Nintendo 3DS sales, after a sluggish start, picked up nicely late last year and the handheld continues to do well, but it certainly doesn't appear to be thanks to the system's 3D visuals. If anything, Nintendo has been continually distancing itself from 3D as a major selling point. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has admitted that it's now a "minor" element.
"I think when we launched the 3DS there was a kind of 3D boom, which is perhaps slightly on the wane again, but there are plenty of people out there that create 3D video and I think that some of those who create and distribute 3D video would be very interested in the 3DS XL ," he told The Indpendent.
Iwata seemed to hint that Netflix might offer 3D video for the 3DS at some point: "I think there's a lot of potential there as we look to improve the distribution of digital content, and we also have streaming services, for example North America has Netflix; I think there's a lot of potential in that direction."
But 3D for gaming does appear to have been minimized. "I think it's an important element, it makes graphics more impactful, it proves a sense of immersion that 2D doesn't have, so I would say generally that 3D is better than 2D. It's nice to have good graphics but not necessarily on their own, so I don't think we'll present [3D graphics] as one of the key features of our consoles but will probably stick with 3D as one of the minor elements of our consoles in the future," he continued.
Another important change for Nintendo is that it's going to be selling games both digitally and at retail for the 3DS and upcoming Wii U. Iwata stressed, however, that this does not mean that retail is any less important to their business.
"From my point of view, we're not looking to digital distribution as a means to skip someone [high street retailers] and therefore increase our margin. I think it's more that with traditional packaged products we need to produce them, ship them, there's the stock keeping loss risk, and loss associated with products being sold out or you can have certain items overstocked," he said.
"I think in general digital distribution will allow us to be more efficient in distributing content. I think the games that we make with this improved efficiency we can use to maintain our profitability or, even if software development costs improve for some reason, we balance it out that way; that's what I'm hoping for from digital distribution," Iwata continued. "We have the example of Apple out there that's very successful which is based on skipping the intermediates and therefore increasing profitability or lowering prices. That's one way of approaching it [digital distribution], our way is quite different, we still think retailers are important. "
He added that Nintendo simply cannot rely on consumers to visit the eShop every week, and that "for a lot of consumers it's still important that they can go to a store and in-store they have a presence of our products and this is where they can be informed and then purchase our products."