The Promising Future Of The 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS has been around for a few months now, and while it hasn’t failed, it hasn’t set the gaming world on fire either. The new portable gaming system has certainly done the rounds in the gaming news, with reports on battery life, the launch lineup, the stereoscopic 3D (and it’s possibly health risks), and region locking. Looking back at the last few months, it hasn’t been an easy first few months for the 3DS, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if it was starting to fail. But it’s not, and I think it’s because everyone can see Nintendo’s latest portable product has great potential. I often like to speculate on where gaming systems are going in the near future, so let’s build on what we know already and look ahead. Personally, I’m excited about the future of the 3DS. But in order to think about the great future the 3DS could have, it’s important to consider the mistakes that have been made so far, and how they can be improved.

The launch of 3DS did not go exactly as Nintendo had intended. By the end of the fiscal year, Nintendo predicted they would sell 4 million units, but they have fallen far short of that target with 3.61 million. I have discussed in an earlier news article about why I think this happened. The main factors seem to have been a launch lineup of games that have been criticised for poor quality, and the lack of expected features on the 3DS at launch. I’ve heard some people making claims that the 3DS will fail because it doesn’t have the great games like the original Nintendo DS had, but you don’t hear these claims from people who know their games or gaming history. The original Nintendo DS had an awful launch lineup. There was hardly anything to choose from, and the great games trickled through slowly at first. Over the years, the original system amassed an incredible selection of diverse classics that made the DS the success it now is. People don’t seem to realise that so far we’re repeating history, and that makes me optimistic about the future of 3DS.

I think it’s important to look at other systems too. Most developers for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 are actually happy that the next generations of those consoles aren’t coming anytime soon, compared to the seemingly regular updates of consoles in the past. Now the developers have spent so long on these systems that they have really mastered them, and learned how to really push them as far as they will go. That’s why some of the greatest games on these systems are appearing now, in the later stages of their lives. The same happened with the Nintendo DS, with developers getting better at working with the older portable system as time went on. The games improve over the years, and I would be very surprised if we didn’t see the same thing with the 3DS.

When the first 3DS games were announced, it was clear the launch lineup was going to be much better than what we had seen with the original DS. Then it became clear that some games weren’t actually going to be available at launch, but during a rather long “launch window” leading to E3. And to make matters worse, some expected games simply got delayed past that window. So when the 3DS launched, the lineup was better than the DS launch a few years ago, but still consisted mostly of games that felt a little rushed. There were exceptions, with the 3DS’ first Super Street Fighter game standing up quite well even when compared with its larger console cousins. But the launch lineup certainly affected sales as many gamers were wanting to get a specific game or games for their new toy. Personally, I was waiting for Ocarina Of Time 3D, as I think most people were. Others wanted to get playing Starfox 64 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising, or the next instalment in the Mario Kart franchise. None of these were available at launch and only Ocarina of Time 3D has been released so far. I bought the 3DS at launch though, as I had plenty of great original DS games to play in the meantime, and I wanted to see for myself what the new system could do.

The lack of expected features also seems to have put off many potential buyers and also annoyed some 3DS owners. At all the press conferences, Nintendo made it very clear that the 3DS would feature amazing glasses-free 3D technology, graphics considerably better than the original DS, and built-in augmented reality games. All of these were delivered at launch. But Nintendo also talked about an eShop to download DSiWare and Virtual Console games, an internet browser, and the ability to transfer DSiWare from a Nintendo DSi to the new Nintendo 3DS. These features weren’t included at launch and were only added to the 3DS via a system update weeks after launch. People have been waiting for better games, have been waiting for those missing features to arrive, and even more are waiting for a price-drop. This all sounds a bit doom and gloom, but it’s in the past now. The games are on the way. We already have one of most critically acclaimed games of all time remade for the 3DS and in the shops right now. There are several Nintendo games on the way this year. And all those missing features are now installed. So, putting that shaky start behind us, what comes next?

