      The customizability. Players are given ample opportunity to make the 3DS reflect their individual gaming preferences. The 3D graphics are totally customizable with the use of an ingenious ‘slider’ to the right of the screen. The handheld’s cameras make it easy to capture and store photos, and the use of personal photos in the Face Raiders application is a fun, unique touch.

3)      The graphics. Seriously, the 3D graphics are awesome. I think one of the failings in advertising the graphics capabilities of the 3DS is that the 3D effects cannot possibly be conveyed using two-dimensional illustrations. But the effects are definitely amazing. Another perk which I don’t think has been advertised enough is the Altered Reality card, which has a lot of potential. How cool would it be to actually fight with Pokemon using the AR technology in the future?

4)      BONUS: The reduced price. Nintendo announced just this week that the price of the 3DS is being reduced to $169. Players who buy a 3DS and log onto the Nintendo eShop before August 12th also qualify for free games.


A lot has been written recently on the ‘fate’ of 3D-based media and whether it carries any sort of real longevity. Despite initial enthusiasm for 3D movies, for example, movie-goers have been less than enthusiastic about 3D shows since Avatar’s groundbreaking release. In my opinion, 3D televisions and movies have suffered from severe over-exposure, and the less than promising sales of the Nintendo 3DS are probably a result of this larger phenomenon. Likely the next few years will dictate the future of 3D entertainment, and whether the gaming industry will continue to embrace this promising, yet still somewhat mysterious, virtual technology.