Nintendo trading in the blue ocean for a white flag?

Reports of a 3DS analog add-on suggest the once-confident company is neck-deep in knee-jerk reactions.

As you may have heard by now, the latest issue of Famitsu unveils a new Nintendo 3DS peripheral, a shell that effectively gives the handheld a second analog pad along its right edge. If you track down scans of the magazine (we won't host them as a courtesy to Famitsu and its original content), you can see it's not pretty.

Of course, "It's not pretty" describes the current state of Nintendo just as well as it does the new peripheral. For years, the company has blithely done things The Nintendo Way, ignoring current trends and bucking conventional wisdom to produce both breakthrough hits like the Game Boy and ignoble failures like the Virtual Boy. As a result, when Nintendo's unconventional ways pay off, they pay off in a big way by cornering a market that maybe didn't exist previously.

It's the "blue ocean" strategy. By sailing into uncharted waters, Nintendo knows there won't be any competition waiting for it. Just look at the DS and the Wii for recent examples, or go back to the launch of the NES in the wake of the game industry crash. And even when Nintendo is completely, infuriatingly, stubbornly wrong--as it has been for a decade now with its halfhearted approach to online gaming--it's at least failing in its own inimitable way.

Nintendo had a vision with the 3DS. Unfortunately, there seems to be some truth to concerns about the system causing vision problems.

And this is what makes the revelation of an analog pad cradle for the 3DS so concerning, because the second analog stick is such an obvious improvement. It's like using a disc-based storage medium, letting third parties put blood in their games, or having a back light standard on portable hardware. Nintendo caved on all three issues, but it took its sweet time in caving. Not so with the 3DS.

Six months ago, Nintendo was rock solid on the system. It reasoned that a single analog pad was plenty, especially since the DS didn't even have that going for it. Even with a substandard launch lineup, the system would naturally fly off the shelves, much as the original DS had done in its first months on sale. Third-party publishers would then feel a need to create games for the hardware, giving people more reason to own the system, and Nintendo would have another DS-scale hit on its hands. Misguided though it might have been, that is emblematic of the confidence Nintendo has always had in its products and its processes.

The best examples of that confidence (and the benefits thereof) can be seen in Nintendo's not-too-distant past. The DS, Wii, and Wii Fit represented perhaps the greatest single stretch of game industry innovations to date. The initial reactions to all three ranged from "interesting" to "insane," but the financial fortunes of each were outright incredible.

The DS and the Wii have been Nintendo's best-selling hardware ever. Through June of this year, the DS family has sold 147.8 million systems, topping even the Game Boy's 118.7 million sold. Meanwhile, the Wii boasts an installed base of 87.6 million and counting, well ahead of the 61.9 million sold by Nintendo's next-best-selling console, the original NES.

Wii Fit sold nearly 22.7 million copies through March of 2011--not too shabby for a $90 game packed in with a glorified bathroom scale. Wii Fit Plus notched another 18.5 million sold. Together, they topped the unit sales of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 combined, with several million to spare. (Historical sales pulled from Nintendo's 2010 and 2011 annual reports; lifetime-to-date DS and Wii sales pulled from the company's latest quarterly report.)

In each of those cases, Nintendo went out on a limb because it identified an underserved market and an appetite for nontraditional content. Fast-forward to today, and Nintendo behaves like a very different company, one more prone to knee-jerk reactions than confident contrarianism. The 3DS launched with a whimper, and the company reacted by drastically slashing the price, even more drastically cutting the paycheck of its top executive, and pledging to give early adopters a small library of emulated classics as an apology for gouging them at launch.

Despite the price cut, third-party support for the 3DS was a continuing concern. Ubisoft canceled its 3DS installment of Assassin's Creed. THQ canceled its Saints Row spin-off, one of the legs of its highly touted trans-media play to cross-promote games like Saints Row the Third. The system had a single North American retail game released for it in July (Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions), the sort of postlaunch drought that one would have hoped was a thing of the past. Natsume reportedly delayed the release of two of its 3DS titles specifically to wait for the system's installed base to grow.

There are more Wii Fit Balance Boards in the world than GameCubes.

