Yesterday, Nintendo held a Japan-only Nintendo Direct. I’m not sure about the implications of it being Japan-only. Maybe it means products highlighted will only be coming to Japan. Or maybe it simply was targeted at the Japanese market. The latter seems more likely. Nevertheless, there were some exciting new announcements coming off that direct – principally, the New 3DS. That’s right, Nintendo has finally unveiled it’s third redesign of the 3DS after the 3DSXL and the 2DS. This New 3DS will come in standard and XL sizes and boasts an increase in power, better 3D, some Amiibo stuff that I don’t care about, a new shoulder button, and a second analogue stick. This is, of course, on top of a general cosmetic redesign. However, the question is briskly brought forward – is this a good idea on Nintendo’s part? Today, I want to break down the announcement bit by bit and see if Nintendo is shooting themselves in the foot, or creating something really special.
We need to begin with the name. What is wrong with the video game industry and awful, unmarketable names recently? First we have the Wii U – a system that everyone not in the know confused with an add-on to the unpopular (at the time) Wii. Then we had the Xbox One, which Microsoft insists isn’t the first Xbox, but something brand new. Now we will have the New 3DS. The name is accurate, but I want to remind you that the “New” 3DS won’t be new forever. In five or ten years, it’s going to sound stupid calling that thing the New 3DS. I understand that Nintendo doesn’t want to confuse people into thinking it’s a new generation handheld, like what happened to some people with the 2DS, but there had to be a better way. Even something as cliched as the 3DS Turbo would have sounded less silly.
As part of this, we have to talk about market saturation. There have been three different 3DSs in the lifetime of the handheld. Many people, myself included, upgraded their original to an XL. Far fewer touched the 2DS, though it was designed for a different market in mind. With the 3DS as popular and successful as it is, in order for the New 3DS to be successful, they need users to repurchase. There’s nothing about the redesign that would tempt a casual market. No, this is designed purely for the hardcore gamer, and there isn’t much of that market left for Nintendo to tap into. I’m also a little divided on the two SKUs. It seems strange not to phase out the regular size 3DS altogether and simply promote the 3DSXL size. I don’t really see any advantage to the regular size one, even considering portability.
Then, there are the new buttons. My first reaction was negative. After all, how many developers are going to make use of these extra buttons when most 3DSs out there aren’t equipped with them? Then I saw some of the developers already jumping aboard and that many 3DS games are second stick compatible due to Nintendo’s flirtation with the frankenstick. On top of that, button mapping is now possible for most games out there, so even when inactive, the new buttons could still be useful. With that out of the way, I was overjoyed by this change. Nintendo’s greatest weakness with the 3DS, I’ve always said, is the lack of a second stick. It is industry standard for every control scheme out there save for mouse and keyboard, and, in that instance, the keyboard aspect is completely archaic. So, I’m personally very excited about this change. It will allow future games to expand well into the 3D realm where before they had to restrict themselves due to poor camera controls. It’s nice to see Nintendo finally listening.
I must say, after the 2DS, I’m surprised that the New 3DS decided to include improved 3D. I realize that the 2DS was created specifically for young gamers who the 3D effect may not be good for, but it seemed like this was the direction Nintendo was going. Still, to my surprise, Nintendo didn’t phase it out, or keep it the same – they improved it, and, allegedly, it’s pretty good. One problem with the old 3DSs is that in order to have the 3D effect trigger properly, you needed to be in a sweet spot. Otherwise, it would all be blurry. The New 3DS allegedly does away with the sweet spot, allowing gamers to hold the system at many different angles and still get the full 3D effect. Whether this will work, time will tell. But, if it does, it will be enough for me to turn up that 3D slider more.
Finally, there’s the power upgrade. I don’t know how much it is, personally. Many redesigns boast a power increase, but, in reality, don’t offer anything over the original. In fact, being able to play games that older iterations can’t can lead to confusion among gamers and non-gamers as to what games will work with what system. It’s a dangerous road, and Nintendo has decided to walk it. At the same time, if this power upgrade is substantial, and I think it is, Nintendo may be able to treat this platform as a half step, putting off the creation of a new generation for a number of years. This benefits gamers in many ways, particularly since a New 3DS owner could play New 3DS games, 3DS games and DS games, making it quite the workhorse of backwards compatibility. Old 3DS owners will get shortchanged, however. But this is all in an attempt to entice them to upgrade.
And why do I think the power upgrade is substantial? Because Nintendo announce that they are porting Xenoblade Chronicles to the handheld. For those who don’t know, Xenoblade Chronicles is an absolutely massive game that would likely chug on even the Vita. There is no possible way it could play on the 3DS. Therefore, I’m making the understandable leap in logic that the New 3DS isn’t simply boasting – there’s some new, powerful hardware underneath the smooth plastic exterior. Speaking of the Vita, if the New 3DS is comparatively powerful, then that might be the end of Sony’s system’s advantages over Nintendo’s juggernaught.
So, all that together, is the New 3DS a mistake on Nintendo’s part? I really am having a hard time saying. There is the definite risk that too few people will jump on board and the substantial improvement will go unused by developers who want to tap into a larger market. However, if enough people jump on board, it will lengthen the 3DS generation, and provide new experiences to a wide range of gamers. To tell the truth, the biggest reason I think that Nintendo made the right move was how excited I was all yesterday at the prospects of it. As a core gamer, this is a redesign I have zero intention of missing. And that has to mean something.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer