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3DS owners not totally out of luck, thanks to Nintendo 'Ambassador program'

Any 3DS that connects to the Nintendo eShop before August 12 will get 20 free NES and Game Boy Advance Virtual Console games.

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Jeff Bakalar
3 min read

A bumpy start out of the gate has forced Nintendo to drop the price of the 3DS 32 percent, down to $170 from $250

beginning on August 12. A weak launch lineup, failure to deliver a robust online marketplace on time, a finicky 3D experience, and an overall dearth of compelling software are to blame for disappointing sales.

And what if you were one of the early adopters who paid full price for a 3DS? Fortunately, all is not lost. In an attempt to make good for those loyal few, Nintendo has introduced what the company is calling the "Ambassador program."

Any 3DS unit that connects to the Nintendo eShop before 11:59 p.m. ET on August 11 is automatically registered to receive 20 free titles from the online store. Ten free NES titles, including Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Jr., Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, and The Legend of Zelda will be released on September 1, and 10 Game Boy Advance games, including Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame, and Mario vs. Donkey Kong will be released before the end of the year.

It seems Nintendo is using this price drop and Ambassador program as an opportunity to unveil titles from consoles never offered before. Both the NES and Game Boy Advance will make their portable Virtual Console debuts--something we at CNET have been suggesting for literally years.

While it seems Nintendo is finally ready to tap the virtually endless revenue stream that is the Nintendo vault of titles, an odd note in the press release sent out today leaves us scratching our heads once again.

In what can only be described as an attempt to squeeze out a few more full-priced 3DSes before the August 12 slash date, the company claims that it has no plans of selling the 10 Game Boy Advance games to the public once the Ambassador deal has expired. "These games will be available exclusively to Ambassadors, and Nintendo currently has no plans to make these 10 games available to the general public on the Nintendo 3DS in the future." On the other hand, the 10 NES titles will be free for Ambassadors, but they will also be available for sale to 3DS customers who cash in on the price drop.

It'll be interesting to gauge the initial consumer response to this proposition that Nintendo is proposing. Does this Ambassador program seem worth the extra $80? Or is the new $170 price tag a much more attractive offer?

One thing is for sure; as we've said in the past, games sell consoles. With the 3DS not yet being able to hit its software stride, a drastic price drop isn't necessarily what the portable device needs. Sure, this fall will see the next Mario Kart, Super Mario, and Starfox games, but to say these predictable titles are enough to keep the 3DS afloat is questionable.

Last month we asked "Is the 3DS in trouble?" With the PlayStation Vita ready to launch this holiday season at $250 for the Wi-Fi-only version, it's clear Nintendo is making the most of its first-to-market positioning. Whether the new price will affect sales of the Vita is certainly now the talk of the portable gaming world.