3D, Or Not 3D, That Is The Question

This year is most definitely going to be the year of the handheld, with not one, but two new consoles due this year. In the latter half of the year we should be getting our hands on the worst kept secret in gaming, the Playstation Portable 2, but before then we are going to be treated to the latest incarnation of the Nintendo DS, the 3DS. Recent press conferences have given us a glimpse of what to expect, how games will play and look, and most importantly how much the unit will cost. The 3DS launches at the end of March for a wallet crippling £230 or thereabout. It pushes it beyond a casual purchase and dearer than an Xbox 360 and only marginally cheaper than a Playstation 3. Can this price point be justified for the inclusion of a better quality of games than the bog standard DS and the added bonus of 3D?

Look, it's really tiny!

Interestingly, a Nintendo bigwig put the pricing point as a fair comparison with the current generation of smartphones, which he cited the 3DS was competing with. That’s fair enough but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the 3DS is not a smart phone, yes it plays games and has browsing software and a camera but that’s where that comparison stops. Even at that, a modern phone can be picked up cheaper than the 3DS and do much the same without the inclusion of 3D. To take this comparison even further it’s necessary to look at the pricing of the games, from what I can see at this point in time, 3DS games will be retailing for anywhere between £32-£40, that is steep for handheld games. Yes, the games are superior to any other handheld just now and feature 3D graphics, but at a price point comparable with the console games? I’m not sure if that will put many people off, especially when the same games, albeit slightly less featured are available on phones.

Street Fighter 4, 3DS style, looks good.

Some of the launch games that may be appearing for the 3DS are Resident Evil, Street Fighter 4 and Super Monkey Ball, all popping in for £40 each, a hefty price tag for games most people have played, lots. Load up the apple app store and the same three games can be found at a hugely reduced cost over the versions. There are a few Resident Evil games on the app store, most noticeably, Resident Evil 4, complete with most of the features intact for a pocket money-friendly £2.99. Street Fighter 4 is also present on the app store for a slightly dearer £5.99. Yes, it has fewer fighters and isn’t as intuitive to control with the touch screen, but it looks gorgeous, almost on a par with the 3DS. Finally, Super Monkey Ball also makes an appearance at a “that can’t be right” price point of £1.79. The sequel is also there for exactly the same price. So, if you were to go out and purchase these three games for the 3DS you’d be looking at £120 or thereabouts, but all three of them for your smartphone and you’d have change from £12. Quite a difference, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Street Fighter 4, iPhone style, looks just as good.

There is no doubt in my mind that the 3DS is going to be the must have thing this spring, but I’m not sure who it’s going to be a must have for. It’s maybe a bit too gamey for the casual DS market but verging on the too expensive for the curious gamers. The thing is, the 3DS almost represents a step back in the evolution of the DS, we’d just been treated to the impressive size and style of the DSi XL. Mainly designed for the older DS players who may struggle to see the smaller screen, but all comers could use it no bother. It was great to see DS games on a larger screen. The 3DS  has resorted back to the smaller screen, maybe to make the 3D effect work better, but surely it’s only going to be a matter of time until the 3DS XL is unveiled. Will the early adopters be cursing at not waiting for what seems to be inevitable? Of course, it may be that the 3DS fails long before that can even happen, it’s a high price point, the games are expensive, it could be a very risky gamble for Nintendo. There is already a huge installed user base of smartphones, to attempt to go in to direct competition to them may prove to be frivolous. It could be that the 3DS becomes a niche machine.






4 responses to “3D, Or Not 3D, That Is The Question”

  1. Tony avatar

    Smartphones have definitely made the handheld consoles pricing schemes look a bit out of date, that’s for sure. I have 71 games on my iPhone 4, many of which were free but I also paid for a fair number too – but never more than about £3!

    However, regarding the pricing, people forget that smartphones (usually) come with contracts which subsidise the cost, whereas consoles subsidise the cost with game sales. My iPhone 4 (32gb) was £600 bought without a contract – so even with a large saving on games it’ll take a while to fill that deficit!

  2. Simon avatar

    I’d hope that the 3DS Resident Evil would be a little more ambitious than the iPhone Resi games.

    On the pricing – I never saw much value in 99% of DS games at £25-30, so when we get to £40 we’re really struggling. But-that’s not to say there aren’t great DS games. I just question the value.

  3. T avatar

    The difference is that smartphone game ports, for the most part, border on unplayable. Just look at the SF4 screenshot. Your thumbs cover more than half the screen. I have a few other games on my iPhone that were originally available in another medium, and they’re not particularly comfortable to play.

    As far as visuals go, it’s kind of pointless to compare anything with 3DS screens, since they won’t reflect the actual 3D and any effects brought by that.

    As Tony says, the cost difference is almost irrelevant when you take into consideration the cost of outright buying a Smartphone, or the subsidized cost plus the monthly bill (which is higher than your average cell phone bill to begin with.)

    Not trying to champion the 3DS here, I can’t say how it will fare with complete certainty (though I am planning on getting one), but the noted comparisons are just…not very good comparisons.

  4. Martin avatar

    For the record, I never said that the smart phone versions were the same in content or quality if the 3DS. Merely that there were radically cheaper versions of the same games. I purchased Street Fighter 4 for my iPhone for 59p the other day and it’s a stunning game, yes fingers do obscure the screen but I still find it huge fun to play.
    It’s unusual in gaming to have quality, cheaper versions of big games but we do just now. Of course we are also seeing the smaller, cheaper games being given the big game treatment. Angry birds anyone?

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