This second analog stick seems like a nod to third parties who would rather port versions of their console or Vita games to the 3DS than build new experiences from scratch, which was essentially a prerequisite for the DS editions of popular games. However, given that the 3DS installed base is already lacking in publishers' eyes, the inherently smaller installed base of the second analog pad attachment won't look much better. Consider that the bulky attachment ruins whatever aesthetic appeal the system has and will almost certainly make it incompatible with all but the most absurdly sized pockets, and that installed base will need a killer app to end all killer apps if it wants to make a dent in the system's financial fate.

At best, the 3DS controller attachment is a curiosity, a dead-end peripheral that is supported by one or two games and will be quickly forgotten by the market. Think of the GameCube modem, the Wii Speak, or, better yet, the never-actually-released Vitality Sensor, three more Nintendo hardware innovations that spent their brief lives in search of a reason to exist.

At worst, the right analog stick is a white flag for a company that has run out of ideas. It is an admission that Nintendo was wrong and shortsighted to ignore what has become an industry standard, wrong to pursue its own path with confidence. And if that's the case, Nintendo has lost the very quality that defines it, and the coming years could chronicle a fall from grace to surpass that of other onetime hardware titans, such as Atari and Sega.

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204 comments
Zelseisdabest
Zelseisdabest

its even funnier that he says nintendo has run out of ideas, HAVE YOU CHECKED THE ARTICLE WRITTEN BY A FELLOW EMPLOYEE?!?!? THE TITLES IS SOMETHING LIKE "TABLET OWNERS ARE PLAYING THEIR CONSOLES LESS" 1 question what does the Wii-U controller look like?!?!? dont worry ill wait........exactly, seems to me that Nintendo knows exactly what they are doing, sure they might hit a snag here and there might claim to come out with something but never do, what gaming company doesnt do that??? the Wii Fit board was like a downgrade to the kinect but u see the sales it generated...point being Nintendo may mess up on their outside the box thinking at times but they know when they get things right THEY...GET....THINGS...RIGHT

Zelseisdabest
Zelseisdabest

The way they made this article sound...sounds like someone just got a secret payoff from Microsoft or Sony, either that or they played Super Ghouls and Ghost as a kid on the Snes, hated it, and ever since then they've hated Nintendo and never gave them a second chance...grow up editor saying Nintendo is waving the white flag is like saying Apple will sell less than a mil. on the Iphone 4s....WONT HAPPEN lol

nintendoboy16
nintendoboy16

@JCDenton I believe Fatal Frame 4 wasn't localized due to horrible bugs.

peterwantspie
peterwantspie

This article seems a little incendiary to me. Nintendo done goofed, sure, but portraying it as the death knell of the company seems a little premature. I suspect somebody wanted to jack up their pageviews on the shoulders of hundreds of angry Nintendo fanboys :-P

JCDenton
JCDenton

First off, I think Nintendo is going to make the nub a permanent addition (new 3DS in mid 2012). Second, Nintendo did more than botch the 3DS launch, they're refusing to release games like Fatal Frame 4 (they have the rights in America), Xenoblade Chonicles (despite it already being localized into English), and The Last Story (Headed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy). I mean, how does this instill confidence in the hardcore players? I'm really worried about you, Nintendo (especially NOA).

IanNottinghamX
IanNottinghamX

If people plus gamespot dont get it by now the reason for the stick is games like monster hunter which require fast paced reflex where you dont have time to touch a screen...only to react. So no its not them going back on their design philosophy its them being practical in the range of games they are expecting on their system....period ok?

cantor2537
cantor2537

Thanks for that enlightening editorial. Nintendo waving the white flag? I don't think so. Nintendo has a lot of money in the bank. They can afford to take a hit or two. They miscalculated on the initial price point of the 3DS. They forgot that we are in a recession and that in general consumers don't like 3D. The peripheral may be useless, but to be quite honest, I don't care about it. The only games that really need a second stick are FPS. And as we've seen on the DS, you can play FPS with the touch screen just fine.

Way2fonky
Way2fonky

@Holyknight_CJ "I would say it should have been obvious to include dual analog (industry standard for good reason), but at this point I've decided I don't understand Nintendo fans beyond a love for their first-party franchises." That's saying a lot coming from a Sonic the Hedgehog fan.

chazy035
chazy035

Ladies, the PSP Go and 3DS issues are COMPLETELY different. Don't drag Sony into this, its pathetic.

chazy035
chazy035

" There will be no white flag above my door...."

johnthek1d
johnthek1d

for me the 3ds doesnt really need a second pad. Its really majorly only for fps but im sick of fps thats all the market is anymore ill pick up the good shooters but there is too many of them and nintendo isnt gonna go down the hole just because of this. If paper mario or any other of the sort will end up require it then i will probably get it but only for that.

