Nintendo’s 3DS Hangover Is A Growing Problem

Screen Critics Shaun explores the current love/hate relationship fans feel towards 3DS – asking how long Nintendo can allow it to continue.

The Nintendo 3DS is a great console. Since releasing in 2011, the device has attracted some of the best gaming experiences around; becoming a beacon of light in Nintendo’s otherwise dreary landscape. But with a new kid on the block in the form of Nintendo Switch, an awkward conversation has begun to take hold among fans; how long can they realistically hope to keep both consoles as viable options?

I really enjoy Nintendo Switch. It’s a great console and if it had a bigger library of games, I’m almost certain I wouldn’t touch my home consoles for longer periods. But there’s a feeling that Nintendo is trying to balance too many plates at once right now; determined to have its cake and eat it. It wants the 3DS to remain viable alongside its growing Switch user base – and that’s a problem.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with supporting old hardware. Sony and Microsoft continue to offer support for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles years after release. The difference however is that Sony and Microsoft worked to ensure that their new consoles – the PS4 and Xbox One – were the focus of attention once they released.  In the past Nintendo has done the same with its consoles, the GameBoy Advance saw many releases once the Nintendo DS landed. The main difference though was these weren’t major offerings – unlike Pokemon Sun and Moon’s re-releases.

The frustration stems from perception. It’s resources being spent on a device that many Nintendo fans are moving away from. It’s games that could be released onto Switch but likely won’t be. I’ve not touched my 3DS console since picking up the Switch at launch. In my mind, the Switch is a better device for mobile gaming – and has all but replaced Nintendo’s veteran console. I may be alone in this, but I find it hard to return to the 3DS. The smaller screen, more cramped controls and lower quality graphics feel like a giant step backwards. Gamers have been spoiled by the Switch, which feels like a true successor in every respect.

So to see Nintendo continuing to push games out exclusively to their older device feels like an awkward about turn. It sends out the wrong message; that 3DS is still the flag bearer at a time when people are clamoring for the Switch. The recent announcement of the 2DS XL only further added to this feeling; how long will Nintendo continue to support their aging console?

It’s an important question because with so many features still missing in action; there’s a feeling that Switch has a fair way to go in becoming the console fans want it to be. With features like a robust online network, virtual console and a strong lineup of titles not guaranteed; it makes the continued focus on 3DS feel out of sync.

There’s also a strong argument for Nintendo’s stance here. The 3DS has a huge install-base – reportedly over 60 million consoles. It was a great device and has more than pulled its weight over the years, arguably becoming the company’s top console when the Wii U floundered. But those numbers have been declining for a while now. Part of the reason Nintendo pushed Switch out so early was to head off this problem – to get people onto their new platform before the rot really set in. To insist that both consoles are viable though at this stage feels like a bad judgement call.

Does the 3DS really need another edition of Pokemon Sun and Moon? Does it need Pokemon Gold and Silver on the Virtual Console when that would be a killer app over on Switch? The fact that Nintendo isn’t communicating this properly to fans only makes it feel all the more frustrating. Yes Pokken Tournament is a nice offering – but it’s not a full Pokemon game.

The true tell will be during the company’s E3 Livestream. If the company opts to showcase upcoming 3DS titles at length, I suspect the reaction will be less forgiving. People want answers to their questions about Switch, not more questions piled on top of already existing ones. If the company doesn’t showcase a strong Switch lineup, but continues to funnel games to the 3DS, then Nintendo may have its first major problem with the Switch.

I’m hopeful that after E3, we will have a clearer image on the direction of Switch. Ultimately audiences want to see more quality titles on their new consoles. If they feel these aren’t arriving, that may be a problem Nintendo has to address sooner rather than later.

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