I just picked up my Nintendo 3DS on the way into work. I'll post some thoughts on the thing later - right now, I haven't done much more than switch it on and set the time and date. The 3d test-cycle that displays when you first switch the machine on was fairly impressive once my eyes focussed on it properly, but I can't say much more than that.
However, I did want to post a rant about the process of buying the thing - or specifically, the process of buying it from Game (the UK's largest specialist games retailer).
I'd put a pre-order (with deposit) down - after all, hardware is often in short supply when a new console launches. Now, at a basic level, the process worked just fine - I placed my pre-order in a store (a fairly average London branch near my workplace) and, on launch day, was able to collect the thing. However, this summary disguises what was a whole suite of irritations and frustrations.
First of all, when I put down the deposit, the launch titles weren't yet confirmed - the broad range of early releases was known, but not which of the titles would be available on launch-day. Besides, I hadn't particularly felt the need to pre-order any launch titles - these never tend to be particularly hard to get hold of, once you've got the hardware itself. I was a bit surprised, therefore, to get a phone call from Game about 2 weeks before the launch, telling me that if I didn't put down a pre-order, I would be highly unlikely to be able to get any games at all on the day. "We understand", the guy on the phone told me breathlessly, "that Nintendo are only shipping us one game for every four systems". This immediately sets off my "nonsense" detector. However, there is that little seed of doubt; after all, Nintendo are among the gaming companies I trust they least and they do have a bad habit of screwing the UK over when it comes to shipments. So I relent and put down a pre-order (plus deposit) for Pilotwings and Ridge Racer.
I then get a succession of about 4 phone calls in the days leading up to the release, trying, with increasing desperation, to get me to commit to trading in my old DS and its games when I buy the 3DS - in return for what is frankly a pretty poor discount. This is despite the fact that I explain when I get the first call that they wouldn't even take my DS if I offered it - due to it being a US model (yes, I know the original DS is region-free, but they're funny about these things). This ends the first phone call but doesn't stop a succession of others.
This morning, I get up half an hour earlier than usual and make it to the branch of Game in question for their opening. There is a big queue - which is something I had been expecting. What I hadn't been expecting is just how damned slowly it was moving. Once I get to the front, I realise why; every customer who has come in to collect a 3DS pre-order is getting a several-minute long sales pitch for the extended warrenty, in addition to a renewed plea to trade in old DSes. This is a store in the middle of one of London's main business districts and most of the people in the store are increasingly frustrated looking professional types who, like me, can see their arrival at work getting further and further delayed. Requests to skip the pitch are refused on the grounds that "it's company policy", and my comment that "I won't tell if you won't" gets me nowhere. Eventually, 50 minutes after joining the queue, I finally get out of the store.
As I'm leaving, I notice something that moves me from profound irritation to cold, seeting fury - stack upon stack of 3DS games - absolutely no shortage whatsoever.
Having written this rant, I'm not really sure what the point was - as much catharsis as anything, I suspect. But seriously, in an era where bricks and mortar games retailers (including Game) are known to be struggling, you'd think they'd actually try to work out what their customers want. What I want is to be able to order a product and pick it up from the store on the day it's released with no fuss and hassle. Actually, I'd ideally like to be able to do that without a pre-order, but I know that's as much down to the manufacturers as it is to the retailers. What I don't want is weeks of haranguing and badgering about pre-orders and trade-ins, followed by an in-store experience that is as frustrating as they could possibly make it.
Anyway, I'll give the thing a whirl this evening and post some thoughts on the console itself.