Nintendo’s Iwata: 3DS Game Prices A Necessary Subject To Discuss

By Ishaan . August 5, 2011 . 10:34am

“Price” was one of the main points of discussion at Nintendo’s latest investor Q&A. Price, referring not just to the upcoming Nintendo 3DS price cut, but also to the price of Nintendo 3DS games.


Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s global president, maintains that he believes there’s room in the market for both smartphone-priced apps and more premium-priced portable games, such as full-priced retail games for the Nintendo 3DS. That said, he also feels that the price of retail Nintendo 3DS software is an important point to keep in mind.


At the Q&A, an investor pointed out to Iwata that he’d noticed some Nintendo 3DS games priced as high as over 6,000 yen($76)  in Japan. This is a trend that was visible even at the system’s launch, with 3DS game prices ranging from the usual 4,800 yen ($61) to 6,090 yen ($77). The investor asked if Nintendo were considering ways to have third-party publishers make game prices skew more toward the affordable 4,800 yen range by, for example, reducing the manufacturing fees they charge publishers.


“Concerning the price of software, I cannot (directly) comment on it because the price is decided by the software publishers,” Iwata replied, “but I think that there is a possibility that it will be even more necessary to discuss this subject with them so that the price of software will become more affordable for the users to purchase it.”


He went on to state that he didn’t feel manufacturing fees for 3DS games were very high as compared to the fees for regular DS games. One reason that manufacturing costs are higher in the case of 3DS games is because the average ROM size of a 3DS game is larger than that of Nintendo DS games. This is true especially in the case of very large 3DS games.


Nintendo’s own high-profile 3DS games, such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendogs + cats and Star Fox 64 3D were all launched at 4,800 yen in Japan. One example of a publisher releasing more expensive titles is Namco Bandai. One Piece: Unlimited Cruise SP, Ridge Racer 3D and Tales of the Abyss all went on sale for 6,090 yen in Japan.

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  • Does Bamco think they’re Square-Enix or something. Just asking, here.

    I think Nintendo would do better to try to lower the costs on third-party games, though. It’s very rare that I intend to pay full list price for a game, anymore– heck, most of my PSP games are from after they’ve been discounted. I think the only games that I’ve paid for at full are Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days, Phantom Brave: The Bermuda Triangle, ZHP, and Persona. (you can see my bias guys)

    However, $40 for a 3DS game just tends to be outside of my reach. $40 is pretty much half of what I tend to get a month due to things, so I’m not usually going to be aiming for that when it comes right down to it. Star Fox 3D is already going to have to be pushed back on my list cause Disgaea 4 is coming out instead. Persona 2, too.

    • kylehyde

      As the article pointed, the price of the third party software is determined by the publisher. Still you have a point, nintendo should put the example on making their games more affordable, specially on western territories.

    • Croix

      “Does Bamco think they’re Square-Enix or something”

      I have to echo what you said because I think it’s a pretty valid point to make. I feel like Namco’s attitude (this is 10x the case for territories outside Japan) is that they have the expectation to compete equally with other companies in each genre without trying to establish the kind of  presence required to do that. The 3DS is a new system that still has a number of people on the fence. And because it is new, choosing games is going to be a close call for a lot of people, and there are things they are going to pass over.

      I can’t profess to know the market well enough to comment on the pricing of their games in Japan. But if games like One Piece and Tales debut here at the top price, they will not sell well. I understand that this isn’t necessarily in their control, but at the same time, that shouldn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done about it.

  • malek86

    Iwata: “we didn’t get anything right”

    It sure feels like it. Everything about the 3DS has been discussed in these two weeks, from the console’s price point to the marketing focus to the games price.

    When all is said and done, I think the 3DS project will be very different from how we saw it at the start. I still think it will become very successful eventually, but not for the reason they initially thought.

    There’s a lesson somewhere for Nintendo to learn from all this. Let’s hope they don’t make the same mistakes with the Wii U.

  • “He went on to state that he didn’t feel manufacturing fees for 3DS games
    were very high as compared to the fees for regular DS games.”

    Which is to say, the manufac price of normal DS games is ASTRO-FUCKING-NOMICAL and if 3DS manufac is even higher, Nintendo should not in any way be scratching their heads over why many publishers seem chilly-at-best on the 3DS. Unbelievable, I thought Iwata was smart enough to figure this out.

