From feast to famine and back to feast again, Nintendo's 3DS is back in the black—not that it was ever really in the red. No one knew if slashing the 3DS's price would arrest its sharp sales decline since launching with big sales figures to tepid reviews back in March. But now we know: Knock $80 off your sale price, and they'll come in droves.
The 3DS debuted for $250, but now sells for just $170. That's the most dramatic price drop on a brand new system in short order—not six months after it hits shelves—in recent memory. Did the Virtual Boy's price plummet as fast? My memory's hazy (not that I'm really comparing the two).
Nintendo says it sold 235,000 units total in August, and 185,000 of those in the 19-day period (from August 12th to August 31st) following the price cut. That, says Nintendo, is where you get the 260% month-over-month sales increase (for the comparable 19-day period in July). While the 3DS still placed second to Microsoft's Xbox 360 in August unit sales, Nintendo adds that it sold 590,000 total hardware units, counting the Wii (190,000 ) and non-3D DS (165,000). Not bad. It's like Sony beating Microsoft in overall PlayStation brand sales (PS3, PS2, PSP) years ago, when such feats were still possible.
Sidebar: In our un-scientific online poll, late July, 53% of 1,081 users said they planned to buy a 3DS after the price drop, while the remaining 47% said nope, no way, no how.
Nintendo claims kingship of the software charts, too, noting that it holds "the majority of the best-selling software SKUs," holding five of the top 10, and 15 of the top 20 spots.
Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America vice president of Sales & Marketing says everything's coming up roses for the system, and claims that "[with] Star Fox 64 3D and the new Flame Red color launching tomorrow, and Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 arriving later this year, Nintendo 3DS will offer consumers cutting-edge entertainment and tremendous value this holiday season."
We'll see. You always witness a sales boost when a system price drops (to say nothing of the vein-opening that's taken place here). But stepping back for a second, 235,000 units is actually kind of underwhelming, considering the DS sold 553,000 units in August 2009, and an incredible 3.31 million units a few months later that year in December. This isn't "incredible, indefatigable DS" territory, not by a longshot. The real tell's going to be how this thing sells over the next two months, before the holiday window opens up.
It'll come down to the two most obvious factors: pricing and software. Nintendo's probably got the pricing right, but the 3DS's software lineup's been hit and miss (okay, mostly miss). I'm betting most are buying it for two reasons: curiosity, and to fool with the (granted first-rate) Zelda remake.
Question is, will Star Fox 3D, Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, and—if it makes this side of 2012—Kid Icarus: Uprising be enough to keep the lead out?