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All Guns Blazing

Nintendo's drive to make a success of the 3DS builds momentum - and finds important allies

The fortunes of Nintendo's 3DS are likely to provide a focus of fascination for the games business for months if not years to come. We all know the backstory - it's the first time in years that Nintendo has faced the prospect of a genuine market failure, forcing a somewhat humiliating U-turn on pricing mere months after the device hit the market. At the new, lower price point, the 3DS has sold steadily - but many still openly question whether there is a real future for the platform.

What makes this fascinating is that Nintendo is clearly unwilling to accept defeat lying down. Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata told me in an interview just after the unveiling of the Wii that the company views its console launches more like the launch of toys - if a toy fails in the market, you don't throw up your arms in defeat and get out of the business (a clear reference to those who consistently argue that Nintendo should follow in Sega's footsteps and become a third-party publisher). Instead, you go back to the drawing board and launch another toy. Nintendo's huge warchest of financial assets would allow them to pursue such a strategy, Iwata explained.

Yet even if that strategy remains firmly in place at Nintendo - and given that the warchest is bigger than ever, there's no reason that it shouldn't - it's clear that it doesn't translate into abandoning hardware that's under-performing. Instead, Nintendo has focused its sights on the 3DS, determined to support the platform with an immense push in terms of aggressive pricing and promotion, extensive internal software development, and the calling in of favours from third-party publishers around the globe.

This is likely to be Nintendo's fastest and most aggressive schedule of first-party software in many, many years.

Next week, it seems, will bring many more details of Nintendo's attempts to establish the platform as a success after its early disappointment. Ahead of the Tokyo Game Show, a host of fairly credible rumours and leaks on Japanese games blogs have been joined by confirmed information in magazines such as Famitsu, pointing at a major 3DS offensive by Nintendo.

The company already placed a heavy focus on the 3DS at E3, announcing versions of several core Nintendo franchises for the device. After TGS (or rather, Nintendo's own events around TGS itself), it's likely that we'll have dates for several franchises, and confirmation of work in progress for others, with names like Yoshi and WarioWare being bandied about. For all that the 3DS is still frequently met with claims that "there are no games", this is likely to be Nintendo's fastest and most aggressive schedule of first-party software in many, many years.

What's even more interesting, though, is the work the company is putting into third-party relationships. If even half of the rumours are true, TGS will see almost every major Japanese software publisher lining up to announce major games for the 3DS platform - some of them continuations of long-standing DS franchises, such as Ace Attorney and Etrian Oddyssey, but others being moved over from home consoles, such as an alleged sequel to cult GameCube RPG Baten Kaitos from developers Monolith Soft.

Towering over everything else on offer, though, is Nintendo's success in securing a new Monster Hunter title - an update to the much-loved Monster Hunter Tri version of the series - for the 3DS. Much attention - and ridicule - this week has focused on the peripheral being produced for the game, a chunky and slightly unwieldy-looking device which clips onto the lower half of the 3DS to provide an extra analogue stick on the right-hand-side, along with extra shoulder buttons.

It's easy to poke fun at such an unloveable slab of plastic, but while Twitter sought to come up with disparaging names for the peripheral ("Frankenstick" is a personal favourite), it's quite possible that there were some pretty worried faces at Sony's headquarters in Tokyo. Monster Hunter, after all, is the series which breathed new life into the beleaguered PSP in Japan. It's still by far the most popular game on the platform, and any time you see a PSP being used in the wild there, there's a better than even chance that Monster Hunter will be the game in the UMD slot. Indeed, it's almost certain that the failure to provide a Monster Hunter title for the PSP Go did almost incalculable damage to that ill-fated console's chances.

Author
Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.

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