September 24, 2021

3DS Successor? Heard it Before…


Does anyone remember when the DS was announced?

It was a bit of a shock; but the most critical element of the DS wasn’t the games or the screens or the touchscreen. It wasn’t the hardware, or even the design. It was the notion predicated that the DS was not a Game Boy successor; they weren’t going to cut off the Game Boy brand for the DS. Remember how that went, with 154 million units sold? Yeah, the DS brand wholesale replaced the Game Boy.

Remember how the Wii was the same – not a true next-gen console at the time, more a thing? Nintendo seemed pretty committed to the notion that the Wii was a stop-gap; a machine intended to bridge the divide between the social gaming market and the gaming market proper. Remember how that went, with over 100 million units sold? Yeah, it was pretty crazy.

And now we’re back again, with Tatsumi Kimishima not ruling out another DS.

On the one hand, I understand; the Wii U was a spectacular belly-flop of a machine in terms of sales. Nintendo doesn’t want to cut off the possibility right now of a potential DS successor if the Switch bombs in the same manner. It’s called having a back-up plan, and Nintendo does seem to always have one at least on paper if not in practice. The 3DS may not have hit the spiralling highs of the DS, but 65 million units sold is still a hefty market to turn down, particularly if you’re not yet sure that market will make the ‘Switch’ (the puns, they hurt) to the new hardware. Kimishima-san is simply keeping the option open.

On the other hand, I doubt it will happen.

I don’t think the Switch is nearly as hard a sell as Nintendo thinks it might be; they talk about it being as popular as the Wii was, and I’m not sure I see that but I absolutely see a significant improvement on the Wii U sales figures here. This is a machine that works on multiple levels, with an eye on more ease-of-use for developers and a slew of content bridging the gap between home and handheld. It’s arguably Nintendo’s most creative hardware concept since the Wii back in ’05, and the reality that they’re upping production to meet a huge demand of pre-orders is a promising sign of things to come.

If Nintendo hits 20 million by April 2018, the notion of a DS successor will be left in the same vein as a new Game Boy, or whatever they would have/could have done instead of the Wii. There’ll be no good business in hurting a strong market presence by diluting a market you’ve gone to great lengths to unify.

It’s a curiously… oh dear Tzeentch, not that chestnut again.

Ahem. This is a thing Nintendo does, and it’s obviously infuriating as anyone with a brain can tell that the Switch is a literal goldmine of potential. Nintendo can have all of its studios turning out all of their content for one single platform. No sharing it around, no messing about, no big first-party drought. That’s the core sweet spot of the Switch as a machine; it doesn’t need to be a home console nor a handheld. It’s a hybrid, #dealwithit. It gives Nintendo options, options to play with and options to ponder over. Sure, the Switch has a few hiccups already – but it seems Nintendo is hard at work over that, with the voice chat now seemingly tied into the Switch as an option (which is a much better idea than a smartphone app).

What the Switch needs more than anything now is commitment from Nintendo.

I get that pondering keeping the DS as a fallback option is a good idea – but most people probably could have figured that out on their own, Nintendo. You don’t need to hint at another machine – you want people to buy the Switch, no? You want it to be a success, right? So maybe don’t already start detailing your Plan B – and definitely don’t do it publicly. We get it, the DS might live on (which most would argue makes sense since the Switch is not a dual-screen machine – so those games wouldn’t really work on the Switch, would they? Keeping the 3DS around for a while makes sense too, particularly as a very budget option).

No-one assumed Nintendo would kill the 3DS immediately. At least not until the 2018 Fiscal Report. And even then, a gradual phasing out would be much better (one can argue Nintendo has been phasing out the Wii U for two years now). Old consoles can have a considerable lifespan into a new cycle – the low software sales of the last year are partly because developers have finally phased out PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 ports. Yeah, that is a thing. We like to think of a new cycle as out with the old, but as long as the old can make some cash, no company is going to drop a thing that is pulling in revenue.

It’s just frustrating. The Switch is perfectly poised to be a big deal for Nintendo. I understand a few pre-launch nerves; but with pre-orders being snapped up as fast as they’re available, and a decent launch year line-up by any standard, I don’t think Nintendo has much to worry about. Second year support… yeah, that’s gonna have to be stepped up a gear, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. With a tank battalion if necessary.

Personally, I wouldn’t miss the DS. I don’t think the two-screen setup has delivered anything meaningful for a while now. That’s why the Wii U was such a disaster – a concept is nothing without the software to back it up, and the Wii U didn’t have it (and arguably, neither has the 3DS really). It had a good run considering all things, but as we move on and people are on their smartphones and tablets, Nintendo has to realise that no-one really cares about dual-screen gaming anymore. Unless you’re on PC and want super-widescreen… but y’know… that’s different.

Nintendo should have the decency to let the DS go. If it really wants a second-tier option, its smartphone market appears to be bringing in the cash. It’s a viable option, and a much stronger marketing tool to boot. Download the app, like it, full-fat game is on the Switch! Not even Sony or Microsoft has managed to crack that market in the way Nintendo already has, so why not have that as your low-tier option?

Basically Nintendo, eyes on the Switch please. There’s a lot riding on your new hardware venture and I’m fascinated to see how this goes.

Stop distracting yourself. And us.


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