Miketendo
Miketendo

This article looks good next to the %260 increase in 3DS sales article. Doooooooooooom! Give me a break. Nintendo will do just fine. This add on is for Monster Hunter. if it works well and the game looks good (which I'm sure the game will at least look good) Ill get it. If the addon is a flop developers wont dev for it and it will never pick up as a must for the 3DS. I feel like this add on can help 3DS sales and draw in different developers, but if the thing doesn't work well then no harm no foul. Just my opinion but I'll be watching tonight for the 3DS show.

chazy035
chazy035

Nintendo's mistake reminds me the feeling when I should have read that TPS report. XD

wahyudil
wahyudil

so what? .... the peripheral was created for one game only, Monster Hunter Tri ... its like the add-on for guitar heroes DS ... it don't mean anything ... just an add-on for a game, not a must have and not a wrong decision by Nintendo ...

byakuya222
byakuya222

i think it 's not such a big deal when nintendo make a price cut for there 3DS(it's not the first time they cut hardware price though).the problem will soon be solve with the shipment and the announcement of new soft ware.like the possibility of a 3DS pokemon game announcement this sunday.

neock2003
neock2003

This article makes it sound like Nintendo is dying. I know Nintendo has done some questionable things these past months but the bottom line is that you cannot conclude that Nintendo is done for. they have make crappy devices before. if the 3ds does not succeed then there will be a replacement to that device. at least wait for the WII U to fail before concluding if Nintendo is done for

deffbyjeff
deffbyjeff

@Shicezor Not necessarily. The thing about Microsoft is that they really haven't gone out on a limb on anything (aside from the Kinect, which was necessary to compete with the PS3 Move and Wii). They started slow with the original xbox, but once the ball got rolling they stuck to what they knew would work. Sony and Nintendo have been more creative and come out with some more risky products. Some paid off, some didn't, such is the nature of new ideas. So with that in mind, the lack of mention of any Microsoft failures is not out of loyalty, but the fact that they haven't taken those risks for better or worse. Besides that, it's hard to deny that Nintendo has been producing a long of short-lived, novelty products in the last decade, counting on hype and originality to sell products, but not committing to them post release.

mario113
mario113

@ Naruto0187 I couldn't agree more and the second circle pad is more of an option rather then a permanent part of the system so if you don't want it don't buy it it's not like they are holding a gun to your head

StuffHobbes
StuffHobbes

Nintendo fans want GAMES first, THEN joysticks.

naruto0187
naruto0187

So what if Nintendo made a mistake? That doesn't mean that Nintendo will go down. Sony made a mistake with the PSP Go, but did they go down? Heck, no! I have faith that Nintendo will pull through in the end, no matter what happens. The same goes with Sony. Sorry Gamespot, but you guys are just being to biased. I mean, c'mon. You can just turn off the 3D option, which is why they put the slider there. Sheesh.

Mkherkzen
Mkherkzen

This article made me feel like the world is coming to an end :(

ecurl143
ecurl143

Anyone half serious about their handheld gaming will hold off until the PSVita comes along, it's a far superior product - build quality, power, massive OLED screen, dual analogue sticks, tons of features & games. This is bad PR and marketing by Nintendo when people just perceive them knocking out any old rubbish as quickly as possible to try and remedy bad design decisions. I think we will see a different landscape when Vita is launched.

eliebaz
eliebaz

okay for nintendo to go down after such a long period of being competitive is just not right! they in many ways revolutionized the way we play games today, it's a fantastic console however i do have to agree as a person who prefers shorter games, it's the perfect system for me, and they really should bigger larger more exclusive games on their system which should boost up their sales relatively especially if they had a better line up for the 3DS when it first came out there where no games, and still not enough games but they just begun come on nintendo i vouch for you pulling through

Shicezor
Shicezor

The guy who wrote this article is obviously 100% Microsoft Fanatic.

