UPDATE 2: Nope, no eShop at launch but the function will be coming sometime in May. See here for the full story.
UPDATE: Nintendo have confirmed that the eStore plus web browsing functionality will be available at launch via a firmware update.
ORIGINAL STORY:Yesterday (Jan 19th) was a pretty big deal for Nintendo fans and indeed, fans of shiny new tech. The long awaited Western release date and price of the 3DS was announced leaving some people happy, others frustrated and a few of them indifferent to the news. I sit firmly with those who are happy, even if the price is a little high. As of March 25th in Europe and 27th in the US, the Nintendo 3DS will cost $250 and around £220/€250. I say ‘around’ because there is no fixed price for Europe with retailers being allowed to set their own boundaries. Currently, it varies between £220-230 which may not be a big difference but a difference nonetheless.
I may be happy with the news that the 3DS is coming so soon, I’m not exactly overjoyed with the price but can accept it. Viewing the 3DS as just another handheld isn’t really fair with what the system is offering. It really does feel like a big leap forward on portable entertainment. Lets recap: 3D sports courtesy of Eurosport, 3D television from Sky, exclusive content from Aardman Animations, an eShop containing a stream of GameBoy and GameBoy Colour titles, backwards compatibility of DS and DSi games, 3D video recording (coming via a firmware update), the ability to shoot 3D photos and a streamlined online infrastructure comparable to home consoles. An impressive list and one relatively new to handheld gaming. Of course the 3D content is a first but it can be argued that iPhones and iPod Touches offer a similar experience with the video and gaming content. The biggest difference comes in the control methods. The 3DS has buttons, iDevices do not.
What of these third party games? They’re yet to be given any solid release dates but we’re promised at least 25 are coming between March and June including Super Street Fighter IV 3D, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries, Dead or Alive: Dimensions, Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell 3D and Ridge Racer 3D. These join Nintendo’s Pilotwings Resort and Nintendogs + Cats with the likes of Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D, Mario Kart, Kid Icarus Uprising and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on their way. Again, an impressive list for the 3DS and one that can only grow with time. Those with multiplayer functionality will be treated to the handheld’s new online features like an all encompassing Friend Code system that hasn’t been clarified as to whether it’ll be random digits or something like a Gamertag. But your friends list should consist of around 100 people so plenty of room there. And like the iPhone, multitasking is available. Pressing the Home button suspends a game (for example) allowing you to make notes or send messages to friends like “hey, wanna play some Street Fighter?“ The answer to that should always be yes!
But come on, over two hundred smackers is still a lot of money considering the Wii was only £180 four years ago right? True but these are very different times, especially in the UK where the economy has fallen so dramatically. Nintendo has already raised the RRP of the Wii due to a somewhat messy conversion rate and the weakness of the pound. So while it is a high price, sadly it comes at a time where everything is. And we have to be realistic, Nintendo have a strong position in the handheld market so are working off the strength of their brand. They’re a business and a very good one at that. So much so that third party developers have jumped at the chance at making 3DS games whereas the DS had to convince them of its worth. Now, almost 50 million units later, the system is rampant with titles though the percentage of quality has dipped in recent years.
The 3DS may not be complete from launch per se, missing a few things like the eShop and 3D video recording but the important things, like promising games, do look to be in or around the launch window. It is going to be an expensive bit of kit but then it’s also a revolutionary one too. The PSPgo cost £225 when it was released and that had all manner of issues, lacking some of the features that come with the 3DS. This year’s E3 will be particularly important for Sony to see if they unveil the much rumoured PSP2 and what price they decide to go with. I’m sure they’re monitoring the responses and attitude towards the 3DS with great interest. But Nintendo firmly believe that it’ll bring 3D to the masses and I don’t doubt that either. Riding high off the success of their Wii and DSs, you can bet the marketing for the 3DS will be plentiful before the end of March and that the system will do fine at retail even with the price tag. I’m excited. I’ll be broke but hey, I’m still excited!