Fresh from watching Jonathan Ross and his Nintendo chums announce a 25th March European launch date for the the 3DS and fail to announce a price (in Europe Nintendo has only set a trade price, leaving retailers to tag the console at £220-£229), David Yarnton, the man who runs the Big N in the UK, found the time for a chinwag with Eurogamer to discuss all things glasses-free 3D.
Here, in an interview conducted in a room deep within the bowels of the freezing Amsterdam warehouse in which Nintendo wowed some 1300 attendees, Yarnton discusses the 3DS' hefty price tag, defends its region-locking, expresses his delight at the new, streamlined Friend Code system and explains the difference between Spot Pass and Street Pass.
Eurogamer: Why have you let shops decide how much the 3DS costs?
David Yarnton: We don't set the retail price. Someone can sell our product for whatever they want to. We don't control that. But we've had a look online. We've been talking to retailers and they've been told their cost prices now. They've established price and we've been told, looking online, that it's anywhere from £220 to £229.
Eurogamer: How do you feel about that? Is that about right for you?
David Yarnton: It's still really good value. The fact it's a 3D entertainment device – you can't get anything that's 3D at that sort of price without having to wear glasses as well. Get that one in.
Eurogamer: Is it good value compared to iOS and Android devices? And even Windows Phone 7?
David Yarnton: If we go back a few years, when we first launched DS in 2004, 2005, people looked at us and said, wow, this is unusual, it's touch screen. Who's going to buy this at whatever price it was at the time? It was the same with Wii. People looked at that and said it's all in a different direction. Now with 3D we've been disruptive again, and innovative.
People will look at and say this offers something I can't get anywhere else. It's the same with all the other products we had. It was an experience they could have with our products they wouldn't get anywhere else.
As much as there's a plethora of devices out there for all sorts of things, you can't get a glasses-free 3D gaming experience on anything else apart from the 3DS. If you look over time, we've never professed to be anything else apart from a gaming company. That's what our expertise is: developing, we think, really good games and consoles for them to be played on.
Eurogamer: You've said there will be 25-30 games available in the launch window. What does that actually mean? Which will be available to buy on launch day?
David Yarnton: The 3DS has the strongest third-party publisher support we've had for any hardware launch. We've got a broad range of games at launch. We talk about the launch window or period being up to the end of June, towards E3.
At E3 you'll see a lot more product announced. I'll give you a list of what we're having on day one. At this stage some of the third parties aren't confirmed 100 per cent.
Eurogamer: So you'll announce the games available on day one soon?
David Yarnton: It's imminent. We're trying to confirm with third-party publishers what will be available. The other thing is, we're doing a global launch. I'm trying to remember whether anyone has done a launch within four weeks globally of a new hardware format. The logistics of trying to get all that to the market, we're still finalising.
They're not jumping on the bandwagon – they've been developing for quite a while on 3DS and they've been really excited. It's just a matter of trying to make sure what's available at the time of launch. It's a massive project to do it on a global basis.
Eurogamer: The statement you put out on the region locking issue said, 'There is a possibility that Nintendo 3DS software sold in one region will not function properly when running on Nintendo 3DS hardware sold in another.' Can you clear this up for us: will all 3DS games be region-locked?
David Yarnton: There are a number of different factors that come into it. Part of it is, when you're looking at the software and the different areas, what additional features are included that may not necessarily be available in other territories? For example, we might have in one territory downloadable content that's not necessarily suitable or we don't have the means to do it in another territory. So therefore it may not be compatible.
The other thing is, if we look at it at on a regional basis, we have to be very conscious of – the customer may not really care about this – but different territories have different ratings. We're very conscious of making sure we toe the line as far as government goes. In Europe we've got PEGI. In Australia there's a different rating. America's got a different rating. Japan's a different rating.
The other part, DVDs are also region-locked. It's nothing new. I know people would love to sample the box of chocolates from everywhere, but at this stage... As time goes on, who knows what's going to happen?