Why Only One Nintendo Title At 3DS Launch?

By Ishaan . February 2, 2011 . 6:16pm

When the Nintendo 3DS launches, the only Nintendo-developed games for the device available on launch day will be Nintendogs + cats. The rest of the initial 3DS library will consist of third-party games.


An investor at Nintendo’s recent financial results briefing asked company president, Satoru Iwata, to explain just why this was, and if Nintendo’s release strategy had perhaps changed.


Iwata’s reply to the question was threefold. The first reason, he said, was that the 3DS includes pack-in software, similar to the way the Wii had Wii Sports, in the form of augmented reality games. Iwata feels the system’s inbuilt software will act as the primary driving force of positive word-of-mouth.


The other reason, he revealed, was that the company wishes to address the concern that only first-party games sell well on Nintendo systems. While the Nintendo DS shows no traces of this problem now, early on, it too caused similar concerns, which were quickly dispelled. The Wii, however, still faces the same stigma, and Iwata says that with the 3DS, Nintendo wish to create a healthy third-party environment right from the system’s launch. For this reason, they’re holding back their own software for the moment so that third-parties can enjoy the attention of the market.


And finally, Iwata revealed, is the matter of a consistent release schedule. Both the DS and Wii suffered from dry spells shortly after launch, as Nintendo released a wide range of first-party games alongside both systems. To ensure that the 3DS doesn’t suffer a similar dry spell, they’re holding games back, even though there are some 3DS titles that were completed even before Nintendogs + cats.

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  • I thought their financial results showed third party games sold more than their first party releases…in sum? Or are they addressing the concern that on average the Nintendo game sells more than a third party game?

    • On average. :)

    • malek86

      “I thought their financial results showed third party games sold more than their first party releases…in sum?”

      Depends. Not in Japan, that’s for sure, where Nintendo has the vast majority of software sales on the Wii. And I think Iwata is talking about Japan here.

    • Tom_Phoenix

      Even if the stigma isn’t always true, it is still a stigma that has always been attached to Nintendo’s hardware. As such, as a hardware manufacturer, Nintendo still feels the obligation to combat that image.

  • Nice spin on things, Nintendo. Teasing the competition just for fun because these cocky mofos at Nintendo know they can enter the race blind-folded and still come in first.

    • Confused-chan

      some of these comments… so crazy @[email protected];

      • That’s the console gaming scene for ya, baby. Welcome to it.

      • Barrit

        Haha, your comment goes so well with your avatar

    • that’s nothing to brag about. It’s just lazy.

      Nintendogs? No thanks. Give me a StarFox and we’ll talk.

      • Confused-chan

        lazy? You can’t read or what? @.o

      • Starfox probably isnt a good launch title. Nintendogs is actually the only title with guaranteed widespread appeal on day 1, if we look at it.

  • Pichi

    I like that Nintendo is doing more support. That was what they need to invite more 3rd parties. I also wish that they would help some in the advertising of some 3rd party games, just for insurance that those companies would come back or or feel more welcomed.

    Nevertheless, I hope it all works out for 3rd parties.

    • Confused-chan

      Yeah, maybe on wii there could be a need for it but most publishers making terrible wii games, so no point. but 3DS i think is okay because DS has great third party support. lots of new franchises took off on DS in japan.

    • Exactly I don’t know why people feel Nintendo shouldn’t let 3rd parties excel early on when its exactly what Nintendo needs to do to entice 3rd parties to make games for there systems. People whined and complained that the Wii didn’t have 3rd party games well guess what now Nintendo’s trying to cater to you and you still complain? Come on now a stead flow of games post launch is always better towards making a system successful period.

  • Tokyo Guy

    I don’t know that I buy that second argument. It seems more likely that people will just wait until more games, especially those made by Nintendo, are released. Couple this with the anger people are expressing at the battery life and the size and it becomes more realistic.

    Though as the portable will sell out on day 1, the games released will all enjoy high sales for the sole reason that they are the only games to be had, irrespective of their quality.

    Actually I would suggest a fourth reason for Nintendo to adhere to this strategy. It knows without a shred of doubt, that the 3DS will sell out immediately. It knows there will be major supply issues for some time. To this end, it is somewhat foolish to release a large selection of top tier games because by the time more people have the 3DS, there will be a larger selection of games on the whole, and thus the possibility of the older games being overlooked is quite real.

    Thus it’s not an issue of releasing key games to get people interested, as they already are. It’s an issue of timing them to coincide with the installed user base.

    On a side note. I question how it is the online stores in America are still taking reservations. As I mentioned before, the Japanese stores pre sold out in a matter of hours, in some cases minutes. Is North America really getting that many units?

    • tr1gun1212

      I am not saying this is the answer, but my impression is that Japanese are more willing to deal with limited goods – fewer 3DS will make them want it more, and the thought of its scarcity might make some fence-sitters buy it as soon as they can. NA, people just get enraged when they cannot have something.

  • mirumu

    I had commented at the time the launch title lists were revealed that Steel Diver was nowhere to be seen. Made me worry that they were having problems with the game’s development or something. Glad to hear there’s another possible explanation for it.

    • Yesshua

      Dude, that game was originally shown as a DS tech demo when they announced THAT handheld. To say that this game has had a troubled development is an understatement. I wouldn’t be surprised if they put this back on the cooker for another 2-3 years before releasing it as a 3DS ware game even.

