How The iPhone Spoiled The 3DS Launch

A precursor, if you will: I’m a huge fan of portable gaming. Whether by necessity or convenience, having the ability to game on the go has slowly taken over – for me at least – mainline TV console gaming.  It started to happen at some point last year, probably at the launch of the iPhone 4 (or thereabouts) and although touchscreen buttons and tilt control have been widely derided here and elsewhere, iOS has meant that – because I’ve always got my phone with me – I’ve always got games.  Lots of them.

So whilst people will happily slate Angry Birds, I’ll stand by it – it, and other games of the ilk (Cut the Rope, Tiny Wings) offer up quick fire gaming with no need to dig out disks or cartridges and, with the advent of Game Center, flawless, seemless multiplayer.  Inviting friends for a quick blast of Flight Control might not be terribly hip, but when I’m not ploughing through the latest PS3 game for review, a quick five minutes guiding Lemming-like aeroplanes around Australian suits me just fine, thankyouverymuch.

[drop]Enter, then, the 3DS.  A natural extension of my desire for on the move gaming, a solid portable backed up with the sorts of games only Nintendo fire out with any regular air of quality.

Although the manufacturer’s PR department would argue otherwise, the 3DS won’t live or die on its ability for GLASSES FREE 3D, or at least, it shouldn’t: the games speak for themselves, the updated fan favourites from Nintendo like Pilotwings and Nintendogs might be just that – updates – but they’re generally brilliant.

But, and here’s the rub, not every game available at the 3DS launch is published by Nintendo.  Indeed, most aren’t, and whilst it’s an encouraging array of third party games that form the bulk of the current shelf space – Ubisoft, SEGA, Activision, Konami – some of these games we’ve seen before.  On the iPhone.

Let’s take three: Asphalt 3D and Rayman 3D from Ubisoft, and SEGA’s Super Monkey Ball.  The latter’s a brand new game, sure, but it’s arguably a lesser game than the recent iPhone Super Monkey Ball 2 – less levels, less minigames; and Asphalt 3D might not be a terrible game (despite common internet opinion) but it’s little more than a ‘best of’ taking levels and cars from the likes of Asphalt 6 on iOS.  And Rayman 3D’s a port of Rayman 2, which, yes, is almost exactly the same as the one on the iPhone.  Seeing a pattern?

[drop2]This isn’t necessarily about the quality of these games, though – it’s about the price.  Even if you take the hugely discounted price of a game like Asphalt (which was £25 in GAME last weekend) it’s already massively more expensive than its iPhone version, which is just £2.99 at the time of writing this blog.  Rayman 2 was free at one point last year, and Super Monkey Ball 2 shouldn’t cost you more than 59p.  Which means that, whilst you might well be enjoying these games on the 3DS, are you really getting good value for money?

Sure, on the 3DS you’re getting real buttons, 3D, and it’s obvious that the two markets are completely different in terms of publisher costs, physical media prices and marketing, but for a consumer, the only thing that would matter to most is the bottom line.  And it’s this that meant my review of Super Monkey Ball 3D was marred by the knowledge that the game simply costs too much – not for what you’re getting (although that is true enough) but for what you could get on another platform, £25 would get you a heck of a lot on the App Store, probably most of the top 25.

So who’s at fault?  Not Nintendo – games have been this price for ages.  Apple?  They don’t set prices.  Really, the responsibility lies with us, the consumer.  We’ve shown that we’ll buy many more copies of a game at 59p than we will at £1.19, and as Apple take the same percentage regardless of the price it makes sense for publishers that these bargain bucket prices are attractive enough to be completely impulse buys – some, like EA even bang out their top tier games like Battlefield Bad Company 2 at 59p on day one.

Luckily, you can’t get Pilotwings on the iPhone.



  1. I personally think that the reason why the launch of the 3DS wasn’t successful, was because there weren’t any Nintendo made games. No Mario Kart, no Super Mario Bros etc. They’re what sell. Oh and Pokemon, Pokemon would have made them sell like hot cakes.

    • Your right those games are what sell , but also they are what stop me buying Nintendo systems – always the same old tat year after year , console after console . Not saying Sony are that much different but at least they put some of their franchises to bed (usually after about 3 or at most 4 iterations), Crash Bandicoot , Lara etc .

      • you do know that there was a new “Lara” game last year and another one coming right? And a new Crash game out on iOS every 6 months. Just saying.

