Should Nintendo Still be Supporting the 3DS?

This week, Nintendo finally gave us what we’d been asking for since the Direct Mini in January. Fans had been clamouring for a more substantial, full-fat Direct with some bigger Switch-related announcements. And we certainly got that.

While there was no Animal Crossing or Pokemon to be seen (titles some had perhaps unrealistically hoped for) it was by no means a disappointment. Arguably the most exciting news was that a Super Smash Bros. title is coming in 2018. There is plenty of speculation regarding the nature of the release – is it a port or a brand new game? – but confirmation that it’s coming, and so soon, was enough to satiate the appetites of many.

Another highlight was the reveal of the single-player Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion, slated for Summer. The first paid DLC for the title, it looks fairly substantial, promising to delve into the lore of the Splatoon world. The Switch received plenty more news updates (a lot of them ports, but that’s a conversation for another time). Arguably the most surprising part of the showing, though, was how much Nintendo is continuing to support the 3DS going forward.

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A Three-Dimensional Problem

With the roaring success of the Switch, many felt it only natural that the 3DS would fall by the wayside. And obviously, it has for the most part. It took up just five minutes of the 35-minute presentation, and Nintendo was sure to get it out of the way first.

Nonetheless, in that short space of time, the company discussed a considerable number of titles. It seems that even though the 3DS is no longer their main event system, Nintendo seems determined to assert that it’s here to stay for a while yet.

The first title covered was Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers, a tower-defence arriving in May. Although unlikely to set the world on fire, this is a first-party, Nintendo-developed game considered substantial enough for a physical release.

Of course, they used some time up to talk about the imminent release of Detective Pikachu. This is a game that’s been a long time coming. While I still don’t quite get who the target audience is, I’m sure there are plenty who are excited. It looks enjoyable enough.

One thing which at first felt like a major blunder on Nintendo’s part was putting a Luigi’s Mansion port on the 3DS. It seemed like a very strange decision. There are likely thousands of Switch owners – myself included – who didn’t get to play it the first time around. So why didn’t they develop a Switch version instead, or even as well?

Best for Business

The answer to this is that they already have the assets from the 3DS sequel, Dark Moon. It makes perfect business sense to invest in a project that will cost far fewer resources and less development time.

We also have to consider the possibility that a GameCube virtual console may be on the horizon for Switch. If this is indeed the case, releasing Luigi’s Mansion now just wouldn’t make sense. As a full retail release, the price wouldn’t be justifiable. And as an eShop title, it would confuse their upcoming online ecosystem before it’s even been made available.

It’s easy to say that Nintendo should be pushing all of their marketing towards the Switch. After all, it’s their newest, shiniest console with the most attention. Why muddy that brand identity by stubbornly returning again and again to a dying system?

Simply, the 3DS install base is massive. While, yes, the Switch is selling like crazy at the moment, as we all know, the 3DS has clearly sold more, as it to be expected. There are currently over 67 million 3DS consoles out in the wild. Some of those owners will have bought a Switch, but the vast majority won’t.

Of those who don’t yet own a Switch, some may still be actively playing their 3DS. Most, however, probably have their console lying around untouched. So Nintendo can capitalise on this segment of the market by releasing exciting new titles for an old system that a great number of people own, in the hopes that they can convince those people to purchase one of these titles and pick up their 3DS again.

3DS 4ever

Some will argue that developing first-party software for the 3DS will take away development resources from the Switch. This has already been proven untrue, however, by the fact that so many titles are being released for the hybrid system.

Announcing Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story so early despite its 2019 release date was a fascinating move by Nintendo. In that one announcement, Nintendo reassured 3DS owners that the system will continue to be supported for many months to come. Clearly, the 3DS is here to stay.

And in my opinion, that’s no bad thing. Developing for the 3DS at this point is likely very cheap for Nintendo compared to doing so for Switch. What’s more, given how accustomed to the system their first-party devs are, it’s probably very easy too. It’s a low-risk venture that may or may not prove successful, but at this point, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t.

With Captain Toad we will see a simultaneous release for both the Switch and 3DS, which is nothing but positive. Those who can’t yet afford to upgrade now have the same opportunity to enjoy a title.

In short, Nintendo’s continued support for the 3DS isn’t doing any harm, and I think it’s  positive. The life of the 3DS will come to a natural end when Nintendo deems it necessary. But what are your thoughts? Should developing for Switch be Nintendo’s sole focus, or is 3DS support perfectly fine?

 

 

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