This week we've celebrated one year of the 3DS eShop, with our own top ten eShop games and a retrospective on a year of the platform. To round off the week a few members of the team discuss the eShop's first year and consider the positives so far, and where it can improve.
Joining features editor Thomas Whitehead are downloads editor Corbie Dillard, along with U.S. reviewers/contributors Christopher Ingram and Ron DelVillano.
Thomas Whitehead: First up, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Corbie Dillard: I'm Corbie Dillard, aka the Corbster, downloads editor for Nintendo Life.
Christopher Ingram: What’s up guys? I’m Chris and I’m one of the U.S. reviewers here at Nintendo Life and over at Push Square.
Ron DelVillano: My name is Ron, and I’m a reviewer here at Nintendo Life.
Thomas: With the 3DS eShop turning one year old, let's go back to the very start. How big a deal was it that the store wasn't there on day one when 3DS was launched?
Chris: Wow, it’s really been that long already! 3DS did get off to a rough start and I do think that eShop would’ve helped out a bit at launch, but then again, eShop lacked a multitude of original titles when it released, so maybe it was better off that it didn’t.
Ron: I think that if the physical launch lineup was stronger, then the lack of eShop wouldn’t have been that bad. As it stands, it was a real disappointment when there weren’t downloadable games to flesh out the library right off the bat.
Corbie: I think it hurt a bit, especially as the launch titles were such a mixed bag. But you couldn't help but feel that Nintendo had really rushed the system out to retail, so it came as no real surprise when the eShop wasn't ready to go out of the gate.
Thomas: When it did arrive, what was your first impression when you updated the system and fired it up for the first time?
Corbie: I was very excited. I've always loved the Nintendo download services and the prospect of getting some good old original Game Boy games and a mix of new stuff was very exciting for me, personally.
Chris: I was impressed. It worked without lag and had a nice visual flair to it. It has old-school games – what’s not to like?
Ron: I was pretty indifferent. It was there, but the amount and variety of games wasn’t overly extravagant.
Thomas: I actually thought it was quite 'swish' by Nintendo standards, though I was disappointed that it was one long row of icons, despite that.
Corbie: Yeah Nintendo has never been known for having a very "user friendly" interface when it comes to its download services. And the lack of demos for most games is another thing I've always not liked about its services. That being said, with the lull in game releases after launch, it was nice to have at least some game releases still rolling out on the eShop. And truth be told, there were some really great eShop releases early on.
Thomas: Let's talk about the early days. Would you agree that it was a case of having some fun Virtual Console games but not much in terms of new software in the first couple of months? Was that even an issue?
Ron: Absolutely. And as much as I love the classics, I like to see new downloadable games rather than the same old stuff.
Chris: Yeah, I think that's an accurate perception, but on the same token, it takes time to develop games and I’d rather wait a while for a better game than pay for something that’s halfway finished for the sake of having something to play.
Corbie: I’d agree, and the lack of new software was expected for my part. Having talked to so many eShop developers in the months leading up to the launch of the eShop, I knew it would be few and far between early on for original eShop releases. But thankfully there were a few really outstanding titles not far down the line that spiced things up quite nicely.
Thomas: Was eShop early, then, in terms of producing varied content? Had there been a lack of access to kits for developers?
Corbie: I'm not sure if it was that, or the fact that many of these games just took a bit longer to get completed and approved. It seemed to be a different reason for every developer at that time. I know many of them had kits for some time before the eShop launched, but given how rushed to retail the 3DS was, perhaps they just didn't have enough time to get it all done.
Thomas: Before we progress to the growth of the 3DS software library, let's touch on pricing. As always, some felt that some titles were over-priced. Where do you stand on that?
What so many people don't understand is that it costs many thousands of dollars to pay programmers, artists, sound engineers, level designers, and other staff members to create these games.