    • Suicunesol

      I didn’t think the manufacturing price for normal DS games was problematic for publishers since the system got more than enough third-party support. :o

      • Publishers struggle through it due to the install base. The manufac price for the DS can, in some cases, take up as much as a third of the retail price. It’s asinine. If the 3DS is even more expensive I’m not surprised that either nobody is bothering or they’re hiking prices, because otherwise you can’t make any MONEY on the damn thing.

        • malek86

          As much as a third of the retail price? Damn that’s high.

          Do you think that might have stopped some companies from localizing some of the lesser known games?

          • Ooooooooh yeah. I’ve been told as much. Can’t say by WHO, I’m afraid, but I know it’s been a factor in a number of “missed” games.

          • I believe this is why we didn’t get ASH.  And that is a Nintendo game.  Because Sakiguchi used the biggest cart he could, Nintendo of America couldn’t publish it and project a fair return.  Thus they localized it and got the ESRB to rate it, but may be waiting for a DS shop on the 3DS to actually release it.

            Though this is mostly theory on my part.

        • DanteJones

          Holy crap, any idea why it’s so expensive or how it compares to how much it costs to develop for other systems?

          • It’s the straight-up cost of manufacturing the flash carts. ROM carts like that are always more expensive than discs – it’s been that way ever since the 80s and floppies vs. NES-style ROM carts. The great irony is that the Famicom Disk Drive back in the 80s was meant to bring manufacturing costs for smaller developers DOWN! So much for that philosophy, eh?

          • DanteJones

            Man, that sucks. It’s gotta be rough on the developers for the two major hand-held consoles to have problems like these; the DS being way expensive to make games for and the risk of having your game pirated the hell out of on the PSP (not saying there isn’t any for the DS, but it seems more rampant in the West for the PSP).

    • What the hell are you talking about?

      DS cards are esentially modified SD cards.

      The manufacturing price for that is pretty low. Not as low as optic discs, but there’s no way in hell it goes down to one third of the retails price. Not by a long shot.

      No one complained about manufacturing prices with NDS. Ever. Actually, the platform was widely accepted as a good starting point for small developers back in the day before the download games boom.

      • What the hell are *you* talking about? They’re quite a bit more than “modified” SD cards. And the crucial bit is economy of scale – when you can only make a hundred thousand copies or less in your initial print run, it gets FAR more expensive than making millions of blank SD cards and selling them at retail.

        I’ve spoken – directly – with publishers who have bemoaned the massive manufacturing costs for the DS compared to disc-based platforms, even the PSP. It is a Real Actual Problem, and one that Nintendo doesn’t seem to want to do much about. There are reasons Sony is pushing digital as a big thing for the Vita, you realize.

        • sandra10

          I thought that carts are becoming dirt cheap now?

          • Not according to the people I’ve been talking to, at any rate. It’s cheapER than it used to be, maybe, but it’s still heart-stoppingly expensive for a lot of smaller companies and projects.

          • Carts have always been priced astronomically high.  Whether this is Nintendo’s end or not is obviously a different argument, but we all remember how many people jumped ship over to Sony during the PlayStation era because of this single factor.

            This is almost comically cyclical.  Though UMD’s are obviously more than regular DVD/CD because of the plastics and burning methods.

            Digital release is where Sony would have an edge if they got on the ball with it. This new concept with the PSV can undercut a lot of cost from manufacturing and bring over more developers that don’t want to deal with the cart issue once again.

        • Tom_Phoenix

          Considering how horribly impractical disc media is for handhelds (something that the PSP’s UMD made abundantly clear), there isn’t really all that much that can be done in this regard. Even Sony has switched to memory cards with the Vita.

          Plus, while manufacturing costs may be high, this is at least partially made up by the fact that the development costs are lower compared to home consoles.

          • punkchobit

            “Considering how horribly impractical disc media is for handhelds (something that the PSP’s UMD made abundantly clear)”

            PSPs UMD made it clear that’s the way to go. Costs of cards is too high
            At launch, DS cards cost 294 times more per megabyte than UMD.

          • Tom_Phoenix

            Absolutely NOT. Cost of mass production isn’t the sole factor when choosing the right media for a platform. Convenience of handling and use must also be taken into consideration.

