Coin-OpEd: What's in a launch lineup?

The 3DS launched this week, and I haven't the foggiest why you people bought it. Seriously, what's in this launch lineup?


Hey everyone,

How's it going? How's your mom? I hope she's well. Anyway, I saw a bunch of you picked up Nintendo's new 3DS over the weekend. Here's what Nintendo said: "US day-one sales numbers for Nintendo 3DS were the highest of any Nintendo handheld system in our history." That's bigger than the DS and Game Boy Advance, which have gone on to sell a respective 144 million and 81.5 million systems through 2010.

Hey, so I'm trying to figure this out, because right now, from my perspective, all of you who bought this system, that decision you made is tantamount to bringing a jet ski to Antarctica. Sure it's pretty. Sure it's fast. But Holy Jesus, the water's frigid.

Here's how GameSpot saw it:: 8.5, 8.0, 7.5, 7.5, 7.5, 7.0, 6.5, 6.0, 5.5, 5.5, 5.0, 5.0, 4.5. By my calculations, that's a median of 6.5 and a mean of 6.461538. (See, I can do math. What now, Ms. Williams?!) Taking that value, we're left with the equation: $250 + tax / 6.5 = X, where X is the approximate sum of Poor Decisions. OK, review scores can't be the reason why you all bought this thing.

Why are you here? Where are you going?
Why are you here? Where are you going?

Maybe its less the scores and more the franchises that you all were drawn to. The top-scoring 3DS launch title was Capcom's Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition. Now, far be it from me to demean SSFIV:3DE by calling it an inferior port of an otherwise exceptional fighter, but who are we kidding: Until you can plug a Tournament Edition FightStick into the 3DS, it's kind of an inferior port of an otherwise exceptional fighter. Over-the-shoulder camera-view? No thanks.

Nothing says Age of 3D like a top-down turn-based tactics game, so with unbridled enthusiasm may I present Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. Shadow Wars earned the honors of top-rated original title on the 3DS, and to Ubisoft's credit, it's a well-crafted, entirely worthwhile game (even if it would have been just as good on the DS). But do the Benjamins come out to play for a turn-based strategy game? Me thinks no. Eh, at least it isn't a Petz Pony game.

In the 7.5 range, we find Nintendo's top-rated launch title, Nintendogs + Cats. Out of curiosity, have you all heard anyone play Nintendogs + Cats? It's all the frustration of owning a real animal, without the requisite face-licking. Julian, sit. Sit. Sit. sit. Julian, sit. You little bastard, I'm going to toss you out the window. *sigh* Julian, sit.

Someone had to get the lowest review scores, and who but the franchise's diehard following didn't point to Samurai Warriors: Chronicles as a forgone conclusion? (In fact, that game's Metacritic average currently sits at a 6.0, so good on you, Tecmo Koei.) No, instead it was Steel Diver from a relatively obscure Kyoto-based company called, let me see if I can get this right, Nintendo. (You may have heard of Nintendo. It's the company with audacity enough to support the launch of its new $250 handheld with a janky wreck of a submarine game.)

If this dog could urinate on your rug, it would. And it would laugh at you and laugh at you and laugh at you.
If this dog could urinate on your rug, it would. And it would laugh at you and laugh at you and laugh at you.

Software of the $40 variety seems to be a non-starter; maybe it's the pack-ins. Let's see, Face Raiders takes casual misanthropy to levels not seen since the days of Jonathan Swift. And as easy as it would be to call the AR Games "neat" or "interesting," in reality, they are throw-away tech demos with lasting appeal to rival a drunken mascot donnybrook at your local sporting event.

StreetPass. Here, at long last, I'm seeing system-selling software. I have a coworker whom I will call Sophia that seems to be utterly enamored with the StreetPass feature, maintaining that while she owns not a single 3DS game, she'll nonetheless compulsively check her 3DS Mii Plaza, hoping for new puzzle pieces, a stronger RPG fighter, or chat updates. Nintendo's commodification of social ties here is inspiring.

In fact, on multiple occasions I have seen my coworkers huddle together, tittering away at the unexpected enthusiasm they have for this mode. You know, when a grown man squeals with the verve of a gleeful child at the arrival of a new puzzle piece, I think I get that. For better or for worse, that's an image not soon to vacate my mind.

But in the end, what are we looking at here? An ancillary feature that can sustain itself for only so long. Nintendo: Where is your tried-and-true Mario Forever strategy? How is it that of the three games you launched alongside the system, none were deemed "great" by GameSpot's critics. Worse, how is it that one earned the ignominious "poor" rating?

Does Nintendo really want people's first impressions of the 3DS to be Steel Diver?
Does Nintendo really want people's first impressions of the 3DS to be Steel Diver?

And things started out so well. When the system debuted at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nintendo was quick to point out first-party support, announcing that new installments in the Kid Icarus, PilotWings, Mario Kart, Nintendogs, Animal Crossing, StarFox, and Paper Mario franchises were en route. You want to build buzz for a launch system? Give me a new Kid Icarus!

(As a side note, I realize that pining for the release of a game whose lead character is a small boy who flits about dressed in a Grecian toga is problematic. Readers, do not judge me.)

My reserves have run dry, so I'm left to assume that, oh no, all of these systems were sold on a promise. Is that it? Is it that the 3DS is flush with potential, and what's currently available is good enough to justify the purchase of a system that has yet to justify itself? What's the downside of waiting until there's a reason to buy the 3DS? Explain this to me, you crazy early-adopters. Convince me to buy a 3DS.

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