How Much Time Does the 3DS Have Left?
With a new Switch on the way, what's next for the handheld console?
Published on October 23, 2018
In February 2004, Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi expressed his feelings of urgency about the next Nintendo console after the poor sales of the Gamecube. Yamauchi said, “if the DS succeeds, we will rise to heaven, but if it fails we will sink to hell.” 14 years later, the DS line of products has become the second best selling console line of all time at 154.02 million units sold. These days, the console still burns bright in the heart of its admirers while its sales have gradually slowed to their lowest point in the console’s history.
On October 4, The Wall Street Journal reported on a follow-up to the Nintendo Switch - still yet to be officially announced by Nintendo - and the news has only further called into question what the role of the DS will be as we move closer to the new decade.
In 2004 the first DS model was released in North America. After multiple iterations including the DSi, the 3DS was released in 2011. It’s important to remember how anomalous the DS systems are - both major iterations of the console have had life cycles of over seven years. Most consoles at least get their next generation announced at around the six year mark.
In January of 2017, current Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima gave the remark in a presentation that “we plan to continue [handheld and console] separately and in parallel.” This continues to be the driving ethos behind any comments the company makes concerning the continuation of the 3DS line of products in a world where the Switch can also be used as a portable gaming machine.
The basic idea Nintendo promotes is that while the Switch is great for markets of established players who have a history with Nintendo and/or console gaming, the DS provides an in with kids.
At E3 2017, Nintendo of America President and Chief Financial Officer Reggie Fils-Aimé affirmed that the company would continue to support the DS “well into 2018 and beyond.” They’ve kept that promise thus far, but time’s running out. Still, that didn’t stop Nintendo from announcing some relatively big titles during a small portion of September’s Nintendo Direct that will coast the 3DS to the first part of 2019.
The lack of energy in the marketing and promotion of the 3DS or its upcoming titles points me to the idea that while we probably won’t get a new console in the next year, we’ll definitely get an announcement at E3 2019 or possibly in a Nintendo Direct at around the same time. Following its absence at E3 2018, Fils-Aimé denied rumors of the console being phased out, but the whispers have understandably persisted. In February 2017, journalist Ollie Barder asked Nintendo specifically about a rumored 3DS successor slated for 2018 and got the response, “We are always considering and working on what should come next after the current gaming hardware is released. It’s difficult to say if we will release a new one.”
Nintendo is catering to a new generation of young gamers that haven’t necessarily developed loyalty for the DS brand. The implementation of 3D in the 3DS along with the original DS’ nascent version of a touchscreen - requiring a stylus for proper use- places both iterations of the handheld console firmly in their moment of tech history. While it might be a new DS generation that has updated hardware, I think it’s possible that the new handheld doesn’t even have the DS name.
The power Nintendo’s been able to pack into the portable presentation of the Switch can give us a glimpse of what we can expect from whatever their new handheld console may be. While we’ll definitely have more to go on than just rumors by this time next year, the DS consoles still have a huge back catalogue of overlooked gems to play through before we start putting them away in preparation for what comes next.