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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Way I see it: The Future of the 3DS

The Way I See It is a category of pieces that represent my personal opinions or reasoning on subjects I enjoy or have a lot to say about. Though at times the write-ups may be built on well-researched and verified information, as a general statement, I do not speak with absolute authority on any given matter covered. Thank you for your time.

Recently, Nintendo's Tatsumi Kimishima reinforced the idea that the dedicated handheld space is still a valuable market and that the 3DS may yet see a successor.

The response to this idea hasn't been all too positive.

I've been reading a lot of naysaying on Nintendo continuing to support the DS handheld line even before the recent comments, but it seems that some folks aren't just doubtful of the likelihood of this happening: they're outright opposed to it. That's a little odd to me. While everyone has a right to their opinion on where Nintendo should go on this front, I have to say that a number of the reasons put forward in an attempt to justify doubts and detractions haven’t seemed all that solid to me.

Today, I've decided to dig into that matter a little.

An Elaboration

Like I've done in the previous post in this series of opinion pieces, I'll be outlining and answering some of the more prominent doubts on the matter as a means of constructively explaining my view: I don't think that Nintendo necessarily should or will abandon the dedicated handheld space in service of their latest console.

Nintendo's merged their software development divisions to make games for one device, namely the Switch.

Some point to the merger of these divisions about four years back as something that was done explicitly in order to design games for a singular device. There's no proof or indication of this. The excuse we'd gotten was that the move was made to develop “more innovative and attractive products” and to keep up with the various facets of the industry. This could just as easily be seen as a move to increase the fluidity of production, more efficiently transfer resources and personnel between projects as necessary, and/or increase access to the creative pool. There's no reasonable way to point to this merger as a clear excuse for only creating games on the Switch instead of multiple kinds of hardware; Nintendo pursuing the mobile market and intending to support the 3DS into 2018 -five years after the merger- both reinforce the invalidity of this oft parroted assumption for good measure.

There's no point in a new 3DS if the Switch succeeds because it could do everything a dedicated handheld could do.

I sometimes read this idea put out in order to justify why a new handheld is pointless. However, this perspective doesn't consider that, after the Wii U, Nintendo have relegated the concept of dual screen play exclusively to the DS line. This is something that can't be found anywhere else and, coupled with whatever supplementary novelty they pursue in the future, will easily help differentiate the hardware on a core level. Also worth considering, the Switch may be portable in that it can be taken on the go, but it isn't something that can be fit in your pocket or taken around as a pure convenience. Include the fact that the new advancements made for the Switch allow incredible performance for battery consumption, and you have a pretty sure bet that whatever might come after the 3ds could return to DS Lite levels of battery life at 10-15 hours, adding further to the viability of a truly dedicated handheld.

Making other handhelds isn't smart because it would confuse customers.

Nintendo is explicitly, whether or not people like it, marketing the Switch as a home console first and foremost and framing its portable aspect with that in mind. It's also priced well outside the range of successful dedicated handhelds.

By at least a hundred dollars.

In fact, you can even purchase a 2DS for less than a third of the cost of a Switch. This price difference alone already establishes a hard cut with regards to its placement in the market, as many consumers that'd purchase a handheld would immediately disregard the Switch when it runs the cost of a new home console: a fair number of folks don't at all want a home console, meaning that the features that account for this increase of price don't represent notable value to them. I think it's fairly reasonable to say that just leaving this part of the market empty-handed in the future is a waste of potential.

Nintendo said they wouldn't drop the Gameboy line of hardware when they released the DS but actually did, so they're probably going to do the same thing if the Switch succeeds.

When folks look back at this circumstance, it's reasonable to call out what Nintendo said. It's also fair to assume that they would have come back to the Gameboy if the DS failed. This is because both handhelds were being sold to the same functional market and the DS could even play GB games for two revisions. However, with the Switch replacing their dedicated console outright and the 3DS receiving a slower stream of third party software support, why would the logical response to the Switch failing be to lean on the DS line as opposed to developing a new dedicated home console? Alternatively, if the Switch succeeds, why would they throw away the novelty of dual-screen gaming entirely when it still maintains appeal to a fair portion of the market? It doesn't even make the most financial sense to shut off a revenue stream like that and focus on a single piece of hardware unless you're only considering first party games: Nintendo receives a licensing fee for every game sold on their hardware whether or not they've made it. With this in mind, if there's still an audience open to purchasing a dedicated handheld, it pretty immediately seems like a wasted opportunity for everyone involved if they neglect it or treat it like a contingency plan.


So there you have it.

As you can see, things aren't necessarily as definite or simple as they've been painted to be and, though I don't speak with authority on the matter, I personally don't think that Nintendo will consider abandoning the 3DS line (or dedicated handhelds) if the Switch is successful but might consider it if a successor to the 3DS ends up being a failure instead.

What do you think? Do you have any perspectives you'd like to share on the matter? Things you think I've missed? If so, please feel free to let me know in a comment below.

Thanks for reading and take care!

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