To say the first 6 months has been rocky for the 3DS would be quite an understatement. Nintendo has dug themselves into a deep hole and for the first time, fans are second guessing the viability of Nintendo as a hardware gaming company.
The clearest problem with the 3DS is the lack of direction with the system. The system is too expensive and complicated for kids, the games are too kiddie for adults, and the 3D effect is not novel enough for tech-philes. If the rumor is true about the second analog stick, then Nintendo is only going to confuse developers and gamers even more. The reality is that Nintendo is now competing with iOS and Android devices, both successful without the aid of even one analog stick.
Now the question is what can save the 3DS. Ideas are also based off of their current target audience which is the 18-24 male demographic as evident by the recent Star Fox 64 U.S. commercial (four guys playing Star Fox 64 multiplayer on the 3DS). As a result, there are no solutions involving AR gaming or the casual nongamer market. Ideas must also be reasonable and released or announced by Spring 2012 to tie into the PS Vita release and/or E3.
- Develop open source or low cost tools to create an indie development community- Facebook, indie XBLA, Steam, iOS, and Android are all examples where indie development has thrived. By involving gamers into the development process, you effectively get a free supply of games and develop a supportive community. Nintendo can limit the size of the game to maybe 20 or 50 MB and charge a $100-$1000 submission fee to prevent spam uploads. The biggest obstacle is Nintendo that has been very difficult for 3rd party development over the years. But it is a simple move by Nintendo that could help modernize their brand name for that 18-24 demographic.
- Release updated N64 games on a monthly/bimonthly basis on the eShop- The 18-24 demographic Nintendo is targeting grew up on N64 games and they need to continue the success of Zelda 64 by updatng more N64 games. However, they need to instead release future games at a $5-20 price point and also sell them on the eShop. The lower price point can be an easy impulse purchase to play 3D updates of games like Mario 64, Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 64, and Paper Mario. They can even dive into lesser known or forgotten games like Yoshi's Story, Kirby 64, 1080, and Wave Race 64.
- Market 3DS connectivity with the Wii U - While the major novelty of the Wii U has so far been the iPad-like controller, future marketing must combine the 3DS and the Wii U. Possibilities include using the 3DS as a controller and cloud based saving and online multiplayer between 3DS/Wii U games such as Mario Kart and Smash Bros.. Nintendo has hinted at these possibilities but they need to make it one of the major components of the promotion of the systems. Gamers can tide themselves over to the Wii U by buying the 3DS now and being part of the way to having the ideal system setup.
- Bring Final Fantasy VII and/or VIII to the 3DS - Final Fantasy VII is arguably the most defining game of the 32/64 bit era and Final Fantasy VIII is not too far behind. Square/Enix/Edios seems to be heavily guarding the Final Fantasy VII franchise, so maybe FF7 is not practical. But SquareEnix has brought updated versions of Final Fantasy III and IV to the DS. In addition to a large audience that would pay for a visual update to either game, anyone who had an N64 instead of a Playstation can finally get a chance to play two top RPG's of the era.
The above ideas all appeal to the 18-24 demographic yet tap into that market with a varied approach. Providing indie dev tools could open up a new community and could make the 3DS the handheld device for user developed games. Updating Nintendo's back catalog of N64 games is an easy way to grow the eShop and add games to the small lineup. Marketing the 3DS and Wii U together is a no brainer as Sony has driven up an interest in cloud based gaming on the PS3/Vita. Sony is unlikely to live up to the potential, but there is an intrigue in the idea. Finally, Final Fantasy VII or VIII is a pipedream, but they are universally popular and defining games.
There is hope in the future for the 3DS. The price drop has already had a positive effect on sales and the holiday lineup of Star Fox 64, Super Mario Land 3D, and Mario Kart 7 appeals very much to its target audience. Future games include series entries of Paper Mario, Smash Bros., Luigi's Mansion, and Resident Evil. However, Nintendo still needs more compelling reasons for gamers to consider using a 3DS instead of an iOS/Android device or the upcoming PS Vita. The above ideas could give Nintendo that extra edge to reclaim its over twenty year handheld dominance.