Corbie: A lot of that falls on the smartphone gaming market for somewhat de-valuing these games. What so many people don't understand is that it costs many thousands of dollars to pay programmers, artists, sound engineers, level designers, and other staff members to create these games. So you can't afford not to charge enough to cover these costs and you still need to make some profit if you hope to continue making games for these systems and services. So I think the prices we've seen are generally fair. I don't mind contributing money to an industry I love and that's how I look at it when I purchase these download titles.
Chris: I agree with Corbie, it cost a lot of money to develop games and I have no qualms with paying for the games I desire to play. I want developers to make money off their games so they can make more of them for me to enjoy in the future.
Ron: I think the prices have been pretty fair so far. I’m always down for paying less money on a game, but I don’t think that the asking prices have been too outlandish.
Thomas: I definitely agree that developers should charge sensible prices, rather than racing to the bottom. Some did argue about pricing of Virtual Console Game Boy games though, is that any different?
Corbie: Well that is a different story. I think you have to try to find a nice balance with those older retro titles and price them according to the amount of content you're getting. So far I haven't been too surprised at the prices of the older Game Boy titles, but there have been a couple that might have been a bit over-priced for what they offer.
Chris: Yeah, I have to say: I think the VC Game Boy games are a bit overpriced. Not by much, but a dollar or two shaved off the prices of them would guarantee I’d quickly fill up multiple memory cards.
Ron: Even with VC, I think the prices have been fair. I mean, if the game is short or very limited on content, then sure, it should be a little less expensive, but I think it’s been mostly fair.
Thomas: Moving on to the games library now, it seemed to start picking up steam in the fall period, with Nintendo contributing key titles of its own. In terms of new software, do you think there was a turning point for the platform?
Chris: Yeah, I definitely do. While this might be true for every platform, but once a few “must have” titles like, Pushmo and Might Switch Force landed on eShop, I found myself anxiously anticipating each week's update. With indie greats like VVVVVV and Mutant Mudds now on the platform too, if you’ve not checked out eShop and you’re a 3DS owner, you’re truly missing out.
Ron: As far as turning points go, I think it was really just when Nintendo started putting out its own games to download that weren’t VC games. It’s a sign of good faith for the eShop service.
Corbie: I think Mutant Mudds and Mighty Switch Force was the point where the eShop started really getting some high quality titles. We got to see some nice polish and impressive 3D depth, two things most 3DS owners were really looking for. But if there was one title that probably kicked things into high gear, it would have to be Pushmo/Pullblox. That was really the first game that seemed to get everyone excited, not just a selective group. And it was a very widely appealing type of game that offered an almost limitless amount of replay ability. Lots of bang for your buck, so to speak.
Thomas: It was Zen Pinball for me personally, but that was Europe only and not a huge seller. In terms of Pushmo, Nintendo even went so far as to mention that game, and eShop, in TV ads and marketing. Was that a surprising move, and a sign of Nintendo putting more into digital gaming?
Ron: I really hope so. It couldn’t hurt to push the downloads a little harder. There are some good games on the eShop, but I don’t think people really know about them.
Chris: I think it was needed. The Wii sold an outstanding number of units, but so few of them were connected to the internet and WiiWare suffered for it. Pushmo is an incredible title and it was the perfect starting point to really start pushing their new digital storefront. Good job Nintendo!
Corbie: I was thrilled when Nintendo finally put a little marketing muscle into an eShop title and that's something it needs to continue doing. It still shocks me just how many 3DS owners don't even know the eShop exists and that needs to change if Nintendo wants the service to have the type of success to bring more developers into the fold. The sales numbers for eShop titles, even really successful ones, still isn't anywhere near where it could be.
Thomas: The connection rate in North America, I believe, is 70%. Higher than Wii and DS, but still surprising that there are potentially millions of consoles that aren't online, ever.
Corbie: It is, and little things, just like Nintendo popping something into a TV spot or a magazine, can pay HUGE dividends in getting more 3DS owners connected and online with the systems. I think the push they're making with Wii U connectivity is yet another step in the right direction.
On page two we talk about the arrival of retail demos, discuss the biggest mis-steps and successes of the platform in its first year, and don our reviewer hats to give the eShop a year one score.