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D-Pad “warping” on 3DS consoles: Are Nintendo portable problems too far out of hand?

Will Nintendo ever catch a break from the snowballing troubles plaguing its 3DS gaming gadget? It seems not – as reports emerge today of a small number of handhelds with buttons becoming warped and worn.

Pictures have emerged online of the little gadget’s directional pads with faded paint and detailing, as well as deterioration of the buttons themselves on the 3D portable which has been on the market for not much more than 7 months now.

There’s no indication to say this affect brings a premature end to playtime, but it’s still another stain on the reputation of Nintendo which is currently trying to dig itself out of a terribly deep hole following the poor reception and disappointing sales for its highly-anticipated three-dimensional gaming experience which seemed so promising on the outset.

In those few short months Nintendo has gone from fantastically ambitious claims such as not only 3D gaming but a television service and Netflix included in the handheld – to a state of grovelling, with company CEO Satoru Iwata (who heralded such successful releases as the Wii console back in 2005) begging for patience from the number of gamers who actually bought the Nintendo 3DS – promising that Super Mario is just around the corner, ready for his own 3D adventure and waiting for the green light on Mario Kart.

Poor pre-sales in the UK saw a number of retailers drop the price of Nintendo 3DS from its £229 RRP down to below £200 in the days before the portable’s release. Just days following that release a number of gamers experienced what was referred to as the “Black Screen of Death” when their consoles “bricked” unexpectedly and for no apparent reason. Nintendo was quick to act and issued a downloadable fix to remedy the problem, but this had already set doubt in many of our minds.

About a month after the public release of the 3DS handheld Sony’s boss took a swing at Nintendo for marketing nothing more than a “babysitting tool” as they prepared to launch their assault on the “serious” gaming market with their own next generation portable the PS Vita, as it later became known. A week after these remarks, the 3DS received further price cuts.

The Legend of Zelda - Too little, too late (and not Super Mario).

Reports of poor sales followed the Nintendo 3DS through May and June, with some heat taking off of the little console by Nintendo’s lacklustre E3 debut of its next Wii console, the Wii U. The saving grace of Nintendo’s Los Angeles outing was the promise of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – the epically successful Nintendo 64 title, set for a 3D makeover on the Nintendo 3DS (with ad eventually featuring Hollywood funny man Robin Williams). Interest peaked. Slightly..

In mid June the Nintendo 3DS finally reached 1-million sales in its native Japan, and a few days later the promised television feature dropped in the country, leaving the rest of the world wondering when we’d get our unique programming and movies (it was finally announced on July 19th).

In July, Nintendo were forced to recognise its Epic Fail in handling the 3DS and dropped the price of the handheld to as low as £140, and offering those who were faithful enough to buy early a package of 20 games from classic consoles including NES and Game Boy Advance in an “Ambassador” scheme. It was also suggested boss Iwata took a 50% pay cut as this process began rolling out on July 28th, followed by that very humble public letter of apology from the man himself.

A fault issue is the last thing Nintendo’s 3DS campaign needs right now. At present the button eroding problem seems fairly isolated, but if it isn’t and there’s a widespread fault 3DS may sadly go from golden promise to a very dim flash-in-the-pan.

Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata with 3DS.

Nintendo must face that the longevity of Game Boy (and its successors) will never again be met. The original Nintendo handheld kept it simple, and despite the ever changing gaming landscape Nintendo gamers generally want that simplicity. Whether it’s for the fun and casual play, of for sake of nostalgia any console launch without a Super Mario appearance is going to be a hard-sell.

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