It doesn't seem like it's that old, but three years ago, after a year of insane hype and build up, Nintendo released the Nintendo 3DS on this day in Japan (its western release would follow a month later).
Priced at a staggering premium of $250, the 3DS initially managed to sell well, selling 4 million units at launch, but right off the bat, things began to go wrong with the handheld- major features were missing at launch, the hardware had issues, the software and UI were questionably bad, the demand for the handheld plummeted after the successful launch, and from April-June 2011, the 3DS sold just 710,000 units worldwide. Major projects were canceled, Sony announced that the PlayStation Vita would be retailing for the same price as the 3DS, making it look extraordinarily bad value, the press wrote it off as a failure, and the 3DS looked like Nintendo's first handheld misstep.
Which might be hard to believe now, considering what came next.
What came next was a Nintendo desperately backed into the corner, and clearly unwilling to lose their dominance in the one market that belonged to them. Nintendo cut the price of the 3DS by $80 worldwide (and the 3DS became their first system ever to be sold at a loss), fast tracked the release of major exclusive software such as Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7, announced major third party exclusive games for the system such as Bravely Default and Monster Hunter 4, started a new marketing campaign that de-emphasized the 3D, and instead focused on the unique features the 3DS brought to the table (and there were many of these), started co-marketing third party games, announced an insane slate of first party games, two revisions, and of course, Pokemon.
The result? The 3DS was a success. A runaway success. It came back from the brink of death, and has now sold 42 million units worldwide. It is selling slower than any Nintendo handheld before it, but it is still selling faster than any other system this generation; its library is insane, plumbing a vast variety of genres and with some franchise defining installments in many major series from first and third parties, and the best part is, unlike other similar systems, the 3DS's best games are all exclusive- you can't play them, or anything like them, on any other system on the market at all.
And it's showing no signs of stopping. 2014 understandably looks slower than the insanely packed 2013, but the 3DS is still getting a fair few number of impressive games:
- Bravely Default
- Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
- Inazuma Eleven
- Kirby Triple Deluxe
- Yoshi's New Island
- Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
- Mario Golf: World Tour
- Super Smash Bros.
- Moon Chronicles
- Retro City Rampage DX
Where Nintendo goes from here is anybody's guess- the 3DS probably peaked in 2013, and at three years old, the time is ripe for a replacement (both the Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance were three years old when they were replaced). But with a highly profitable 3DS userbase, along with a failing Wii U, plus the fact that multiple Nintendo franchises have not yet seen 3DS representations (think Metroid, Advance Wars, Wario, and think heavily rumored but yet unconfirmed games such as Majora's Mask and Pokemon Z, along with pending localizations like Dragon Quest VII and the inevitable Dragon Quest XI), there's still some life left in the handheld yet.
That, and the fact that there is no one definitive 3DS model quite yet.
Happy third birthday, 3DS. You are an incredible handheld, better than the competition, and possibly the best dedicated games system currently on the market. Here's looking to many more memorable experiences with you:
What are your thoughts about the best handheld on the market currently?