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Iwata aims to adapt Nintendo 3DS sales pitch

The Nintendo chief says his company must do a better job of explaining to consumers why they should want to get their hands on the portable-gaming device.

Will you be buying the 3DS?
Will you be buying the 3DS? Nintendo

After selling 3.61 million 3DS units rather than the 4 million units it hoped to sell by the end of its fiscal year, Nintendo is going back to the drawing board on its message to consumers.

Speaking during his company's fiscal 2011 financial results briefing yesterday, Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata said that "analysis of the situation after the launch [of the 3DS]" has revealed that the company needs to "do a lot more to convey the value" of its portable to customers.

"The value of 3D images without the need for special glasses is hard to be understood through the existing media," Iwata said. "However, we have found that people cannot feel it just by trying out a device, rather, some might even misestimate it when experiencing the images in an improper fashion. This makes it more important to give people more opportunities for appropriate experiences of glassless 3D images."

Prior to the launch of the 3DS in the U.S. last month, Nintendo launched a demo tour in major cities across the country, giving consumers the chance to try out the device. The company set up Demo Pods for people to play games, and supplemented them with Demo Squads of people that were there to answer questions on how the device worked.

Trying to convey how the 3DS works even in-person can be difficult. Unlike the vast majority of 3D experiences consumers have, the 3DS allows users to play 3D titles without the need for special glasses. In order to get the full effect of the 3DS, folks must be holding the device at the right angle, which could turn away those who don't do so.

But Iwata said that the issues go beyond the viewing angle. He also pointed out that the viewing of 3D images is "highly individual," which is why the device features a 3D Depth Slider. However, communicating that to users through simple marketing means can be difficult.

Even so, Iwata says Nintendo's research has found that "many people feel that they 'want' and 'want to buy' Nintendo 3DS." He went on to tell investors that demand for the 3DS is higher than that for previous platforms. That said, the same research also found that "not that many people believe 'now is the time to buy it,'" and he acknowledged that overcoming that hurdle is integral to the device's success going forward.

To help promote the 3DS more effectively, Iwata said his company is planning on delivering a "3D video distribution service" to bring "nonactive" users into the mix of using the 3DS. He also plans to improve the device's network services at the end of next month, including offering a free download of ExciteBike for a limited period of time. Finally, Iwata wants to make consumers aware of all the worthwhile gaming opportunities available to them in the coming months, including Dead or Alive Dimensions and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.

With all those plans in place, Iwata knows that convincing consumers to buy the 3DS over the many other portable devices at their disposal, including the PSP and smartphones that are becoming increasingly popular for gaming, will be difficult.

"There is no easy road to making people understand the attraction of glassless 3D images and making Nintendo 3DS widespread," Iwata said.