With the recent reveal of information about the Nintendo Switch this past Friday, everybody in the gaming world’s abuzz with excitement.
Many have pre-ordered the system already, with several stores having sold out of stock relatively quickly. The Switch looks like it’s going to be quite a system indeed, and I’m hoping that it ends up being more successful than its predecessor. But there’s one question that keeps lingering in the back of my mind when I think about the Switch – what does this mean for the 3DS?
Since 2011, the Nintendo 3DS has provided a handheld alternative to console gaming and has proven incredibly successful for the company. Even though sales of the Wii U weren’t the greatest (the Vita has still outsold the Wii U in Japan), Nintendo always had the 3DS to fall back on. And it’s a good thing they did, because the 3DS has enabled Nintendo to maintain the grasp on the handheld market it’s had since the Game Boy dropped in 1989. Part of the success of the 3DS is due to the lack of any real competition in handhelds except from the mobile market, which Nintendo seems to want to get involved with anyway, so even that might not be too much of a concern for them and the PS Vita, which, while not a bad system overall, just couldn’t compete with the likes of the 3DS.
But I’m worried that the Switch might end up becoming the 3DS’ worst enemy. We know that the Switch is capable of on-the-go gaming, so my concern really comes down to how much they push the handheld capabilities of the Switch. If they mainly treat the system as console that you plug into your TV, then it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Those looking for a sit-at-home gaming experience can go with the Switch while those who prefer the ability to play away from the couch have the 3DS – and people who want both won’t have to pay too much extra, since the 3DS has gone down in price since its debut. But if Nintendo really tries to push for the Switch to be the next big handheld, then it could be disastrous.
Looking at the Switch now and considering its specs, it seems like Nintendo’s best bet is to treat the system like a console that allows you to take it with you if you want. If they want to focus on the handheld aspect of it and try and make it a handheld console, then they’ll have backed themselves into a corner. Handheld gaming is different from console gaming in several ways – game design and philosophy, hardware specs that impact software, etc. If they work on the Switch with the intent of making it the next 3DS, then the people who’ll be buying it as a console might get the short end of the stick. I’m not saying that Nintendo should completely forget about taking the Switch on the go, but they shouldn’t try to make it a handheld system when it’s quite clearly not – and when they won’t have a console to fall back on if it fails.
This is all conjecture, of course, but it highlights a serious problem that could be easily avoided; but it could prove to be a major mistake if not addressed. I’m curious to see what the Switch will bring to the table when it gets released in March, and yet I don’t want it to come at the expense of the 3DS. I have a feeling that Nintendo is smart enough to keep supporting the 3DS for a little longer, even if it’s no longer the fresh, young handheld it once was. If Nintendo can keep its handheld going while the Switch enters its infancy, then we shouldn’t have anything to worry about. I’ve heard rumors that Nintendo will continue to support the 3DS until 2018 – plenty of time for people to see just what the Switch is and how Nintendo’s going to market it. We’ll just have to wait and see.