            While optical media has traditionally always been cheaper to mass produce compared to cartridges/cards, that doesn’t mean that cartridges/cards don’t have advantages of their own. For one thing, they are sturdier and less suspectible to damage. And for another, they have much faster loading times (yes, there are methods to reduce the loading times of games on optical media, but these methods aren’t always available, the user might not be able to use them and they don’t entirely eliminate the problem to begin with).

            In a home environment, these advantages don’t count for much. The media can easily be handled in a safe manner and you need to dedicate your time to play on a home gaming system to begin with. As such, there is really no problem in using optical media.

            On a portable, however, this is exactly reversed. Portable systems (usually) tend to be played outdoors, where trying to handle anything with care is extremely difficult. In such an environment, even that thin plastic shell that the UMD has offers little protection against possible damage. Furthermore, unlike home gaming systems, portable games are played in short spurts. As such, loading times need to be minimised so that the player can squeeze out as much game time as possible from these short sessions. When you are on a 10-15 minute bus or train ride, having to give up even just a minute or two to loading is already a significant loss.

            Considering this, the UMD most definitely is NOT the most optimal media of choice for a portable system and is definitely NOT “the way to go”. But then again, I don’t understand why I even need to explain this, considering that even Sony has decided to drop the UMD in favour of a proprietary format of cards.

          • punkchobit

            “Cost of mass production isn’t the sole factor when choosing the right media for a platform. Convenience of handling and use must also be taken into consideration.”

            And UMD is convenient enough, especially given flash costs more now than UMD did 7 years ago. And that was before the earthquake, which rose flash costs by 30%.

            “that doesn’t mean that cartridges/cards don’t have advantages of their own. ”

            I didnt say they had no advantages. But cost is a huge one. Theres a dev on this site saying the costs of DS cards are 1/3 of the retail price, and 3DS cards cost even more.
            UMD 7 years ago, cost $2. Sony proved with differing models of PSP that UMD didnt really use that much power. The slims got a bigger boost in power usage than the Go did.

            Considering this, the UMD most definitely is the most optimal media of choice for a portable system and is definitely “the way to go”
            Devs are already complaining about the limitations of solid-state for 3DS, it’ll only get worse on Vita
            Switching to bluray would’ve been a much smarter choice.

            “I don’t understand why I even need to explain this, considering that even
            Sony has decided to drop the UMD in favour of a proprietary format of cards.

            What Sony does is not what defines logic. Otherwise the Go would never have
            been released for example.

          • Tom_Phoenix

            I am sorry, but the UMD isn’t “convenient enough”. It is fragile and easily suspectible to damage, not to mention that it has worse loading times compared to cards. Simply put, it isn’t a suitable media for outdoor use and plenty of people have complained about it over the years. 

            And I know that what Sony does doesn’t define logic (especially considering the many illogical moves Soyy has made over the years). My point was that they didn’t switch from UMDs to cards for no reason. If the UMD was perfectly fine, they wouldn’t be switching to a different media in the first place (especially since there are benefits to keeping the type of media consistent).

            I am sure publishers would love it if handhelds used optical media. But the fact is, they aren’t the only ones (or even the most important ones) that matter. If the customers don’t like UMDs, then publishers will just have to make due with cards.

            Besides, as I mentioned before, the lower development costs on handhelds at least somewhat make up for the more expensive media.

          • punkchobit

            Yes umd is convenient enough. Ive never had a problem with their so called fragility.

            And no the lower dev costs dont make up for it, again, theres a dev here saying a third of the retail cost of ds games goes to the price of the card, and the problem is even worse on 3ds, and will be worse than that on vita. Weve already seen 2 devs complain about lack of space on 3ds, mere months into its life

            You overestimate your importance. Youre not going to get the games you want if youre unwilling to let the devs make money off them

            The load times are easily dealt with, as they have been on psp by allowing data installs. Even distributing games on dvd and using a pc/ps2/ps3 is many times better than solid state. Even switching to bluray wouldve made load times faster than psp, would give about 10 gb, and cost less than 2 gb of flash, while not repeating the mistake psp go made by forsaking existing users

          • punkchobit

            Using a ps2/3/pc to install them I mean.

            Frankly, solid state is going to be the biggest thing holding vita back. Devs will be under huge pressures to keep filesizes down, like lower than psp games. And its going to cripple a lot of games

            Switching to solid state is the singular worst thing they could have done. There are pretty much no advantages really, especially with data installs

  • Wow, games seem so expensive in Japan!

    If Nintendo’s first party games sell for over 10 dollars less than licensed games and Ridge Racer (which I have nothing against, it just shows up on every console in existence)…I think there might be a problem.

    I hope Nintendo sorts everything out money-wise before the Wii U. I WANT to want it, but I’m skeptical.

    • Suicunesol

      Most things are more expensive in Japan.

      • Yeah, but Japanese people tend to have more expendable cash than Americans and Europeans, so they can afford it.

        Although they work overtime like crazy for that…

        • neo_firenze

          Where do you get the idea Japanese people have more “expendable cash” than Americans or Europeans?

          Japanese people also tend to save a much greater percentage of their money than westerners, and large Japanese cities have an astronomically high cost of living. 

  • Guest

    At some point Nintendo has to start rejecting certain types of game from being released to retail. Cubic Ninja., Super Monkey Ball, Ubisoft shovelware. They HAVE to reject those games as retail products and ask the developers to put that on the eShop. It takes up precious shelf space at retail and there’s no way in hell that SMB or Cubic Ninja is worth $30+ dollars in this day and age.

    • I completely agree. The terrible games don’t help the 3DS seem respectable, and they might take away from the REAL games. Who in their right mind would buy the shovelware anyway? Like you can’t tell from the covers if you’re buying a piece of crap.

      Although, it’s kind of sad, because the original Super Monkey Ball games (1 & 2) were actually pretty good. It’s become a mere shell of its former self.

    • This will never happen thanks to Sony and the PS1. They opened the flood gates, and gave 3rd parties the power. Nintendo, and Sega never allowed them to have. So for Nintendo to tell Sega or Ubisoft we don’t want that game on our system. They may also lose other games from them out of spite. Just look at the Wii for example for that.

    • neo_firenze

      Whoa there – I do NOT want Nintendo rejecting games they deem more appropriate for eShop versus retail.  This is the same Nintendo (of America) who decides that it’s not a good idea to release their own first party games like Xenoblade Chronicles, Last Story, Fatal Frame Zero, Disaster, and Another Code R at all.  I don’t want people with that kind of judgment deciding that some other game they may not see as a good idea just shouldn’t get a release.

      This is exactly the same thing lots of people into the stuff Siliconera covers HATED about Nintendo and Sony in the past.  Think Working Designs and Sony, accusations of Sony preventing 2D games from getting release, bias against certain genres, etc.  

      I’m touchy about such things because I’m a fan of games like shooters (Cave and the like) and 2D stuff (say, the upcoming 360 Ougon Musou Kyoku).  Types of games that are frequent targets of complaints by people who aren’t really fans of the genre but think these kinds of games should be on XBLA/PSN for $10.  I, and other genre fans, will gladly pay retail price.  And what it comes down to is, I don’t trust Nintendo’s handling of niche products.  They have a pretty good handle on mainstream friendly stuff like Mario, Zelda, Wii Sports… but they’ve proven time and time again that they are rather hit or miss on the more niche stuff.

      What you’re asking for in giving Nintendo more influence in telling devs whether their game is “worthy” of retail versus eShop has the potential consequence of the developer simply deciding it’s not worth it.  Then they won’t make games at all (or will go to the competition with their efforts – be it Vita, 360/PS3, XBLA/PSN, Steam, iOS, etc).

      You know how to prevent companies from releasing stuff like Super Monkey Ball and Cubic Ninja at full price?  Capitalism.  Don’t buy the games you don’t think are fit for the market.  The answer is NOT to have Nintendo step in as a nanny who says what you even have the choice to buy or pass on.

  • sandra10

    This should be a concern for the US as well. I’m fine with paying $40 for a handheld game if it’s worth it. I don’t think many 3DS titles (usually they’re ports, shovelware, or really low budget games) are worth it. It annoys me when cheap downloadable titles on Steam, PSN, and XBLA look better, play better, and are deeper than many titles on handhelds that I’m expected to pay $40 for.

