Nintendo fails to inspire consumer interest in 3D

Nintendo’s recent financial results were poor. There are a number of factors contributing to this decline, but chief among them is a failure to convince consumers its dedicated gaming products offer anything beyond the wealth of casual experiences available on multi-purpose platforms such as iOS and Android.

The 3DS, the first handheld gaming console with a glassless 3D display, is a key part of Nintendo’s strategy to win customers. We used 3DS to provoke new ideas in our MEX Pathway #4 sessions on enriching the user experience with visual depth in both December 2010 and May 2011. Users responded well to the playful Nintendo interface and the unique sense of fun the Japanese maker is so good at creating. The 3D capabilities also generated an initial excitement, but that soon waned as it became apparent it was limited primarily to adding depth to the graphics and lacked a connection to 3D input capabilities. One of the major conclusions of MEX Pathway #4 has been an understanding that 3D must be a complete experience, with 3D input mechanisms married to the 3D display.

Another factor contributing to Nintendo’s poor 3DS sales is the marketing. Watch out for the TV advertisements currently showing in the UK: they focus primarily on technology jargon and do little to convey the special features of the 3DS or inspire users to imagine the playful nature of the gaming. 3D is by its nature difficult to convey in a 2D medium, but Nintendo’s UK TV advertisements are particularly poor, especially measured against their previous successes with marketing the Wii to entirely new customer segments.

In the first month after launch Nintendo sold 3.6m 3DS. However, in the 3 months from April to June 2011, it sold just 710,000.

The company is cutting the price of the 3DS to boost sales, but I would also strongly suggest re-focusing the marketing budget on face-to-face customer engagement and boosting advocacy among existing users. The 3D user experience has enormous potential, but it needs to be seen to be understood.

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