I’ll get right to the point – I don’t think Nintendo is actually preparing to release a successor to the Nintendo 3DS but I can see why to keep that option open, I mean we’ve seen this before from them. Back when the Nintendo DS was prepping for it’s on release Nintendo was adamant that it would not replace the stalwart Game Boy Advance and that it was only a ‘third-pillar’ for the company. Well it didn’t quite work out that way. The DS quickly replaced the GBA as Nintendo’s main handheld device and support for the single-screened device soon melted away. So with the upcoming release of the Switch, with its ‘gaming on the go’ philosophy the 3DS may effectively be irrelevant. Which begs the question, do we really need a 3DS successor?
The current handheld market is a resilient one, but also one that is quickly eroding. It was only a few short years ago, during the 7th console generation that handhelds reached their zenith. The Nintendo DS and Sony PSP each found massive success, with the DS selling roughly 154 million units and the PSP moving about 80 million. However this success would not last, as the current generation’s handheld systems, the 3DS and Vita have moved about 60 million and 13 million respectively. This is attributed to many factors but the biggest one would be the rise and popularity of ‘mobile’ gaming found on smart devices like cell phones and tablets. And since these devices aren’t going anywhere soon (in fact companies like Square Enix, EA and even Nintendo are embracing this new frontier of gaming) it’s likely that a 3DS successor would run into major challenges trying to establish itself and finding an audience.
While cell phones and tablets are one thing, let’s not forget that the Nintendo Switch, while marketed as a home console, is really a hybrid that can function as both a home system and a handheld device. In fact, that’s its biggest selling point – it doesn’t have the best graphics nor the most games (unless you really like Nintendo games) but it can be play inside and outside the house, which sets it apart from its competitors; the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. So why would Nintendo possible want to undermine their on system and its unique advantage? It simply makes no sense to develop a full on replacement to the 3DS… unless.
We’ve known for years that Nintendo has been working on unifying its console and handheld software development teams in order to help streamline their development times and processes. It’s also possible we’ve started to see the results of these initiatives with several major games like Hyrule Warriors, Super Mario Maker, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U, Yoshi’s Woolly World and now Fire Emblem Warriors appearing on both Nintendo’s handhelds and consoles. This means that we should see a Nintendo that releases games at a much faster rate and across multiple devices. So instead of forcing their teams apart to work on two different platforms again, why not focus on pushing this unified effort onto one platform. But the Nintendo Switch is not a perfect handheld. It’s battery life leaves a lot to be desired, it can’t be charged and played at the same time while on the go and it’s not exactly the most portable of systems. So if a 3DS successor is to be released it would make sense for it to simply be a hardware revision that rights these issues but plays the same base games as the Nintendo Switch.
Of course, all of this is moot if the Nintendo Switch is a success and manages to capture a solid portion of the gaming market share, because, if Nintendo can produce a system that reaches mass-market appeal they won’t need a successor to the 3DS. The Switch (with a few tweaks) can potentially become a system that truly embodies the best of both worlds. Ideally I don’t think Nintendo would want to be in a position to have to release a successor to the 3DS. 2017’s lineup of upcoming games for the platform is very strong with games like Ever Oasis, Mario Sports Superstars, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Fire Emblem Warriors prove that the system still has some fight left in it going forward.
The Nintendo 3DS has been a very successful and important system for Nintendo, essentially keeping the big N in the conversion as the Wii U fell behind. But the upcoming Switch’s unique features and the state of the dedicated handheld market make it hard to imagine a world where its successor finds any type of major success. Of course, Nintendo will do whatever it believes is right and the company has proven many (myself included) wrong before, so it’s possible a new handheld device might be exactly what they need. Only time will tell but for now, we want to hear what you think? Would a new Nintendo handheld be interesting to you? Or do you want Nintendo to focus solely on the Switch? Let us know in the comments below.