We’ve been wondering when it would happen, and it’s finally come. Nintendo has bitten the bullet and confirmed New Nintendo 3DS models for North America that will cost under $100. Now, you don’t need to be a genius to proclaim that selling goods at a budget price is a way to attract interest, but let’s look at the longer term picture – of which these models could just be the start. A future where, hopefully, equivalent plans are also in the pipeline for other regions and more New 3DS models.

Plenty of people, not entirely unreasonably, have greeted the news by saying it should have come along before now. In fairness, that feeling is particularly acute in North America, as the smaller models have been limited to a few select bundles and deals, and not as widely available as the XL versions. After all, Nintendo of America made the baffling initial decision in February 2015 to only release the XL model at first in its region, which is still confusing to this day. A counter-argument could be that the New 3DS only arrived in the West in February 2015, so a 20 month wait for a notable price drop isn’t exactly excessive.

However, stock could be an issue with these cheaper models in North America. Nintendo is pitching them as Black Friday releases, timing their arrival for just that occasion, so you can bet that these $99.99 units will be in high demand as 3DS owners in need of an upgrade (and fence-sitters) jump in to grab these as festive treats and gifts. We just hope Nintendo of America has a lot of these units to sell, because otherwise it’s sleepwalking into a public relations backlash.

Beyond this one example, though, it’s an interesting move. The New 3DS models have remained relatively pricey, though sales have continued to be decent for the big N – albeit at a much lower momentum than during the portable family’s peak. The 2DS range has seen price cuts from its already-modest initial cost, and has been a hugely attractive option for gamers on a tight budget or parents looking for a tough little system to give younger kids. Yet the New Nintendo 3DS has stubbornly stayed at a high price since its February 2015 arrival (in the West) – a typical New 3DS XL is $199 / £179.99, while the smaller models are actually now tricky to find in the UK at a sensible price, with bundles and limited availability dragging the cost up. The better-selling XL seems to be dominant at UK retail at the moment, as is also the case (naturally) in North America.

So the issue at hand is that, actually, the 3DS (approaching its 6th Birthday in March 2017) isn’t currently the cute and cuddly budget option that it needs to be. Granted, Nintendo is unlikely to slash prices across the board (aside from these small models in North America) until Pokémon Sun and Moon have dragged out a few extra sales in November and December; the reality is that the 3DS can remain relevant beyond that, to a point – but it needs help.

We’ve had some interesting conversations in the Nintendo Life team around Nintendo Switch pricing, for example. One number bandied around has been $299.99 for the ‘core’ system, in order to compete with the aggressive pricing seen with the PS4 ‘Slim’ (which is really just the PS4 now) and Xbox One S; In this climate it’s a stretch to convince people that a New 3DS XL is worth $200. Whether we agree with the race to the bottom in technology pricing or not, it’s very real, especially in the portable space where cheap tablets continue to flood the marketplace. No, 3DS isn’t competing directly with tablets, but it’s battling for consumer spending in a similar space. $200 for a New 3DS? It’s a tricky sell, especially after the Sun & Moon hype fades into 2017.

Yet as Nintendo made clear in its ‘3DS Direct’ in September, the portable has a role to play in 2017, and perhaps a little beyond. That broadcast highlighted some high-profile games coming next year, and didn’t mention quite a few others that could potentially get the localisation treatment out of Japan if it seems viable to publishers.

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