  • 3DS games are only 5 dollars more than DS games here in the state? Compared that to the 10 for a HD game compared to a Wii/PS2 game. People are willing to pay the price when the product is worth it. At this point there are very 3DS titles that are worth it. Then the ones that are are ports of game people already have. Or in genres with the smallest user base like fighters.

  • Woah Namco’s pricing is nuts.
    Well, not that much when considering what SpaceDrake posted, but a huge lot compared to other games.

  • Guest

    Uh oh.  There’s an animal in twouble…

  • The one who should be to blame for prices is Nintendo. Releasing modified ports of olden games for the same cost as original made for 3DS titles, in the states, is simply outrageous. 39.99 for Ocarina of Time and let us not mention Nintendo’s reluctance to put their games on markdown…look at some of those Wii games still. 49.99…

    • Pricing is hard to judge really.  Some would argue that OoT 3DS holds its value more than the original stuff.

      In any case, yeah the remasters and “straight” ports on 3DS should be 10$ cheaper.
      Down the line Nintendo should also consider making Players Choice return so people don’t have to pay regular price for launch 1st party anymore.

      • They took Player’s Choice away because people were buying Wii games by the millions at full price.  Why bother telling people you’re reprinting when you can sell it full price in multiple prints.  Smart business move to do away with it during a successful era in their games, but they do need to bring it out now that they have 2 systems that are ice cold. 

        Though that price cut can greatly change the perceptions in either direction.

    • aoihana

      I don’t mind paying full price for good ports of games. I don’t have a 3DS yet so I can’t say first hand, but Ocarina of Time looks great. Though, I know where you’re coming from. I also agree that Nintendo, specifically in Japan, should REALLY mark down their games more often. Mario Kart Wii is still 5,800 yen[~$74] in Japan. Come on, Nintendo!

    • MrRobbyM

      I couldn’t believe when DS games were 30 dollars at launch. For a portable game with a very dated graphics, it shouldn’t have cost a penny more than 25 bucks. 3DS games are about 10 dollars too much for what they are, really. Console games are too expensive too and should also be about 10 dollars less with smaller games being even less than that. I say the prices of games these days only encourage piracy.

    • Suicunesol

      This is common business practice. You don’t lower the price of a product until it stops selling. It doesn’t matter how dated the product is. It if continues to sell at 49.99, you’d be a fool to rob yourself by lowering the price.

  • aoihana

    For a second I thought they were increasing prices. I was about to go nuts. But to be honest, I think the pricing on the games isn’t that bad[in the states]. I guess it would be nicer if they were $29.99 but I think that’s pushing it. Though, when you think about it, PS Vita games will launch at $39.99 which is what a 3DS game retails for. Kind of ridiculous we’re paying so much for a 3DS game when you put that into perspective.

    I do agree that prices in Japan are too inconsistent and in a lot of games, too high. I think Nintendo should work with publishers on establishing a baseline for 3DS games. Similar to how Sony does with PS3 games[at least in the states].

    • “I do agree that prices in Japan are too inconsistent and in a lot of games, too high. I think Nintendo should work with publishers on establishing a baseline for 3DS games. Similar to how Sony does with PS3 games[at least in the states].”

      I always felt this way, too. The plastic it takes to make a cartridge and the type of CD (usually) cost the same IIRC. Manuals, casing and all that is pretty cheap. I know that Japan is HUUUUGE with bonus stuff like figurines, cases and OSTs but the price increase is crazy in comparison to how it is here.

      • punkchobit

        Carts also have circuitry in them, which costs a lot more than plastic. The connector pins are usually gold

  • The problem isn’t that they slashed the price is that they overpriced their system!

    • The PSP cost the same when it released, and it still held up.

  • SetzerGabbiani

    Somehow, Nintendo is going to pass the cost of their lost revenue from the 3DS onto the consumer.  I just haven’t figured out how they’re going to do it yet; probably DLC.  Still digging for that info.

  • XypherCode

    “One example of a publisher releasing more expensive titles is Namco Bandai. One Piece: Unlimited Cruise SP, Ridge Racer 3D and Tales of the Abyss all went on sale for 6,090 yen in Japan”

    they were high priced but still sold very well except of course for Ridge Racer :D 

  • FreebieExpert

    It may be that with everyone’s pockets getting tighter and Christmas shopping period only a few months away they will need to slash the price of the 3DS and some of its games just to get it moving for Christmas!

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