Accepting the 3DS Price Cut with a Smile

This week, the gaming world once again heard the tragic cries of the early adopter, as Nintendo announced an $80 price cut for the Nintendo 3DS, representing a slash of almost one-third its original price. I am among the (apparently not very large) crowd of people who purchased the system at launch for its original price, and that would seem to give me a license to gnash my teeth and holler the loudest about this posthumous insult to all that money I spent. Really, though, I’m not mad. In fact, today’s news has me kind of optimistic. Give me a few hundred words, and I’ll tell you why.

First of all, it’s not like I don’t know or understand why Nintendo did this. The writing has been on the wall since the system launched at the end of March: Sales are sluggish, games are getting delayed or canceled with worrying frequency, and the world’s enthusiasm for 3D, we’re told, is on the decline. If Nintendo doesn’t start moving some units, then I will have another dead device on my hands. This is hardly my first time down that particular road – I’m pretty sure I could find a spot for my 3DS in between my TurboGrafx and Dreamcast, probably on top of my big huge Atari Lynx.

Todd’s Adventures in Slime World was fantastic, I don’t care what you say.

It’s not Nintendo’s first dance, either, when it comes to an underwhelming launch, lest we forget their last foray into 3D handheld gaming. I’m hopeful, at the very least, that hot on the heels of the company’s big long list of promised games at E3, and the newly announced launch windows for the new Mario and Mario Kart games, Nintendo recognizes they need to get out some killer apps, and fast. The lower price will certainly convert a few on-the-fence buyers, but they’re not going to stay interested in the system – or talk to their friends about how awesome a time they’re having – unless there’s another solid game beyond Ocarina of Time.

Which brings me to the best part of this whole scenario: the rewards being given out for those of us who “overpaid” for our 3DS. Anybody who buys (or has already bought) a 3DS before its mid-August price cut will be receiving 20 free games via download. Good games, too – classic, high-quality titles like Zelda, Metroid Fusion, Yoshi’s Island, etc. That may seem like a cheap, easy gesture from the Big N, but it’s actually about the smartest gesture they could have made.

For starters, the math adds up just fine. Nintendo tends to sell their “Virtual Console” titles for $5 a pop, minimum, with prices sometimes climbing to $10 or $15. Even if you assume each of them is at $5, that’s $5 * 20 = $100, a value above the $80 difference in system price. Furthermore, it’s a gift that perfectly matches its recipients. Chances are good, if you grabbed a 3DS early on, you did it because you’re already a dedicated Nintendo fan, with a history of playing and enjoying their games and consoles. As such, you’re also among the folks who would want these classic titles the most, and probably would have paid for them once they appeared on the eShop. Now, better still, you’re getting them free, you’re getting them early, and in the case of some of the titles, you’re getting them exclusively. What could be harder-core than saying you have access to games that these other noobs do not?

Not real. Pretty, though.

While I realize this last point does not apply to many other gamers, in the end, that’s honestly one of the best things I’ve heard about the 3DS since I bought it. As a curmudgeonly gamer on the cusp of middle age, I am a complete sucker when companies appeal to my fond nostalgia of the classics. Steam gets me every time they offer any retro game for sale. I spent countless hours browsing through the trivia and trophies in Smash Bros. Looking through the previews for Sonic Generations has me grinning and listening to old Genesis chiptunes all day.

Finding out that I’m going to get access to the favorites of my youth, on shiny new hardware, for free, has completely taken my mind off of that $80 I’m losing out on. At least until the 3DS Lite inevitably launches, and we can have this argument all over again.