Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
18 February 2009
Either disappointment or glorious success (Nintendo DSi)
So the Nintendo DSi is coming out on 5 April 2009 in the U.S. at a price of $170. (Announcement and demo video at Wired, among others.)

Either this is going to blow up in Nintendo's face or they'll come out looking even more invincible.

For a while now Sony's been selling the PlayStation Portable (PSP) for $170 by itself or $200 bundled. According to data provided to me by NPD, and some figuring done on my own through other sources, the average for PSP sales has been $190 or higher. Significantly fewer people buy the core system and many are willing to jump up $30 for a bundle.

All the while the Nintendo DS has been $130. Each month Nintendo DS sales are at least twice the monthly PSP sales. It's not that the PSP sells poorly -- it actually does pretty well -- but the Nintendo DS is in much higher demand. Yet, in January 2009, sales for the PSP were off significantly.

I don't want to read too much into a single data point, but I think it's possible that Americans (increasingly pessimistic about the economy and the future) are finally reaching the point where a slick $200 handheld system isn't feasible. Even worse, they may be saying a $170 handheld isn't worthwhile.

And that's where I'm worried that Nintendo's DSi won't catch on. The upgrades here are the SD card slot, downloadable software, and two cameras. (The GBA slot is gone, but my anecdotal experience leads me to believe no one will notice.) I believe (although I don't know for sure) that it will also play more nicely with modern wireless access points. (Goodbye WEP, I hope.)

But like the PS3, the DSi is making a proposition based on logic that the consumer won't buy. The PS3 is a great media center, hi-def player, and game system. It also is a decent way to browse the web in the living room. But it's also $400.

The DSi is 95% of the Nintendo DS, with added features -- cameras, downloadable software, and a card slot -- that bump the cost up to $170. To paraphrase a line from an article I once wrote: A consumer who can't afford a $170 handheld still won't be able to afford it just because it has two cameras and new software capabilities.

All that said, I'm terrible with predictions. That's essentially why I write about the sales figures after they come out instead of trying to predict them. And, it should be noted, the Nintendo DS launched at a higher price and eventually dropped to its current $130 level. That may well happen with the DSi, and at that point at least it should return to crazy-wild sales levels.

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--Matt Matthews at 09:14
Comment [ 5 ]

Comments on this post:

I wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo saw a drop in sales, but I think they'll be OK in the long haul. It's still the DS, still Nintendo and will still be in high demand.

That said, I don't think it will be the same success as DS Lite. Fewere gamers will care enough to replace their lites and they did they DS originals, the higher price point will make it a harder sell for soccer moms as well.

I may actually be in line for one, though. I still have the original DS and it is a bit bulky and I don't really use the GBA slot much anymore.

By Blogger Josh, at 18 February, 2009 11:22  

I think there's room for a middle option in your either-or, which is that the DS remains largely where it now is.

The cheaper $129 DS's will still be around, especially in the U.S., for some time, giving users who can't afford $170 to get the cheaper version.

I think the DSi is comparable to the latest PSP rev--nice but hardly a compelling buy, especially for current owners.

The only thing that might convince me to upgrade from my Lite to DSi is how well DSiWare becomes. If they start offering titles of the same quality as, say, Lost Winds and World of Goo for Wiiware, I'm tempted.

By Blogger guttertalk, at 18 February, 2009 15:10  

I think guttertalk's on the money here -- It's not like Nintendo is losing the $130 DS, right? This is certainly the way to ensure that you milk as much money as possible out of your market.

(The GBA slot is gone, but my anecdotal experience leads me to believe no one will notice.)

We just added a DS to the stable, and so you've once again labeled me as an alternative gamer. I love the DS's backlight (the battery hungry Gamester Flood a distant second). ;^) Unlocked Dr. Wario [sic] on Wario Ware a month or so ago.

And that's where I'm worried that Nintendo's DSi won't catch on.

Fanboy. ("worried") (I kid hasselhoff, I kid.)

By Blogger ruffin, at 19 February, 2009 08:08  

At this point even when Nintendo does something wrong people praise it and throw money.

I have no doubt that all the people whining that PSP Core costs $169.95 will say DSi is "easily affordable" and "worth it".

This will sell to all the people who bought a DS fat, a DS slim, a DS Slim Red, and now REALLY need a DSi.

PSP cost too much but $450 to $500 worth of DS systems really seemed to make perfect sense to buy.

By Blogger Lincoln, at 19 February, 2009 16:33  

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