As seen in the Nintendo Direct this past Thursday, 3DS is set for support well into 2017. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is still being supported with DLC years after launch, a Pikmin spin-off is in the works, ports of Super Mario Maker and Yoshi’s Woolly World are coming, and we’ve just been offered five new StreetPass games. Despite assertions of its impending demise, the handheld remains alive and well. Question is, what lies in its future?
Before we move onto that, though, let’s review the main reason why many think 3DS is, or was, on its last legs. Its long life aside, it has long been speculated the upcoming NX will be a home console/handheld hybrid, with rumor after rumor popping up as recently as yesterday. Therefore, why would Nintendo continue supporting an outdated handheld when a hybrid can get the job done, especially since 3DS failed to emulate the stratospheric sales achievements of its processor?
And yet even though NX is set to release next March, Nintendo seems content on continuing support for 3DS. But why? In the midst of our excitement, we’re forgetting one crucial thing: rumors are but rumors. While there are certainly some credible sources in the above NeoGAF link, we don’t know what exactly NX will be until Nintendo officially presents the platform. So no matter how credible the likes of Eurogamer and Emily Rogers may be, your handy grain of salt remains the best away to treat rumors.
Still, everyone seems convinced that it’ll be a hybrid, and since I don’t have any better suggestions (much less contacts in the gaming industry), it’s best to operate under that theory. While the NX has been in the works for some time, there’s no guarantee its first year will be rife with games from both Nintendo and third-parties. In that case, the best plan would be to not only fill in the release schedule with 3DS substitutes for anticipated titles, but current iterations of popular series on the handheld as well.
Take the example of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. That the game is receiving DLC support three years after its launch (or four, if you live in Japan) is a testament to its popularity, but what does it mean in the long run? Suppose that a prospective NX installment for the series won’t be ready for release next year; in that case, supporting the current popular game will continue to keep players occupied. If the new game is nearing completion, however, could these new updates hint at a deep connection between the new titles, like with Wild World and City Folk? Regardless, I suspect this fall’s Animal Crossing mini-Direct may have the answer.
A similar case could be made for Pikmin for Nintendo 3DS, which was announced in Thursday’s direct. There has been much confusion over whether or not it’s the Pikmin 4 Miyamoto has hinted at over the past two years, but it might make sense if it we think of it this way. While he initially declared it as being “nearly complete,” the game had fallen off the list of priorities by next summer. Supposing that Pikmin 4 had been moved from Wii U to NX in the meantime, a 3DS Pikmin that also happened to be in development can serve to fill in the gap. In paying close attention to Miyamoto’s statements, he explicitly refers to to the game as “Pikmin 4,” so why would this game be stuck with the tentative “Pikmin for Nintendo 3DS” if it was actually that nebulous iteration?
Meanwhile, that we’ve been gifted with five new StreetPass games shows Nintendo won’t abandon StreetPass so quickly; actually, who’s to say the company will at all? If the new console truly is a hybrid, why wouldn’t it build upon the popular social feature? In the event it’s not a completely new mode, I suspect NX’s version of StreetPass could be compatible with 3DS’s. While the exact specifications of this supposed hybrid controller/screen are unknown, it’d be a great way to extend the public StreetPassing life of 3DS.
Finally, 3DS’s support into 2017 can be perceived as a back-up plan in case the NX ends up delayed again. Yes, Nintendo assured only but two months ago that won’t be the case, and it’s probable the “automated manufacturing” is happening as we speak. Still, it’s taking the company an awful long time to present the platform, and everyone’s starting to get antsy; after all, the release is only half a year away, and we still know barely anything about it. Whatever happens, 3DS will be there to pick up the slack.
Ultimately, I believe 3DS has two years left in it. It’ll hang around next year to help the NX on its feet before gradually petering out in 2018. As it’s my favorite handheld of all time, I admit I don’t want it to go away. The likes of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Animal Crossing: New Leaf keep me busy years after release, and I still regularly entertain myself with StreetPass. But if the NX’s rumored hybrid nature comes true, I imagine it’ll pick up where its 3D predecessor left off. In the meantime, with Wii U’s lineup currently belly-up, it’s up to 3DS to accompany the new console next year.