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Nintendo 3DS Will Launch in March, But Strategy Needs Revamp Now

Nintendo (NTYDO) announced details for its 3DS yesterday, with the slick 3D handheld launching in March, available for a competitive $249 price, and coming with two dozen games in the first couple months. The Japanese preorder lines are incredibly long as we speak.

But a lot can happen between now and March, and Nintendo will still have to play its cards right to make the Nintendo 3DS shine -- particularly when it comes to games. Here's what it should do next.

Remember Tetris

It's already clear that Nintendo 3DS games are going to be expensive: Titles like Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition are priced at $39.99. To put that in perspective, the upcoming, highly anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword game for the Wii home system is $49.99. In fact, Wii game prices plateau at that price, so for $10, a customer can have a much bigger experience than a mobile game. Worst, if a potential customer already has an Apple (APPL) mobile device, he or she could have a fantastic gaming experience for as low as $.99.

Nintendo should be courting budget companies to develop games for the system. Imagine if the company was able to talk to Rovio before Angry Birds took off and set up a nice (and cheap) deal. Nintendo could still get the number one iPhone game Angry Birds on the Nintendo 3DS, but you can bet it will take some serious cash -- I mean, Rovio has an Angry Birds cartoon in the works.

The success of Nintendo's first handheld, the Nintendo GameBoy, hinged on one simple title: Tetris. The game was already a hit in the arcades and the computers, but Nintendo offered the first handheld version. It was simple even for the time, as there were no fancy graphics or amazing sound -- nothing that would require a powerful gaming system. Predicting the next Tetris isn't easy to do, but none of the launch titles listed even attempt to find that awesome, low-budget addictiveness. Instead, Nintendo is focusing on big-budget, expensive 3D gaming. This is a mistake.

Donkey Kong deal?

One of the reasons Tetris sold so many GameBoys is that it was actually included with the system. Nintendo could have made a mint selling it separately, but what it really wanted to do is move units. Apple is going to get access to tens of millions of new gaming customers when the iPhone hits Verizon (V) in a couple weeks, which is why Nintendo should be trying to get the 3DS into as many hands as possible.

Nintendo is including some free apps in the machine, but one strong title would get the 3DS the attention it really deserves: Either an addictive, Tetris-like game or a name brand title from Nintendo's impressive catalog. Something as simple as, say, a 3D version of its classic game Donkey Kong would make a bigger mark than some random free apps.

It's not too late for Nintendo to add that little something extra that could sell even more 3DSs. Games can be downloaded, so Nintendo doesn't have to include a game in the packages being assembled right now.

Picture this

Finally, for all the focus on high-end 3D gaming, Nintendo has somehow missed the boat on some major visual breakthroughs. For instance, as reported last month, Apple scored the first mobile version of Epic Games' groundbreaking Unreal Engine, even though the software had been available on home consoles for years. The first result was the iPhone/iPod megahit Infinity Blade, which sold a quarter of a million copies within its first four days.

The worst thing that could happen to Nintendo is Sony (SNE) getting the Unreal Engine or comparable technology onto its upcoming PSPhone. Sony may be going through an identity crisis and the phone may look questionable, but the developer, known for high-end, powerful hardware like the PlayStation 3, already has a good relationship with the folks at Epic Games. In fact, the PlayStation 2 was one of the first system to support the Unreal Engine. After a brief hands-on, WIRED and other critics don't seem too impressed with Nintendo's launch titles, which makes Sony and Apple that much more of a threat in the coming weeks.

Photo courtesy of Nintendo.