These are desperate times for Nintendo, and so the game-system juggernaut will take a couple of desperate measures to get its hardware into more hands.
The more surprising move is the announcement of a Nintendo 2DS. Priced at $130 and launching on October 12, the handheld system is $40 cheaper than the Nintendo 3DS, and it plays all the same games. But as the name implies, it doesn't have a 3D screen, nor does it have the clamshell design found on other DS handhelds.
The design of the 2DS is definitely weird--the tapering thickness almost gives it the appearance of a doorstop--but the lack of a hinge should keep kids from snapping the hardware in half, and the lower price makes it a more attractive buy for parents.
Nintendo's 3DS has fared better than the Wii U, but worldwide 3DS sales declined 25 percent year-over-year last quarter--not good for a system that's only a couple years old. Nintendo has felt the squeeze from phones and tablets, as more money is now being spent on iOS and Android games than on dedicated gaming handhelds.
In a somewhat predictable move, Nintendo will drop the price of its "Deluxe" Wii U console from $350 to $300, effective September 20. The Deluxe package includes 32GB of storage, a copy of Nintendo Land, a console stand, a GamePad stand and a GamePad charging cradle.
It's unclear what will become of the $300 "Basic" Wii U model, which only included 8GB of storage and none of the extras listed above. Nintendo may silently kill off this model, given that most retailers stopped selling it months ago. (Nintendo had previously insisted that the Basic model hadn't been discontinued.)
The Wii U price cut certainly looks like a response to upcoming consoles from Sony and Microsoft. Sony's PlayStation 4will cost $400 when it arrives on November 15, and Microsoft's Xbox One will cost $500 when it launches in November.
Although exact pre-order numbers aren't known, Sony says that more than 1 million people havepre-ordered the PS4, and GameStop says pre-orders of both consoles have been "much stronger" than the previous generation. Nintendo, meanwhile, has sold 3.61 million Wii U systems worldwide since its November launch.
While Nintendo has long argued that its own software and hit franchises will help sell the hardware, it never hurts to have lower prices along with it. A cheaper Wii U and DS handheld could help give Nintendo a boost as it heads into a fiercely competitive holiday season.
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