AzathothMetal
AzathothMetal

@iortegon HAHAHAHAHA, dont worry! gamers dont want crappy mario and his 4000 remakes on their consoles anyway. ;)

iortegon
iortegon

Nooooooooooooooooo nintendo cant end up like atari and sega. i cant see mario on ps3 or link on 360 its just not right

OllieBrown
OllieBrown

Honestly, the successes of the Wii aught to allow Nintendo a little leeway with bad ideas (especially ones that haven't come to be yet). Let's encourage some risky and innovative business decisions in this world of cookie-cutter FPSs, RPGs and survival horror. It seems like Nintendo is still the only company taking the road not taken and they have plenty of room to falter or fail not just because they've done better than the rest these years but because their execs are in it for the love of the games not the money. The coming years will not "chronicle a fall from grace to surpass that of other onetime hardware titans, such as Atari and Sega." I hope you don't really believe that. Cheer up Brendon!

solidsnakedude1
solidsnakedude1

This is to bring first person shooters since that seems to be all anyone ever plays anymore.

campbell153
campbell153

@Wormkid_64 It is true... EVERY game is comparable to CoD and it drives me insane! I think the reason why sooo many people play MineCraft for example is because it is like nothing else out there... and the 3DS offers the same, it is a unique platform and offers some serious competition to all other hand held devices like PSV or iPhone (all of which i think pay gaming social web sites to slag off Nintendo)

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

@ campbell153 Amen to what you said about gaming becoming stale.It's all FPS,post-apocalyptic,blood and guts or racing. Games like Portal,Arkham Asylum,and the Nintendo franchises keep things varied,and -especially on Nintendo's part- focus on the fun of games.

Wormkid_64
Wormkid_64

Stupid article is so wrong.The day after I read this the same website posts the story that 3DS sales soared 260% in August after the price drop that this article says is basically a death spasm for Nintendo. As I said before,a few hiccups at launch along with a sucky launch lineup do not automatically spell doom for a company and it's hardware. Imbeciles.

pinicolaroxa
pinicolaroxa

This article is a distortion of reality The add on is an OPTION for the 3ds is not a design flaw. You feel like you need a second analog? then buy this if you dont then dont buy it.Simple And we could always wait for the lite that will surely have both analogs. The purpose of this is to increase the third party and it will surely. And trust me every game will have the option to play with or without the second analog so there is no point in complaining.

cboyuno
cboyuno

@JBStone So you think that nintendo is adding another analog stick because as a way of finally "admitting defeat"? First off, your whole argument is leaning on the crutch that the 3DS is a failure because it has no games. Sorry, if you think that the 3DS is going to fail you are a fool. History does repeat itself, and its going to once again prove that there are people ignorant enough to think that every gaming console must live up to "hardcore gamer" standards. I am by and large the definition of a hardcore gamer. I have competed in mlg Gears of War 1 and 2 matches. I also play games like pokemon and mario kart. So don't give me the nintendo fanboy argument because its just as short sighted as your other arguments here. And you are crying about two cancelled projects? Really? I think I made myself clear when I said that the market of people interested in buying a 3DS will increase as the supply of games does. Games are starting to come out, and last month 3DS sales were second only behind the XBOX 360 in sales. So if you think that's a failure I don't know what to say to you except that by Christmas I wouldn't be surprised if it was the number one selling console.

pinicolaroxa
pinicolaroxa

They are right looks what happened with the original ds, there is only a few thousand games for it and most exclusive series. And sold in 6 years pretty much the same the ps2 did in 10. No ones cares for a system that doesnt have multiple analog pads

Rovelius
Rovelius

@Shadowmax889 Tri-G has yet to be announced for NA. Knowing Crapcom, I'd say don't count too much on it.

boredom_kills
boredom_kills

@JBStone - no 'fanboy goggles' on here, mate. My comment regarding the 260% bounce is simply noting that, for such a massive sales bounce to happen following a price cut proves that demand was/is there - the issue was that the unit was too expensive rather than perceived issues with the product itself. It looks like it now isn't too expensive - that is what 'rectifying the issue' means. To say it 'doesn't happen. Ever' is clearly wrong; it just has happened. And price cuts to new products that fail to set the market on fire in the way the manufacturers expected them to happen all the time. They just aren't so common in the games industry. Nintendo clearly overestimated the value of 3D on their machine, and tried to charge a premium that consumers just aren't willing to pay in the numbers that they need to make the machine viable (or shut the shareholders up, depending on point of view). That is an issue; cutting the wholesale price rectifies it. And I agree, I don't think anyone on this forum IS saying that it's all over. I'm certainly not; I don't think you are either. After all, we don't need to. We have commentators on Gamespot, IGN and pretty much everywhere else online saying it - which annoys me because it simply isn't the case.

bluefox755
bluefox755

wow, nintendo fanboys are really getting riled up over this one...you all hold the company to such high esteem, so yeah, when they show some weakness, of course folks are going to talk

charlyk88
charlyk88

I dont understand anymore of this... should i get a 3ds or a psp vita?

