If you are among the not quite one million people that ran out to purchase a Nintendo 3DS, despite its numerous flaws, odds are you are a little bit steamed right now. When the 3DS was introduced, it launched with a handful of titles but none of them were particularly major, plus the system’s software was half complete. The promised Netflix app was nowhere to be found, the Nintendo e-store wasn’t up yet, and the web browser was AWOL. But hey it was 3D! Yay. True, Nintendo fans took it with a smile and assumed that soon their loyalty would be rewarded with the updated software and a wide selection of new games.
But then came the price drop. People that originally purchased the 3DS shelled out $249.99, but due to poor sales and overall poor profits for the company, Nintendo decided to lower the price to $170 starting August 12. So basically, the reward for the people that have purchased a 3DS since its March launch is an $80 fine. Fans were not amused.
And Nintendo recognized that. Nintendo fans are a traditionally loyal bunch and frequently have taken chances on Nintendo’s hardware even when it is contrary to what the other console makers are doing. The Wii obviously became a massive hit, but before people had a chance to play with it, no one was entirely sure how the radically different controller and underpowered system (compared to the 360 and PS3) would fair. Nintendo needs and wants those early adopters to help generate buzz and move systems, so this massive price drop just five months after the release of the system—especially considering the still lackluster library of games, and the only recent addition of the software upgrades—was a slap in the face to those that were willing to gamble on the new tech.
In way of an apology, Nintendo began the Ambassador program which awards people with a 3DS before August 11 ten free downloadable NES games and 10 Game Boy Advance titles. To further emphasize the apology, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has issued a public apology on the Nintendo Japan website, which the website GiantBomb.com translated. In the letter, Iwata thanks the people that purchased the 3DS, and claims that the company understands the feelings of those that purchased the 3DS at the original asking price.
“We are all too keenly aware that those of you who supported us by purchasing the 3DS in the beginning may feel betrayed and criticize this decision.” Iwata said.
He also stated that the price drop was a necessary move in order to gain popularity for the 3DS and ensure its survival. Without a larger user base, the handheld system could be in danger he claimed, but the focus of the letter was to apologize for, not justify, the decision.
“Those customers who purchased the 3DS at the very beginning are extremely important to us,” Iwata stated. “We know that there is nothing we can do to completely make up for the feeling that you are being punished for buying the system early.”
A similar, but uncredited letter appeared on Nintendo’s European site, but nothing from the American side yet.
Iwata and Nintendo have a lot riding on the success of the 3DS, but more importantly, the company’s future rests with the upcoming Wii U. The new console will feature an original new controller, and be slightly more powerful than the current PS3 and Xbox 360, but it will be nowhere near the next generation of consoles that will debut in the next few years. Because of that, Nintendo needs to cultivate and nurture its loyal fan base and get them excited for the Wii U when it is launched. Nintendo needs people to buy into the system, and quickly in order to gain a lead in the next console battle before Sony and Microsoft can release systems that are more technologically advanced. If people are put off and considering waiting to buy the Wii U because of fears of a badly handled launch similar to the 3DS launch, it could spell trouble for the gaming giant.