Nintendo's 3DS was released with great fanfare, but early sales returns have been disappointing. Nintendo, unfortunately, can sometimes be their own worst enemy, and for every step forward (DS, Wii), they take one or two steps back (Virtual Boy, Gamecube). It's a weird little cycle that I've seen many times over the past 20 years, and by now it's something I've just learned to live with. I really enjoyed the DS, and I really enjoyed the Wii. But right now, I am not enjoying the 3DS. In fact, I don't much like it at all.
Let's take a look at my Cranky Grampa Complaints about the Nintendo 3DS, and you can either nod approvingly or chuckle under your breath. Either way, here goes:
1) The 3D effect is just a cheap gimmick. Seriously, I had a 3-D Viewmaster when I was, like, five years old. Seeing Herbie the Love Bug in 3D back in 1978 was pretty cool. It's not cool in 2011. The problem here is that Nintendo has bet everything on a novelty that was good for exactly one Hollywood picture (Avatar), and once the moment fades, it's gone for good. Nintendo has yet to make the case why, exactly, any of us should care about stereoscopic 3D in video games. They're treating the "wow" factor as a given, and that's a foolish mistake.
2) The 3D effect hurts my eyes. Let me repeat that again for the sake of padding out the Google search engine - The Nintendo 3DS Hurts My Eyes. The whole 3-D effect is achieved by basically staring cross-eyed at the screen, much like those novelty "magic picture" books in the 1990s. And it causes eye strain and headaches and completely messes my vision for hours afterward. This is a very real problem. I don't like things that hurt me, and I don't like the idea of my video games turning me into Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion. And, no, the slider option does not help. 3D is pretty much the whole point to this system. It's certainly the excuse for the outrageous retail price...
3) $250 is way too expensive for a portable video game system. The original Gameboy was sold for $99. It came packaged with a set of headphones and Tetris. The 3DS costs two-and-a-half times that much and comes packaged with nothing. Meanwhile, the DS Lite sells for half the price, and has a library of over 5000 games. An 8GB iPod Touch sells for $229. A coloring book and box of crayons sell for $5. Hiking through the woods and climbing trees is free. We have plenty of options for our time and money. Nintendo needs to shave $100 off the price of this immediately. Stop chuckling. I'm serious.
4) $40 is way too expensive for cartridge games. Gameboy games used to sell for twenty bucks.
Heck, you can find a Gameboy Advance SP on Craigslist for $40 or less, and usually get some games included in the deal. For the price of one 3DS game, I could be playing Tetris or Advance Wars or Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer or Final Fantasy I & II? For that matter, how many iPod games could you download for that money? There's no excuse for this sort of price-gouging. Drop the retail prices in half. Okay, you can chuckle at this one. It ain't ever gonna happen.
5) The 3DS battery life is abysmal. Three hours? We're talking Atari Lynx levels of power drainage, kids. And let me tell ya, I loved the Atari Lynx, but I hated the battery life. So did most kids, which is why they all ended up with Gameboys instead. C'mon, people, we put twelve men on the moon with less technology. Hmm, for that matter, why haven't we gone back to the moon, or moved on to Mars? Instead of exploring the galaxy, we're melting the polar ice caps. Progress!
6) None of the 3DS games are any good. Sorry. In all fairness, I will say that Pilotwings Resort and Super Street Fighter 4 are the standout titles, but sequels of ripoffs of spinoffs don't work in the year 2011. All this does is make me want to play Wii Sports Resort and the Capcom 4-MEG fighters on Sega Saturn. There's nothing in the 3DS library that really sells the machine, or compels me to play. Nothing is jumping out at me, so to speak. Shouldn't that be the whole point of a 3D video game system? At some point, you actually have to make some good games to sell your game machine. That's kind of how it works.
7) Repackaged sequels. This kind of builds upon the previous point, but bears repeating. People will not spend $250 for reruns. Sorry. Nintendo's DS and Wii were terrific systems because their innovative designs forced software developers to - gasp! - create new video games. Yoshi: Touch & Go, Zoo Keeper, Meteos, Trauma Center, Brain Age, Nintendogs, Wii Sports, Wii Play, Just Dance...Very impressive! Why aren't we seeing this on the 3DS? Instead we get: another Street Fighter, another Ridge Racer, another Pilotwings, another Dead or Alive, another Metal Gear, another Star Fox, another Zelda. Shrug.
8) The packaging is terrible. Seriously, who decided that video games should come in such dour, miserable packages? Probably the same folks who are embarrassed to be making video games and want to be making movies, or something. Whatever. This drive to legitimize the medium as "high art" is foolish and misguided. If you work in the videogame business, you're not a storyteller with a vision, and you're not an "artist." You're a toymaker in Santa's Workshop. You bring smiles to children of all ages and make everyone feel young and happy. This is a very good thing.
Just look at the package design for the original Game Boy from 1989. Now this just screams, "Play with me! I'm fun! Whee!" And then Nintendo included a pair of headphones and Tetris in the box - still the best video game ever made. Yay! In fact, I may just buy myself a Gameboy just so I have the box in my house.
9) Where are the touchscreen games? I hadn't quite realized it until I thought up that list of games, but all the best DS games were the early ones that relied on the touchscreen, and the best Wii games used motion controls to their fullest. But game designers don't want to be bothered with the new control schemes, and they've all but disappeared now. So what's the point of even having the damned thing if it's never going to be used? What's the point? Why should Nintendo add an analog thumb-pad to the 3DS when the touchscreen is already available? Seems to work perfectly fine on an iPod Touch, so why not here?
10) No pack-in game. Super Mario Brothers made the NES. Tetris made the Gameboy. Sonic the Hedgehog made the Genesis. Wii Sports made the Wii. Why isn't there a pack-in game for the 3DS? You know what I think the pack-in game for this portable should have been? Minecraft. Nintendo should have flown to Sweeden and handed Notch a blank check for the exclusive console rights. Reggie could still do that if he really wanted, but it's probably too late by now. Minecraft is headed for the iPod and iPad instead. Ah, well, it's not like Apple's about to dethrone Nintendo and take over the portable-games market, right? Right? Bueller?
Bottom line: Nintendo's 3DS is a very expensive gimmick, and it's lumbering out the gate with a number of issues that could become serious problems. Fortunately, Nintendo is already on the ball and they're planning for the future. They're buying a ton of Apple stock.