The 3DS and the Switch are standing side-by-side in Nintendo’s plans, but for how long?
A lot of the discourse around the reveal and release of the Nintendo Switch has been focused on what exactly is the young system’s future legacy. Is the Switch a home console or a portable? Is it the successor to the Wii U? The 3DS? Both? Both sides have staked their claims in what they think Nintendo’s plans are, whether it’s using past precedent, reciting Nintendo’s own recent words, or because they believe in a one-console future.
Regardless of what you think of the Switch’s stature in Nintendo history, the company doesn’t seem to be concerned about the specifics of where it all falls. At a recent press event showing off the New 2DS XL - a new iteration in the 3DS family coming out less than six months after the Switch’s debut - Nintendo of America’s Doug Bowser took the stage to spell out the differences between the Switch and the 3DS. The key intention is that the duo are “brothers in arms” that seek to entertain you in whatever way you want.
One of these brothers is new and more expensive, with a younger, less diverse library. The other is older with a decidedly cheaper price variance and a large library accumulated over six years. The Switch serves a newer, savvier market, with its deliberate focus on higher profile games and a balanced supply of indies. The 3DS is starting to skew younger than it ever did before, as it remains the cheaper option with more “kid-friendly” options. Even just look at the pair of games launching alongside the New 2DS XL in America: Hey! Pikmin and Miitopia. Hey! Pikmin is, from the little I’ve played, a simpler touch-based platformer that almost seems like an entry-level Pikmin game. Miitopia is a short and sweet RPG where you use personality-heavy Miis to go on quests and do super goofy things. These aren’t games for the hardcore. They are for the younger crowd. Conversely, the Switch has been filled with games that skew older, or at least have much clearer crossover appeal, whether it’s the massive open-world of Breath of the Wild or the competitive multiplayer mayhem of Mario Kart and Splatoon.
At a certain point, these two worlds will overlap more as the Switch becomes more widely available and the library expands. The 3DS will eventually fade away, either to subsumed into the Switch’s burgeoning success or into a new console for all of us to start bickering about whether or not it’s the follow-up to the Switch, the 3DS, or both. Whether that happens by the end of 2017, sometime in 2018, or beyond, we don’t know for certain. Nintendo’s saying the 3DS will stay supported for another year, giving the platform about as long as the DS had.
For right now, I don’t think the 3DS or the Switch will disappoint their creator this year. Thanks to Pokémon, the 3DS got a shot in the arm in 2016 that should keep it above water for a while. The Switch will likely continue to try to meet the demand until it eventually is regularly stocked.
A lot can change in the coming year. I’ll stand by my personal belief and theory that Nintendo is undergoing R&D on the follow-up to the 3DS and that the Switch isn’t the only console we’ll see from Nintendo in the near future. But, it’s just as likely that the 3DS fades away in 2018 and we’re in the valley of the Switch for the next few years. Only time will tell, but for now, Nintendo seems committed to keeping this pair of retail warriors together.