Nintendo has always been big on “innovation.” While the 3DS is not, at this point in its lifecycle, a success, the 3DS also has no great software. Or currently, and let’s hope that changes. Nintendo – more than any other developer –  should know that it is software that sells a system. The original Halo is the reason the Xbox 360 exists: without that game, the Xbox probably wouldn’t have sold enough units to make Microsoft stick around, considering Microsoft’s attitude towards abandoning things (for example the Zune HD). Think about it: what would the game industry look like had Microsoft pulled out of the running?

So Nintendo needs to bring guns. And this E3, I believe they have. Nintendo’s press conference was confusing, and focused too heavily on their new hardware, but they – albeit passively – made plenty of major software announcements, especially for the 3DS. And I think this will sell the system much more units than the Playstation Vita (PSV), Sony’s new weirdly-named handheld. Here’s why: universality. Look at the 3DS’s new lineup of games:

  • LoZ: Ocarina of Time
  • Super Mario 3DS (which I want to call Super Mario 128)
  • Paper Mario
  • Star Fox
  • Kid Icarus
  • Luigi’s Mansion 2
  • Mario Kart
  • Cave Story 3D
  • Pokemon 3DS (inevitably)
  • Super Smash Bros. 3DS (tentative title)

And for the Japanese market:

  • Dragon Quest
  • Final Fantasy
  • Kingdom Hearts: DDD
  • Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney

What does the Vita have so far?

  • Uncharted
  • WipEout
  • LBP
  • BioShock
  • BlazBlue

Most of the Vita’s games have the same PSP feeling to them: yes, there’s analog sticks and touchscreens, but there is still a focus on 3D realistic adventure games, stylistic racers and overly-detailed Japanese fighters, save for LBP (which suffers from inaccurate controls). This works for Sony’s market, but they aren’t as universal as Nintendo’s games. Anyone can play Zelda, anyone will enjoy Mario, Luigi’s Mansion, Star Fox, Pokemon, and even hardcore gamers have Cave Story, KH, FF and DQ. But there isn’t a Mario for Sony, which is why the DS sold much more units than the PSP worldwide.

Do I have numbers to support that claim? Regrettably, no. But I saw a kid in Palestine – Palestine – playing Pokemon on his DS, I saw people by the pool in Santorini playing Picross, I’ve seen multiple kids playing DS’s together in diners, at dinner, at the park. What haven’t I seen? PSPs. Anywhere. I’m sure Japan is Sony’s biggest buyer, but that isn’t enough to make up for the rest of the world.

It boils down to this: Sony needs a new software hit, or the Vita will suffer the same problems as the PSP.

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