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Nintendo abruptly slashes price of 3DS game machine to $170

Nintendo

After only five months on the market, the $250 Nintendo 3DS is about to get a whole lot cheaper.

In a stunning move, Nintendo has announced that it will be gutting the price of its almost-brand-new Nintendo 3DS game machine by a whopping $80.

The Nintendo 3DS — a handheld gadget that plays video games in 3-D — only just arrived in U.S. stores on March 27 priced at $250. But starting Aug. 12 it will cost $170, Nintendo announced early Thursday morning.

The price-slashing revelation came on the heels of Nintendo releasing their financial earnings report for the months of April, May and June – a report that showed that a mere 710,000 3DS devices sold worldwide during that time.

Nintendo also revealed a net loss of 25.5 billion yen ($324 million) in the April-June period, worse than the 25.2 billion yen loss a year earlier. And for the fiscal year through March 2012, Nintendo expects net profits of 20 billion yen, which is down 82 percent from its previous estimate of 900 billion yen.

In its report, Nintendo blamed the sales decline on "the slow start" for the Nintendo 3DS system and "few hit titles for both the Wii console and Nintendo DS family of systems."

Nintendo certainly hopes the 3DS price cut will help turn things around.  The company says it still expects to sell 16 million 3DS gadgets worldwide by the end of the fiscal year next March.

"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 press release issued early Thursday morning.

Many analysts and game pundits thought the Nintendo 3DS price was too high when it launched. And many gamers have said that a lack of inspiring games available at launch left them less-than-eager to pony up for the device.

And so in addition to the price cut, Nintendo has promised to roll out a series of games in an attempt to make the 3DS more appealing. "Star Fox 64 3D" will arrive Sept. 9 followed by "Super Mario 3D Land" in November, "Mario Kart 7" in December and "Kid Icarus: Uprising" during the holiday season.

But the price cut raises a couple of big question. For starters, how do early adopters feel about this? More than 830,000 of the devices have already sold in the U.S. at the original $250.

Nintendo is clearly aware that the people who have already bought a 3DS are their most loyal customers. In an attempt to appease those customers, they have announced that those who have already purchased the game machine will be given 20 free downloadable games from the online Nintendo eShop.

You'll have to be sure to connect to the eShop via Wi-Fi before midnight August 11 to take advantage of the deal. Among the 20 games you'll then get for free are ten NES Virtual Console games (games such as "The Legend of Zelda" and "Donkey Kong Jr.") as well as an additional ten Game Boy Advance Virtual Console games (among them "Mario Kart: Super Circuit" and "Metroid Fusion").

Does this make up for spending $80 more than new 3DS owners will spend starting next month? Early 3DS adopters, please tell us in the comments below.

And another question this raises: In the face of Nintendo's experience, will Sony feel pressured to drop the price on its forthcoming PlayStation Vita game gadget? The Vita – which launches later this year or early next year — is a very different machine. But still ... like the 3DS it's a handheld device, and like the 3DS it could have trouble selling — especially since Sony has announced that the basic model will run $249 with a more expensive 3G model running $299.

Are consumers still willing to spend that much money on dedicated gaming devices in the era of smartphones packed with game apps?

Of course, the biggest question remains: Will the price cut finally send Nintendo 3DS machines flying off the shelves? Looks like we're about to find out.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things right here on Twitter or join her in the stream right here on Google+. You can check out the In-Game Facebook page right here.

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