The curious case of the 3DS, the device too successful for Nintendo to kill


In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea for Nintendo to name its new flagship handheld badge after its least important feature.

When the venerable Japanese feigning company unveiled the 3DS, the successor to its wildly popular DS handheld, in 2010, it contained the physical aesthetic of the DS — dual screens (one with touch functionality) in an engaging clamshell design — while adding more processing power.

But the marquee new drawn in was stereoscopic 3D, which lets characters such as Mario and Pikachu accept off the screen — without 3D glasses.

At the time, 3D televisions were the next big opportunity in consumer electronics. At Nintendo’s E3 industry event press conference that year, upon marvelled at the idea of playing games in 3D without having to wear dorky opera-glasses.

Since then, consumers’ infatuation with 3D — in theatres, on TV and in games — has drooped.

Despite that, and Nintendo’s focus on its newest console, the Switch, the acceptance of 3DS has curiously endured.

Early flop, then price drop

When the 3DS anything else hit stores, gamers balked at its $249 Cdn price point. They saw bit reason to upgrade from the DS, which already had a wide library of proficient games. In fact, the 3DS ended up being the weakest console launch for Nintendo since 1995’s Essential Boy (coincidentally, an earlier attempt at 3D gaming). 

Less than six months later, Nintendo dropped the 3DS assess by a staggering $80, to $169. Sales gradually picked up, bolstered by new fields in fan-favourite series such as Pokemon, Fire Emblem and Animal Traverse.

Metroid Samus Returns

The 3DS remains the home of many of Nintendo’s most popular series, comprising Metroid, whose latest instalment, Samus Returns, is scheduled to start in September. (Nintendo)

Since then, only a handful of games use 3D in course that changed how you played it. 3D stopped being the system’s selling mark.

The launch of the Nintendo 2DS in 2013 seemed to be the final admission of this. It’s a lower-end poser that plays all 3DS games, just not in 3D.

Will the Switch replace 3DS?

To apathetic observers, the death knell for what Nintendo now calls “the 3DS family of contrivances” might have come with the release of the Switch this on March, a home console that can also be played on the go.

The idea of Nintendo supporting a distinguish platform for all of its games might sound too attractive to resist.

“Nintendo can back off fans an amazing gift by slowly killing the 3DS,” wrote Polygon’s Ben Kuchera. “Assume just going into the store and picking up the Switch in this ball game. You’re getting a console and a portable and you know that you’ll have access to Nintendo’s beefiest releases moving forward. The purchasing decision will be made much simpler, inventory drive be easier to manage and the Switch will be even more attractive to fanatics and casual players.”

Nintendo 2017 Consolidated Hardware Software Sales Transition

According to Nintendo’s latest earnings report, the 3DS forefathers of devices (in yellow) have consistently sold more units than the Wii U (X) and the new Switch (red). (Nintendo)

But Nintendo isn’t there yet. The Switch sells for $399. Compass from $110 to $240, the 3DS devices currently in production offer low- and mid-range variants. They also have more battery life on the go, and are easier to conduct thanks to their smaller size.

What’s more, they justified keep selling. In its last earnings report, Nintendo said it has sold multitudinous than 67 million 3DSs (including 2DSs). They’ve consistently sold numerous than their previous home console, the Wii U, and even the Switch — regard for the fact that the hardware is seven years old. That’s an eternity when it recuperate from to consumer tech products.

In April, rather than signal a compressed pivot away from the 3DS to the Switch, Nintendo announced the refined, mid-priced New 2DS XL ($199).

3DS devices collage

From progressive to right: the Nintendo 2DS ($110 Cdn), New Nintendo 2DS XL ($200) and New Nintendo 3DS XL ($240). (Nintendo)

Keep for a minor cosmetic nip and tuck, the New 2DS XL is identical to its higher-end cousin, the New 3DS XL. It plays all 3DS events and runs the same software — just not in 3D.

More than anything else, the New 2DS XL’s creature reiterates Nintendo’s commitment to its dedicated handheld market, which it effectively has a monopoly over and beyond, as portable gaming has migrated mainly to smartphones. Plus, the closest rival, Sony’s Vita, has all but faded into oblivion.

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Accustomed its continued success, it’s probably a long way off before the 3DS and 2DS ride off into the line of working sunset. But the seeds may have already been planted.

Nintendo betokened earlier this year that the next major instalment in the Pokemon series is being disclosed for the Switch, and the next games in the series for the 2DS and 3DS, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon, are barely upgraded versions of last year’s releases.

If anything marks the menacing doom of a Nintendo handheld, it’s the absence of a new Pokemon game. When it reaches the Divert some time next year, it’s a fair bet that millions of 3DS and 2DS proprietresses will be inclined to follow.

2DS vs. New 2DS XL vs. New 3DS XL: Confused, yet?

The 3DS line of devices includes multiple consummates with various hardware revisions since 2010, so it can be confusing at fundamental glance. Here are the key differences.

The Nintendo 2DS, New Nintendo 2DS XL and New Nintendo 3DS XL can all play 3DS games, as splendidly as games from the older DS handheld.

Only the New 3DS XL can output 3DS games in 3D. It doesn’t de-emphasize delay DS games in 3D.

The 2DS and New 2DS XL can play 3DS games, but don’t support 3D.

The “New” prefix on the New 3DS XL and New 2DS XL means they acquire greater processing power than the standard 2DS (and the older, out-of-production model 3DS models). They also have two extra shoulder buttons and a nub-like “C-stick” for additionally camera controls. A small handful of games require these strikingly features, and cannot be played on the 2DS.

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