Opinion: On How Nintendo's Divisions Handled 3DS' Price Cut

An unprecedentedly rapid hardware price cut is a tricky thing for PR to navigate -- Gamasutra EIC Kris Graft examines how Nintendo of America could learn a thing or two about messaging from its Japanese and UK counterparts.
[An unprecedentedly rapid hardware price cut is a tricky thing for PR to navigate -- Gamasutra EIC Kris Graft examines how Nintendo of America could learn a thing or two about messaging from its Japanese and UK counterparts.] While Gamasutra's esteemed editor-at-large Chris Morris covered the financial and business implications that Nintendo's surprise 3DS price cut may have on the company going forward, what we've yet to touch on is the public relations messaging used by Nintendo of America versus other Nintendo branches. One branch's messaging was akin to a bed mattress outlet advertising truckloads of value, so customers must GO GO GO to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime deal. The other Nintendo divisions treated its most loyal fans -- the ones who bought a 3DS at the full price of $250 -- more like, well, loyal fans. And when doing damage control messaging, it's always better to treat your loyal fans like loyal fans who, if treated properly, might consider continuing to do business with you, despite your screw-up. Case in point, from Nintendo of America's press release announcing an $80 reduction to the 3DS to $170, just a few months after the device's launch:

"For anyone who was on the fence about buying a Nintendo 3DS, this is a huge motivation to buy now," said Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. "We are giving shoppers every incentive to pick up a Nintendo 3DS, from an amazing new price to a rapid-fire succession of great games." "...Nintendo 3DS owners [who already bought the device] represent some of Nintendo's most loyal customers, and Nintendo is rewarding them for getting in on the action early with 20 free downloadable games from the Nintendo eShop."
"Rewarding" the loyal gamers? Excuse me, as a loyal gamer who was out to buy a gallon of milk one day and accidentally came home with a $250 3DS at launch, I must say that Nintendo is not "rewarding" me for my loyalty (or my compulsive spending), rather Nintendo is making an attempt to compensate me, to appease me, to apologize to me for its overestimation of the appeal of the portable "glasses-free 3D experience." This 20 free game initiative is not to reward me and the 829,999 other people in the U.S. who bought into the 3DS early on. Now, I'll still gladly take the 20 free games, and in actuality, it's not a bad plan. And as a longtime gamer and tech fan, I'm aware of the risk of early tech adoption. I don't regret my purchase whatsoever. But it's not the program or the hardware or the introductory price that's the problem. Nintendo of America's PR needs to give its most loyal customers maybe an ounce of credit and not try to spin the "Ambassador Program" into some kind of customer loyalty program. On Nintendo UK's website, you'll see a stark contrast in tone:

"We are aware [the unprecedentedly rapid price drop] may cause you, the loyal fans who supported Nintendo 3DS from the beginning, to lose trust in us, and this is not our intention in any way." "...Although we may not be able to completely prevent you from regretting purchasing Nintendo 3DS early, we would like to express our gratitude to our special customers like you by offering 20 free downloadable games from Nintendo eShop."
Look at the messaging there -- Nintendo UK is not doing early adopters a favor here, as Nintendo of America's messaging implies. All the messaging does is state the obvious -- that trust from loyal consumers is on the line, that there is a chance that early adopters might not be able to be bought off with 20 old games. Similarly apologetic was Nintendo's Japanese statement from company president Satoru Iwata:

"This [sudden price drop] will undermine the trust of everyone who has supported the Nintendo 3DS from the very beginning, and we are keenly aware that we could be criticized."
Proper damage control is really just about honesty and humility, or at the very least acknowledging the elephant in the room, and giving consumers a bit of credit. People appreciate honesty, especially when money is involved. Maybe as an act of good faith, they may reward you and your company by buying your products.

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