      • Yeah but Crash died…. what have they done to him?! even Spyro how could they

    • That’s what it was,plus not many of the games they have sounded to exciting, sure some are in 3D but unless you think the game is going to be fun your not gonna buy it

  2. i must say iOS gaming can be great fun but will never overtake a dedicated gaming system like the 3ds. It really is something really to behold , when i played ridge racer on it it was like nothing i have played before you just dont get that on the iOS nothing special (apart from the occasional game Flight control etc.)

  3. Its an interesting opinion and its definately one Nintendo will have to address soon. I mean they’re stance on going for underpowered (in comparison to Sony) and gimmicky add ons is going to be a problem I think. As the iPhone and Android phones get more powerful, I reckon we will start to see comparisons being drawn between the two platforms, and due to the vastly cheaper price of the iPhone/Android, theres probably only one way its gonna go.

    And this is where I think Sony have made a smart move with NGP. By making it powerful enough to set itself apart from the iPhone market, they can offer products you simply wouldn’t get on the iPhone. They’ll have games like Uncharted and Killzone and no doubt other technical powerhouses that are exclusive to Sony AND are a totally different product to that of what you’d see on the iPhone. Hopefully its a move that will pay of them.

    If not, there’s the Playstation Suite…

  4. Blame everything on the iPhone.
    It’s not like it would have been a different phone, if not the iPhone.

    • What?

      Blame everything on the iPhone – if you’ve read the article you should know that the comparison is being made with the iPhone because a lot of these games are iOS. So it’s refering more to pricing of iOS games in general as opposed to simply iPhone games.

      It’s not like it would have been a different phone, if not the iPhone – again, what?

      Crackheads – Who?

  5. Simply Monkey Ball as been a average series to me and these Rayman 2 ports needs to stop. Maybe Ubisoft could’ve ported Rayman 3 but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a quick buck too.

    • stop with the rayman 2 ports and hurry along with rayman origins says this reader :) also on topic, i think that iOS/android will soon be taking the crown from nintendo, what with cheaper pricing and all. And if I’m honest, a lot of games like super monkey ball aren’t worth £25 in this day and age. sony really have the right idea with the NGP, shame they didn’t with the xperia play but here’s hoping!

      • Xperia wasn’t really Playstation though, couldn’t be arsed anyway to close to the 3DS and its been getting bad press

      • The problem with that is, that capable Smartphones cost alot of money. Not everyone in the Nintendo (3)DS demographic is likely to own a smartphone and not everyones parents is willing to dish out on an expensive contract.

  6. Great, interesting read. This is why I didn’t buy Rayman or Super Monkey Ball.
    Pilotwings is great and SFIV is much better than the iPhone version.

    • SSFIV 3D is, for the most part, the entire console version of Super Street Fighter IV. SFIV for the iPhone is a ridiculously gimped port of Street Fighter IV that doesn’t even have all the moves for the small roster of characters it does it.

  7. I can think of something else that might have influenced your switch to mobile gaming – the arrival of mini nofi perhaps? ;)

    To me, many ipod/iphone games are gimped by the need to have your fingers covering the screen, however certain games like Cut the Rope, sliding block games etc your finger only touches the screen to make a small gesture and i think it’s perfect for those games.
    I could probably go on more about the failings of ipod as a gaming device for me but i’ll spare you. :)
    Anyway, here’s what i’m getting at..
    Would you (or anyone) buy those cross-platform games for your ipod if they were priced the same as their DS/PSP counterparts, i.e. £25+ ?

    • Ooh, good question. No.

      • Defintely not and good question. However, now I have left the grasp of the Iphone and moved over to Xperia Play, I would consider paying a littler more than the average £2 – £4, as having a DPad makes all the difference.

  8. I think it’s a mix of the iPhone encroaching so heavily into the mobile gaming market coupled with a genuinely poor set of launch titles. Nearly everything appeared to be a re-hash. Also, the 3DS implies, itself, that it’s an “updated console” as oppose to a completely new name. How much of Joe Public thinks it’s just a DS with 3D? (eg. no more power under the hood, etc).

    • Sorry, Al, forgot to say. Very good article too.

  9. Played one at Gadget Show Live yesterday and me and my GF were suitably impressed. She LOVED the pet game and Ridge Racer was just epic. To get the full effect you have to find the right spot. The only way I can describe it is like trying too put a key in a yale lock with it tied to the end of a Snooker Cue. However, once you find that sweet spot its awesome.

    I couldnt play one for more then 20 mins at a time though as you cant really relax with it as one slight move and the screen is all over the haddock.

    Gadget Show was awesome!

    • You have just further convinced me not to get one ! More importantly did you manage to get a sly glimpse at Polyanna without your GF noticing !

Comments are now closed for this post.