The ball is rolling now. New developers are announcing 3DS titles every week, Nintendo has plenty of games in the pipeline, and they are also keeping their promises delivering regular content to the eShop. We have some brilliant classics for the Virtual Console so far, and of course we have the brilliant DSiWare games. Right now you can go to the eShop and download amazing games like Link’s Awakening (originally for the GameBoy Color) or Shantae: Risky’s Revenge (arguably the best game available for the 3DS right now).

Nintendo have started with the oldest GameBoy games for the Virtual Console, seemingly releasing new content in a chronological order with the exception of Link’s Awakening, which seems to have been prioritised for the 25th anniversary of the Legend Of Zelda games. Releasing the oldest first isn’t just a neat and tidy way to present and build up the Virtual Console catalogue, it also makes development sense as well. The earlier games are the simplest, and the quickest to prepare for the 3DS. As we receive them complete and ready for download, Nintendo is constantly working on later titles to bring us. So far we’ve been treated to portable games only in the Virtual Console. This makes a lot of sense, as developers made certain decisions and considerations when designing games for a portable system. But the 3DS is clearly powerful enough to bring us SNES games, if they can be made small enough in file size for a download.

I’m sure most Nintendo fans will agree with me that bringing us NES and SNES games on the 3DS would be incredible. But in the long run, I do not believe they would be the best games possible for the Virtual Console. That honour I leave to original DS games. Previously released games for the original DS are designed for a portable device, one with two screens including a touchscreen, and the 3DS is already capable of backwards compatibility. I think the best move Nintendo could make with the Virtual Console in the future is to bring us DS games. The catalogue of great games on the DS is so huge that most gamers have missed many classics despite buying plenty of games for the original system. I constantly meet DS gamers who never played The World Ends With You, or Ghost Trick, or even The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. There would be no problems trying to match the control scheme for the 3DS, as it has the same buttons (with some additions) and still uses the same touchscreen technology. I think this would be one of Nintendo’s best moves if they went with it, but it might not happen. And if it ever did, it wouldn’t be until many years from now. The Nintendo DS still sells very well, and so do the Nintendo DS games. And new games are still being released for the system. Nintendo wouldn’t consider selling DS games on the Virtual Console until all models of the DS had been discontinued and we didn’t see any new releases.

As for the rest of the eShop, the future is definitely looking good. We’re getting a lot of DSiWare now, and Nintendo are throwing in little surprises like some free games/apps and even game and movie trailers. Nintendo have also just released Nintendo Video for us gamers in Europe, and the Americans now have Netflix on their 3DS. Since before the launch date, Nintendo has hinted at deals with Netflix, Dreamworks, Eurosport and Sky for 3D footage being streamed or downloaded to the 3DS. It seems that Nintendo is indeed keeping their promises now and making up for the rocky start the 3DS had.

So what would happen to the 3DS in the coming months and years if I was in charge at Nintendo? Well, I’ve already mentioned what I’d really like to see as a gamer. I would want any promises made to be kept. I would love to see original DS titles available as Virtual Console downloads at some point. And I would want Nintendo and 3rd party developers to continue developing great games. But there are a few other things I think Nintendo could be doing to really get the most out of the 3DS. Most importantly of all, it needs to become more social. This may seem a strange claim to make, since the 3DS has introduced StreetPass and allowed gamers to share data with each other just by being nearby. But I still think the rest of the social features could be improved to really make the 3DS the powerful gaming system it could be. Firstly, I think it would be in Nintendo’s best interests if they focused on ways to make it easier for developers to allow online multiplayer gaming. So many great multiplayer games are now local wireless only, and while this is still a social experience, Nintendo’s competitors are leaving them behind. On other systems, even portable ones, most multiplayer games can easily be played online against friends.

