The Nintendo 3DS had a pretty rough launch. The tech is certainly sound, built as it is on the framework of the company’s wildly successful Nintendo DS handheld, but it floundered after its March 2011 launch with an extremely limited software library. It could be the most powerful gaming tech in the world, but it’s not much good if there are no games to play on it.
Things have gotten better for the 3DS since those first stumbling steps out the door, but the availability of top titles to play with still can’t really be described as “robust.” The StarFox 64 remake is out, with Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land arriving in the coming weeks, but that’s about the extent of the big-ticket first-party holiday season releases for the 3DS. Some other big titles won’t be arriving until next year, and it turns out that that’s all part of Nintendo’s master plan.
CEO Satoru Iwata admitted in a recent investors’ Q&A that the company has “intentionally delayed” some launches until early 2012. The idea is to avoid flooding the market with too many games that fans are looking forward to, since there is a danger of one release cannibalizing sales from another. Iwata doesn’t mention anything by name, but the Kid Icarus 3DS game seems a likely candidate.
If only this plan had been in place in the months leading to the 3DS launch. Wouldn’t it have been great to pick up your new handheld on launch day and a proper new Mario game with it? Or to have something more than Resident Evil: Mercenaries to look forward to this past summer. Kudos to Nintendo for recognizing that rehab for the 3DS is not as simple as adapting a “more is better” philosophy. More is definitely better, but games are time-consuming and the holiday season is filled with titles demanding our attention. Spreading things out is no big deal, and even a good idea… just so long as the releases keep coming, of course.