Nintendo slashes price of its 3DS handheld to $169.99

Nintendo announced today that it has cut the price of its struggling 3DS handheld game player from $249.99 to $169.99.

The price cut is effective Aug. 12 and will likely make the 3DS far more competitive in the market against rival devices such as the Apple iPod Touch and the upcoming Sony PlayStation Vita. But it’s unclear whether the lower price will be enough to get consumers interested in the 3DS, which delivers stereoscopic 3D without glasses.

“For anyone who was on the fence about buying a Nintendo 3DS, this is a huge motivation to buy now,” said Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime, in a statement. “We are giving shoppers every incentive to pick up a Nintendo 3DS, from an amazing new price to a rapid-fire succession of great games.”

Cutting prices so drastically is an act of desperation that is out of character for Nintendo. It is clearly a sign that disruption is happening in the game handheld business. And that disruption is the effect of thousands of free or 99 cent apps available on smartphones.

Nintendo said it has a big lineup of games coming to bolster the 3DS, including Star Fox 64 3D on Sept. 9, Super Mario 3D Land in November, Mario Kart 7 in December, and Kid Icarus Uprising during the holidays.

Nintendo is also launching Nintendo Video as a service, giving users short 3D videos. It has also launched the Nintendo eShop as a digital store where 3DS owners can download new titles. Nintendo said that more than 830,000 people in the U.S. have bought a 3DS since March 27. But that is not enough to prevent a loss at the parent company.

Starting Sept. 1, Nintendo 3DS ambassadors will be able to download 10 free NES Virtual Console games before they are available to the general public via eShop.