Taking the social aspect further, I think the 3DS will become a lot more useful and hopefully popular if Nintendo update the Friends system. This seems like such a no-brainer that it’s surely something they are working on already or at least considering. Nintendo like to do things different. Other systems have achievements/trophies, Nintendo doesn’t want to do that. Fair enough, they have good reason. There are plenty of examples of industry-standard features that Nintendo prefers to avoid. But it seems very restricting and limited to have a Friends list where all it allows you to do is see who is online, and what game they are playing. If you want to arrange to play a multiplayer game with one of your friends, you have to phone/email/text/meet that friend to organise it. All other gaming systems let you chat or at least send messages to friends. As it stands right now, the original DS and games had more social features like these than the new 3DS does. I would be very surprised if we didn’t see a major system update sometime next year with a revamped social system. Especially since this is exactly what Nintendo is admitting needs to be done for the Wii U. Nintendo have stated that they simply didn’t have the experience in online functionality to compete with the other systems, but now they are bringing in an outside company to help make sure the Wii U can be just as socially powerful as Sony and Microsoft’s consoles. It’s nice that Nintendo often stick to their own principles, but sometimes I feel this blinds them from great developments and improvements made in the industry by competitors. The Wii U is going to be a better console now thanks to Nintendo’s decision to compete with the other systems for online functionality. I hope this great attitude transfers over to the 3DS as well.

Next year, I want to be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing which 3DS game I should play. I’d like to be able to arrange a match with a friend using just the 3DS itself. If I don’t feel like gaming, I can maybe watch a film or sporting event on the 3DS, or browse for NES and DS games to download in the eShop. And when the Wii U releases, I’d like some connectivity between the new home console and the 3DS.

Do you think I’m asking for too much? If I could make one improvement right now, it would probably be the improved online functionality. What about yourself? What one thing would you most like to change?

10 Responses to “The Promising Future Of The 3DS”
  1. StealthBuda says:

    Great article, I think it’s saying pretty much what we’re all thinking.

    I think the 3DS friend system is protective enough (not actually linking until both players add each other) that a chat/message system shouldn’t be an issue and I agree that it’s a fundemental feature that’s missing.

    Sky or Netflix on the 3DS in the UK would be epic though.

    Nintendo systems to me have always been a secondary system. The Wii was for multiplayer fun and I would only ever use my DS or GB for turn based strategy and rpg games and would put it away once completed, prefering to carry my PSP everywhere in case of a gaming emergency, but the 3DS has become one of my carry items. I’ve got six full games and a couple of eShop games and I spend a fair amount of my time (usually during travel) playing on it. I don’t think I’ve turned it off completely since the Dead or Alive: Dimensions spotpass updates started, it’s been on constant sleep mode, recharging every other day, just in case a random update slipped in.

    I love the games line up for the rest of this year, could do with a killer game before September, but I’m willing to wait for Star Fox 64 3DS.

    I truly believe the 3DS is the future of handheld multiplayer gaming.



  2. Marc Love says:

    Very good read! Agree with everything said.

    I’ve noticed another gripe and wasn’t sure if I was the only one experiencing this… why are there only 3 slots for Wi-Fi connections? I’m already “swapping” in/out connections depending where I am and it seems a massive oversight considering the device isn’t 3/4G enabled.


    • That’s a very good point, and fortunately it’s yet another issue that could potentially be fixed with a software update. That’s why I’m so optimistic about the 3DS in the near future. Some people have complained about the battery life, but besides that there haven’t really been any hardware problems. People who don’t like the 3D effect can turn it off if it bothers them. The unit itself is well built, great buttons and controls, no wifi strength issues. Everything that has disappointed me so far is either about games, or about the 3DS software.

      I’ll add “more Wifi connections” to my list of things to hope for next year.


      • Marc Love says:

        Well said… nice to see some optimism out there in the Ninty blogosphere… it’s all been a bit grim recently; not this site specifically but generally you know? Anyway, +1 for looking forward to the future 🙂


  3. I hardly write responses, but i did a few searching
    and wound up here The Promising Future Of The 3DS | Nintendo Scene.
    And I do have 2 questions for you if it’s allright. Could it be simply me or does it look like some of these responses come across as if they are written by brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are posting on additional social sites, I’d like to follow anything new you have to post.
    Would you list of the complete urls of your communal sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?


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