      • NeoTechni

        I both have and love that tech demo

  • A noble thing to want to do, with the point of wanting to disprove that third party games do worse than their first party ones, but I think it’s a bad move to have such an honestly weak title for their headliner at the start– it doesn’t help that the augmented reality games will definitely not have the same impact as Wii Sports had.

    The Wii launched with Zelda, even if it was a port of a GC game. The DS launched with Mario, even if that was a port of a N64 game. I think at the least, they could have tried to release a flagship title in order to pull in the main crowd– having even just Star Fox at launch would have done wonders for it. It’s a good basic game and a classic, after all, but it’s not as big as Zelda or Mario is. It would’ve given third party plenty of room while still giving the main Nintendo crowd something nice.

    I’m still planning on getting the 3DS at launch, but I do wonder about Nintendo’s choices in things sometimes.

    • Yesshua

      Only sometimes?

      Sorry, but I thought your last sentence was hilarious. For all of the truly great games Nintendo creates, they’re business decisions are truly inscrutable. They just kinda do their own thing and nobody can ever understand why.

      • Hey now sometimes they make good decisions too. D: Just it’s both “sometimes” either way!

      • Tom_Phoenix

        Oh, its not that it is impossible to understand WHY they make the kind of decisions they do. It is that most people don’t WANT to know why they do it.

        They also have a tendency of thinking about the gaming industry in terms of hot it has worked since the 80’s, not realising that times have changed and the rules of the “game” have changed as well.

        Anyway, if anyone has an honest desire to learn about Nintendo’s business decisions in recent years, this is preety much mandatory reading:


    • Tom_Phoenix

      How is Nintendogs+Cats a weak title? The original, with over 22 million copies sold, was practically a juggernaut. It, combined with Brain Age and New Super Mario Bros., is the very reason the DS was able to take off the way it did. In comparison, the DS port of Mario 64 did absolute squat in terms of contributing to hardware sales.

      As for the AR games…well, it remains to be seen. Personally, I agree with you and am yet to be convinced that it will be as much of a system seller as Nintendo anticipates. That said, I am open to suprises and I can also see why augemented reality might be enhanced with stereoscopic 3D (for example, the depth could make AR objects appear more present in reality). I am just not sure if Nintendo really touched upon that potential with the games that are currently on the 3DS.

  • Yesshua

    What a strange predicament to find oneself in! As a hardware manufacturer that also creates software, Nintendo is needing to sit on games so that other developers can have a fair chance.

    The thing is, I’m not sure this is even arrogance. Nintendo HAS successfully iced out major third party releases on their consoles in the past by releasing another game at or near the same time. And great though Nintendo’s developers are, they can’t carry a system by themselves.

    Heh. I’ve got a business plan for Nintendo: stop developing for your own hardware. Focus fire all your software onto one of the competing systems, forcing third party talent out of the market space.

    Of course, this could be countered by Sony/Microsoft simply refusing to allow them to release their software… “No, we don’t want your games! You’re too good!”

    Seriously, that Nintendo has this kind of market power is totally surreal.

    • puchinri

      I don’t think it’s arrogant, I agree there, considering a lot of people have basically said that sort of thing before. (Especially if it’s just a fact.)

      That would be a devious and twisted plan. I would like to see it carried out one day. Just to see what would happen.

      When you put it that way, it is quite surreal.

  • kupomogli

    Like Sony with the PS3 it’d be nice to watch Nintendo suffer the same fate for thinking everyone will buy into the 3DS just because it’s Nintendo.

    This is why they have only one first party game at launch.


    • lostinblue

      Dammed if they do, dammed if they don’t.

      They could just be giving some breathing space to third parties, seeing they often get accused of being too strong on their own platforms.

    • Tom_Phoenix

      Nintendo already suffered that fate with the Nintendo 64 and GameCube and they learned their lesson well….unlike Sony, who sadly doesn’t appear to have learned anything.

  • Phoenix_Apollo

    Third parties. <3

  • It’s nice nintendo is going to do this and I respect that but on the flip side, this year sony has a new game every month or two dropping until the NGP hits. I must admit, I’m excited to see how these release schedules develop between the two companies from march til the end of the year.

  • puchinri

    That sounds really reasonable and handy. The did have a nice list of publishers, so I’m excited to see what will be released, even if it’s not right at launch.

    And I notice that usually, there’s a ton of Iwata bashing on these types of articles. I never understood why so many people dislike him. What exactly did he do?

  • Suicunesol

    Okay, Nintendo. I understand what you’re doing. But did Nintendogs really need to be released first?

    • NeoTechni

      OOT needed to be… Or at least Starfox

    • Nintendogs i’m sure was picked so they could still bring in the casual as well as the core audience into the launch lineup. 3rd parties are already covering core titles so it was only natural that Nintendo release a more casual title at launch (not that some core don’t like Nintendogs cause I know some that do). Zelda and first party titles aren’t gonna be far behind post launch so I don’t see the big deal.

  • Eh it’s understandable. give us a starter course before going on to the main. I’m behind this strategy as long as Nintendo don’t take the mick by delaying other awesome looking titles (like they have with Kid Icarus :( )

  • crunc

    This actually makes sense. I presume they’ll do something similar with the Wii’s successor.

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