The latest Nintendo Direct presentation brought some unexpected news, not in relation to the Nintendo Switch which remained regrettably predictable, but in regards to the Nintendo 3DS. There will be some surprisingly big launches on the 3DS this year, including a new addition to the Pikmin franchise, a Monster Hunter title, and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Kirby, three new Kirby games. Whilst the 3DS remains a resolutely popular console, the focus risks undermining the Nintendo Switch which was only launched last month.
Nintendo seems keen to keep the 3DS alive for as long as possible. It’s not surprising, last year it shifted 6.79 million units; a console that is six years old. This remains higher than any annual sales figures for the Wii U, to which the direct successor is the Nintendo Switch. And whilst the official Nintendo sales figures for the Switch have yet to be announced, with inundated shortages, it seems Nintendo misjudged its potential popularity.
This belies the problem. The reliance on the 3DS cannot last forever, as its sales naturally show a steady decline. After the failure of the Wii U, Nintendo seems hesitant to push aside the success of the Nintendo 3DS and replace it with the ambitiously innovative Nintendo Switch. It would be a mistake to not specify the Switch as a handheld console, and therefore, it would be a mistake to not see the Switch as the successor to the 3DS as well as the Wii U. The reluctance to allow the 3DS the dignity of a final rest will only hurt the Nintendo Switch in the short term.
With the 25th anniversary of Kirby this year, there was an opportunity to launch a new exciting game on the Nintendo Switch. This would have been a more appropriate celebration for a franchise most deserving, revealing a show of confidence in the future of the company as well as another original game for the Switch. Disappointingly, Kirby hasn’t been given the upgrade to Switch it deserved, allowing its anniversary to be lost in three games on a system that ardent Nintendo fans will be switching away from.
This isn’t to say the Nintendo Direct presentation didn’t provide any focus on the Nintendo Switch, quite the opposite. It unveiled further information on the release of Arms and Splatoon 2 this Summer, showing exciting new footage for both. However, the release of Arms and Splatoon 2 was already well known, and the gameplay of both games was already revealed previously. The finer details about Amiibo compatibility with Splatoon 2 was a pleasant culmination, although should have been expected with Nintendo’s steady focus on Amiibo. Arms looks animative, and will certainly be competitive in multiplayer, but it remains to be seen how much Min Min can kick the game to the same successes that the Splatoon franchise is currently undertaking. It remains that the Nintendo Direct presentation didn’t reveal anything groundbreaking in regards to the Nintendo Switch, which was an unfortunate missed opportunity.
For Nintendo to remain competitive, they have to entice the 3DS users to the Switch. All the while the 3DS is getting big names released on it, the less consumers will buy the Switch, driving Nintendo revenue down. The longer fans linger on the 3DS, the less successful the Nintendo Switch will be, potentially driving away third party support that should be inspired by the flexibility of the system. Early success can provide the momentum to push a latter success. The PlayStation 2 is a great example of this, without much competition on its release, it was able to maintain good support when the competition did arrive.
What’s peculiar here is that it’s not Sony competing with Nintendo, or Microsoft competing with Nintendo, but Nintendo competing with Nintendo. When the 3DS does perish into a legacy of the past, the Nintendo Switch will grow to greater heights. This wouldn’t represent Nintendo putting all their eggs in one basket either, with Nintendo’s successful entry into the mobile market. What sets the mobile market apart from the handheld market is the availability of 2.32 billion smartphone users in the world. This allows a greater pool of people to target your products at, introducing your brand to new markets.
With Nintendo diverging into two different directions with intricately developed games designed to target the two separate markets, having two consoles targeting one of those markets is a mistake. This is why the recent Nintendo Direct presentation was underwhelming. Rather than a bold new statement for the Nintendo Switch, they opted to put the Nintendo 3DS on life support. Eventually, they will have to turn the lights out for the 3DS, and the time wasted on not showing confidence in the Switch might well be damaging. Rather than a focus on the 3DS, the Nintendo Direct could have placed a section for mobile releases, pushing their entry into the market at the forefront.
Regardless of what happens to the 3DS this year, the Switch must become Nintendo’s priority. The Nintendo Switch is a fantastic console, and it was launched with arguably the greatest Nintendo game of all time; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (that it was released on the Wii U also shows Nintendo’s reluctance to show confidence in the Nintendo Switch). Now’s a great time to show resolve and press ahead into the future. Let’s turn the life support off and remember the 3DS with fondness, and forge a whole new world of Nintendo and give the Nintendo Switch the chance it deserves.