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Nintendo 3DS: A State of Affairs

April 24, 2019

Handheld gaming has long been a huge pillar of financial revenue that Nintendo has depended on. There have been times in fact where the handheld market was Nintendo’s saving grace as console sales struggled.  It’s no secret that against Sony and Microsoft’s more powerful systems the once gaming leader has often found itself as the third option.  

During particularly tough periods the gaming giant relied on the strong performance of its handhelds to keep the ship on course.  Nintendo’s handheld platforms have weathered many storms from the Sega Game Gear to the PS Vita. They have even survived the meteoric rise of the smart phone (though not unscathed). However it’s most surprisingly that the death stroke would finally come from a more unexpected source…  Its own company.  

Moving on from the Wii U disaster Nintendo released the Switch, their most innovative and ambitious console yet. Their gamble paid off and after just two years on the market it has been recognized as an overwhelming success. Total sales have topped just over 32.27 million units as of December 2018. This is far better than the lifetime sales of the Wii U which have bottomed out at a meager 13.56 million.  The Switch has roared into the market place as a true hybrid gaming machine which offers both an at home and on the go experience from a single system.  This duality has both fueled its success and as many would argue made the 3DS obsolete.

Since February 2011 the Nintendo 3DS has been the on the go game console for millions of avid fans.  The handheld has sold 74.84 million units world wide, as well as 375 million units of software.  However with the ever changing face of technology its lifecycle has truly run its course.  Though its install base is large we can safely assume it will not grow any further even with price cuts.  Many of the owners who received the 3DS as a child are now teens and adults. They spend their time on smart phones filled with apps and streaming content. So whats Nintendo’s plan?  Like always they are very tight lipped vowing to support the console for years to come.  However as we know support for a system can dwindle and change course on a dime.  A quick look at the “coming soon” list on Nintendo’s website tells us all we need to know.  It shows over 80 games releasing this year for the Switch, yet for the 3DS only one game remains listed. There is more than just one game for the year, and searching across the web I was able to locate 8 notable release titles for the year. The point made however is that the Big N is not putting the emphasis on this aging handheld.   Having a large install base, it makes sense for the 3DS to be supported with a few games here and there to keep the masses happy. However the winds have changed, and as the beloved handheld breaths its last breath it’s important to look to the future.  Here are my three theories on what could come next:

Possibilities and Probabilities:

  1. E3 is the platform where big announcements are made. This would be the forum where the big N would announce their new handheld system. A new version of the DS sans 3D effects.  I see a thinner, Wii U powered  more pocket friendly console. Maybe using Wii U tech would even cut development costs. Probability: In my book not likely.  The Switch is doing portable better than the 3DS ever could and it seems counter intuitive to put two of your own products in the same market to compete. In essence the snake would eat itself.
  2. They ride the 3DS into the sunset and become a solo system company like Microsoft.  Probability: A little better option than the first, and with Nintendo beginning to make apps for Smart phones they have a new iron in the fire for future financial growth. However giving up on the niche market all together doesn’t seem like something they are prepared to do.
  3. There has been rumor of a cheaper stripped down Switch coming to a store near you. With E3 coming I imagine we will know the truth of this rumor shortly.  It very well could be that if a kid durable as well as ultra portable version of the Switch were made, it appeal to that younger age group in the market. It would also grab the attention of parents hesitant to fork out money on a console that becomes a brick on first drop. Probability: For those of you who would forgo some bells and whistles for backwards compatibility I see that largely as a pipe dream. It would raise the price of a “Kids Switch” defeating the purpose of the market share they are trying desperately to hold onto.  The key here is marketing, because no child will ask for something inferior. If a lower priced Switch appears to be a cheap knock off, expect it to Virtual Boy itself into oblivion.  However done right this could hit that market sweet point Nintendo hopes to keep entertained.  Get the young kids hooked, and they will nostalgia purchase everything Nintendo makes for years to come. 

My Take:

Nintendo will support the 3DS at least vocally to keep what 3rd party developers that remain on the platform making games.  Truthfully it probably has about two years of supportable life left, but I would not be surprised to get more direction at this years E3.  If Nintendo does reveal a cheaper Switch as is rumored, I expect it to be marketed to the child and tween group (insert cool colors).  That will effectively seal the fate of the 3DS and any further plans for a separate portable platform.

Tell me what you think! Is the 3DS and conventional hand held gaming a thing of history? If you were Nintendo what would you do?  Let me know what you think in the comment section down below, or you can discuss in our wonderful forums.

Some say he is a leaf on the wind, others say he is the wind beneath their wings.  Either way he is a huge Nintendo fan and has been gaming since the age of 8.  One part Jedi Master, and two parts Starfleet Redshirt he has been known to quiet the ocean and make mountains sit. He comes to you now to share in all things Nintendo.


Some say he is a leaf on the wind, others say he is the wind beneath their wings.  Either way he is a huge Nintendo fan and has been gaming since the age of 8.  One part Jedi Master, and two parts Starfleet Redshirt he has been known to quiet the ocean and make mountains sit. He comes to you now to share in all things Nintendo.

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