The First Year: Nintendo 3DS versus current-gen consoles

March 27, 2012 marks the one year anniversary of the Nintendo 3DS’s US launch. After its rough launch lineup, many doomed it to failure after only a few months of being on shelves. Holiday 2011 changed that, however, as a price-drop, combined with some insanely strong releases, caused sales to soar.

Since 2012 hit, the offerings have been slim, with only Resident Evil Revelations and Kid Icarus: Uprising raking in stronger scores. But does that mean that Nintendo just had one strong push in Holiday 2011 before fading into the shadow of the PlayStation Vita, or is this just a case of the first year growing pains associated with any new platform? Check out how the 3DS’s first year stacked up against the first years of the three home consoles of this generation and decide for yourself.

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Nintendo 3DS: The First Year

Even though the 3DS got off to a slow start with launch games like Steel Diver disappointing, it did have a few launch window titles worthy of note. Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition was a stellar addition to any fighting fan’s library and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars proved to be a fun strategy-based experience. But, of course, the real draw for family-oriented gamers was Nintendogs + Cats. Dead or Alive: Dimensions did an outstanding job of providing a console-like experience in the palm of the player’s hands, but the thing that drove fans crazy was the noticeable lack of the major first-party icons that Nintendo is known for.

While the 3DS was slow to gather momentum, Nintendo had one major trick up its sleeve: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. What better way to boost sales and customer satisfaction than with an upgraded re-release of one of the most celebrated titles in video game history? That trend continued with another cherished Nintendo 64 re-release in Star Fox 64 3D. Of course, right around this time, Nintendo announced the 3DS Ambassador Program that gave early adopters of the handheld 20 free retro games to download onto their devices, as well as the price drop that fueled late 2011 sales.

Shin Megamei Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, Bit.Trip Saga, and Cave Story 3D didn’t post the huge sales that Mario and Zelda games do, but they were all strong additions to the ever-growing library of the 3DS. The real heavy hitters came out during the holiday season with Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. Nintendo was unable to carry that momentum into the new year, but the beginning of 2012 did see the release of Resident Evil: Revelations and Kid Icarus: Uprising, as well as a 3D remake of Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater.

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Xbox 360: The First Year

Microsoft got the jump on the other consoles by announcing an unexpectedly early release date for the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, rushing into production had negative effects, which are still felt today. With a weaker than expected launch lineup, as well as several hardware-related issues (particularly the Red Rings of Death plague), it’s hard to argue that the first year of the Xbox 360 was stellar. It did, however, prove financially successful; something that comes with being the first console in the new generation.

The launch lineup wasn’t great, but with games like Project Gotham Racing 3, Call of Duty 2, Kameo: Elements of Power, and Condemned: Criminal Origins, there were solid titles to choose from. The console’s launch wasn’t aided, however, by disappointing releases like Quake 4 and Perfect Dark Zero, which looked to be the most anticipated launch titles prior to release.

Shortly after Holiday 2005, Xbox 360 picked up steam, as fans saw the releases of Dead or Alive 4, the graphically impressive Fight Night Round 3, and the frantic Burnout Revenge. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter really got the ball rolling as the third person shooter catapulted forward to become the platform’s most critically lauded title to date. Later that month, however, Bethesda brought The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to the 360, setting the bar for all role-playing games at the time. Had it not been for the hardware issues caused by rushing into production, the rest of the year would have ensured the Xbox 360 had an excellent second half of their inaugural 12 months.

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PlayStation 3: The First Year

The PlayStation 3 launch situation was an odd one. As units flew off shelves, and prices skyrocketed on eBay, those that did manage to obtain one were greeted with a strong lineup of sports titles and first person shooters. On launch day, Sony introduced a new franchise in Resistance: Fall of Man, and released Call of Duty 3, successfully filling the first person shooter quota that seems to exist with console launches. With EA Sports bringing the latest iterations of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Madden NFL franchises, 2K Sports bringing new NBA 2K and NHL 2K games, and Activision contributing Tony Hawk Project 8, there was no shortage of titles to interest the mainstream male demographic.

The PS3 carried the momentum into the Holiday season with games like Virtua Fighter 5 and an updated version of Fight Night Round 3. Unfortunately, aside from a few racing or fighting games, Sony had little to offer the non-sports and FPS playing fan base. This was a common theme for the console, as new entries in the Tekken, NBA Street, and Virtua Tennis series released, sharply weighing down the genre distribution for the console.

Much like the Xbox 360, the title that finally brought some diversity to the PlayStation 3 was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Shortly following that release, fans saw Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent, The Darkness, and Ninja Gaiden Sigma. The continued success of the platform hinged on the success of titles like Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Warhawk, but the game that many people were excited for ended up being one of the biggest disappointments on any platform of this generation. Lair promised to give fans an immersive fantasy experience, but the game that was delivered featured abysmal controls, completely dashing away any potential the game had. Still, the PlayStation 3 had finally overcome its biggest obstacle: diversifying the games that it offered to players in its first year of life.

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Nintendo Wii: The First Year

From stores running out of stock to generational pioneering, the Nintendo Wii’s first year was as financially successful as a console’s launch could hope to be. Unfortunately for those hoping to get some hardcore gaming out of the new Nintendo console, the choices, even five years down the road, proved to be scarce, let alone during the launch period.

The launch titles were a sign of things to come as popular games from other systems were outfitted with downgraded graphics and shoehorned motion controls. Even the title that had so many people excited, Red Steel, ended up a monumental disappointment, leaving most motion control-lovers playing the packaged-in Wii Sports. Luckily, Nintendo had the presence of mind to bring Gamecube’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess to the Wii, giving owners something to sink a ridiculous amount of time into while they waited for more titles to be released.

With Wii Play failing to garner any kind of acclaim, and the Wii-exclusive Sonic and the Secret Rings flopping, the onslaught of shovelware and poorly-scoring releases was briefly broken up by the uniquely fun WarioWare: Smooth Moves. April’s Super Paper Mario broke the chain of mediocrity, but it was June’s Resident Evil 4 that gave the Wii its first third party success story. The concluding chapter of the Metroid Prime trilogy sent Nintendo into the final months of the Wii’s first year with momentum, but aside from a gimped version of fan favorite Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, the system offered nothing more to its dedicated gamers. Aside from the financial success, the first year of the Wii can be looked at in much the same way as the first year of the 3DS; a poor launch lineup, strong first party titles scattered, and a ton of games that fell short of expectations.

How do you see the 3DS’s first year stacking up to that of the three consoles of this generation?
About Brian Shea

Brian Shea is VGW's Editor-in-Chief and one of the founding members of the site. In addition to leading the team at VideoGameWriters.com, he contributes such regular features as “Shea’s Say,” "Eleven Things," "Commercials from the Past" and “Essential Gaming."
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