Iwata: 3DS struggling outside of Japan

Nintendo commits to boosting the system's range of software in 2013

While 3DS hardware sales continue to track ahead of those of its predecessor at a similar point in its lifetime, Nintendo says the almost two-year-old platform is struggling to achieve the desired impact outside of its home nation of Japan, largely due to a lack of hit games.


Yesterday Nintendo lowered its full-year 3DS sales guidance from 17.5 million units to 15 million based on the portable's weaker-than-expected performance in Europe and the US.

And president Satoru Iwata has now outlined the firm's intention to boost the range of first and third-party software available for the system in a bid to combat the lack of penetration in western markets and transform 3DS from a "device just to play the Mario series [on]".

He told investors: "In the Japanese market the Nintendo 3DS platform is already established as the market leader. On the other hand, however, we could not launch hit titles which could lead the markets towards the end of the year abroad and sales are largely behind our target overseas.

"One explanation for not creating enough momentum in the overseas markets is that we have so far been unable to release hit titles other than the three Mario titles. In the domestic market, Animal Crossing: New Leaf became the great hit that it did, and software publishers have also enjoyed hit titles, meaning that we have a wide range of software to choose from, but in the overseas markets, Nintendo 3DS has not yet solved its chicken-and-egg problem as a platform.

"To put it another way, we do not yet have a virtuous cycle where hardware sales and software sales drive one another. Because of this, our lineup lacks diversity, and as a result, Nintendo 3DS does not have as wide and diverse an appeal as Nintendo DS. As a consequence, software sales, which should ideally grow in proportion to hardware sales, did not grow as expected.

"To export the momentum to the overseas markets, we plan to actively release our key titles for Nintendo 3DS which could potentially lead the markets this year. Pokémon X/Pokémon Y, to be launched in October worldwide, could be the most-anticipated one and "Animal Crossing: New Leaf," released in Japan last year, will be available in the first half of this year."

Other 3DS games set for release in the first six months of 2013 include Fire Emblem Awakening, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Dr Kawashima's Devilish Brain Training and Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins.

"For the overseas 3DS markets, this year will be a good harvest time of what we have developed for these two years," Iwata said. "We plan to intensively and actively sell approximately ten key titles on our own in order to change the Nintendo 3DS system from a handheld device just to play the Mario series to the one to enjoy a variety of games."

While Iwata feels many western third-party studios are focused on making games for home consoles, he said "Japanese software developers are eagerly assigning their top teams to develop key titles for Nintendo 3DS. We therefore plan to more actively support the Japanese software developers in distributing their key titles overseas this year. We are also willing to flexibly assist third-party developers in distributing their valuable games overseas."

During the same investor briefing, Iwata flatly ruled out the possibility of a Wii U price cut despite lower-than-expected sales of the new console.