Nintendo slashes 3DS price to $169.99

Company will cut the price of its 3DS portable in the U.S., starting August 12. Nintendo is lowering the price of its handheld game device in other markets too.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read
The Nintendo 3DS is getting a price cut.
The Nintendo 3DS is getting a price cut. Nintendo

Nintendo is cutting the price of the 3DS after disappointing worldwide sales.

According to the company, U.S. customers will find the handheld game device on store shelves for $169.99 as of August 12. That's down 32 percent from its initial selling price of $249.99.

In Japan, customers will be able to buy the 3DS for 15,000 yen ($190), discounted from its initial price of 25,000 yen ($317).

Nintendo described the decision as a way to "create momentum for Nintendo 3DS and accelerate its market penetration toward the year-end sales season, when the lineup for the applicable software shall be enriched."

Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime was a bit more upbeat about the news, saying in a statement that the price cut is "huge motivation" for "anyone who was on the fence about buying a 3DS."

Related links
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Nintendo has been having trouble selling the 3DS since it launched in February. During the company's first fiscal quarter that ended June 30, Nintendo sold just 710,000 3DS units worldwide. In the U.S., its sales figures during the period hit just 110,000 units.

This isn't the first time that 3DS sales have disappointed. Nintendo said earlier this year that it expected to sell 4 million 3DS units before its fiscal year ended on March 31. However, the company reported in April that it sold 3.61 million 3DS units during the period, prompting Nintendo Chief Satoru Iwata to acknowledge that his company needs to "do a lot more to convey the value" of the portable to consumers.

The basic functionality of the 3DS makes that tricky. The device is unlike any other portable-gaming device on the market because it allows gamers to play titles in 3D without the need for special glasses. To get the full 3D effect, though, the device needs to be angled correctly toward the player and the depth of the 3D images needs to match the user's preference. Those two elements have made the 3DS a tough sell, Iwata acknowledged in April.

"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 mis-estimate 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."

Despite the seemingly disappointing sales figures, Iwata said at the time that demand for the 3DS was higher than for previous portable devices from Nintendo but that his company was having a hard time making people "believe 'now is the time to buy it.'"

With this price cut, Nintendo apparently believes that it can bring more gamers into the 3D fold. But the fact that Nintendo's portable didn't sell well at the $249.99 price point might take some by surprise. In January, for instance, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter told IndustryGamers in an interview that not only was the 3DS priced affordably but that Nintendo was actually pricing it too low.

"It's going to sell out and they're leaving money on the table," Pachter told IndustryGamers. "It's not shareholder friendly, but consumers are going to love the $249 price point."

Pachter added that the 3DS would look like a "bargain" and could have been priced at $300 or more.

But Nintendo isn't focusing only on its pricing to make the sales pitch to customers. The company also said today that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D has proven popular among 3DS owners and that the company hopes to build upon that success with the launch of Star Fox 64 3D on September 9 and Super Mario 3D Land in November. Nintendo plans to release Mario Kart 7 and Kid Icarus: Uprising in time for the holiday-shopping season.

Nintendo is hoping that those efforts will at least help to jump-start its ailing financial picture. In its fiscal first quarter that ended June 30, the game company generated revenue of $1.2 billion, down over 50 percent compared with the same period last year. Even worse, it posted a loss of about $328.3 million on the quarter.

Updated at 4:49 a.m. PT to include background details.