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

I think this addition would ruin the sleek and compact look the 3DS has. How do we know it won't make it heavy or harder to control?

nintendoboy16
nintendoboy16

@Nightfox313 Nintendo ALWAYS had a kid friendly approach. Even through the so called "hardcore" era of the N64 and Gamecube (which I'll say again is where the Nintendo hate was starting to grow). That's why you see the likes of Mario and Pokemon on their systems. It will always be this way. Nintendo without Mario and Pokemon may as well not be "Nintendo" anymore.

pH347m3
pH347m3

@mario113 Virtual Boy. That is all.

mario113
mario113

You know I just love how when nintendo makes one mistake and people jump all over them never mind xbox and sony made more if not bigger mistakes call me a fanboy if you must but i don't care

DSfanatic5
DSfanatic5

Nintendo isn't going anywhere. They'll learn from this experience and move on. I don't mind a second analog peripheral, and I certainly don't mind Nintendo trying to give the 3DS more momentum, by whatever means is needed. I've owned the 3DS since launch, and I'm excited about it's future, and the amazing games that will come in time.

NightFox313
NightFox313

Nintendo's gotta ditch the family-friendly "casual" take on gaming consoles. As much as I love Nintendo, I have to say I really miss the days of the N64 and the GameCube. The Wii was great - and unique in its own right - but the addition of Mii characters and the sudden movement to unknown waters make this "Blue Ocean strategy" seem like a huge mistake for Nintendo. I'm not saying I hate the console - I enjoyed two games in its line-up - SSBB and MP3: Corruption. Those two games were enough for me to say that the buying the Wii was a somewhat logical purchase, but I miss the hardcore. Come on, on your feet Nintendo! Get your act together and make this a good one.

otanikun
otanikun

Nintendo ran out of ideas when the Wii came out, but they're far from down and out, honestly it would make more sense to just revise and release an updated handheld, the add on just looks bulky and ugly and so far it only has one game going for it. I'll continue to support Nintendo regardless of their sometimes bad decisions, every company makes them, that and if Nintendo goes under now, how will I ever play Majora's Mask 3D?

Gargaglio5tatus
Gargaglio5tatus

Nintendo hasn't 'fallen from grace'. I agree, it's pretty silly that they didn't just add the second analog pad/stick/thing in the first place. Games like Kid Icarus and Resident Evil would probably work out better. Yet, the 3DS is still fantastic and it's future software line-up is undeniably 'the s**t'. In some cases, it's actually a good thing that there's no second analog pad; it challenges developers to create something new, rather than just make/port shooters. Not to mention, its Virtual Console and 20 free games were definitely a selling point...

Shadowmax889
Shadowmax889

and yes the killer app is called Monster Hunter 3DS.

Hisairness2345
Hisairness2345

Obviously Nintendo knows the importance of a second analog stick. Nintendo's been making controllers with 2 analog sticks since the gamecube. Honestly, who the hell wants to play big budget action games that require 2 analog sticks on the tiny screen of a PORTABLE system. You wanna play them on a big screen on your CONSOLE. And don't you think the heads at Nintendo have a little more insight on what the videogame industry is about than some loser desk jockey at gamespot? Screw this sight. IGN ftw.

redrabbit65
redrabbit65

I don't like it when people keep trying to shovel the dirt on Nintendo's grave, as a parent I thank god for Nintendo that I had sweet systems with great games like Starfox and Legend of Zelda and Metroid for my boys to cut their gaming teeth on and not the garbage I see other folks letting their kids play. CoD and MoH have their place, but my boys played things like Mario 64, Mario Cart and 3rd party games like Taz and I'm grateful that I had that alternative to hardcore systems like the x-box, which is Dad's Box. Long live Nintendo!

sknight175216
sknight175216

It's pretty much 3rd party support's fault the 3DS isn't doing well. You can't say "Oh we'll make games if more people bought the system" because hell nobody's going to buy the system if you don't make games for it! Make games and people will buy the systems for the games. The problem is that they're lazy and are being a bunch of *insert synonym for cat*.