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Is the New 3DS More Game Boy Color or Game Boy Micro?

by Neal Ronaghan - August 29, 2014, 12:36 pm EDT
Total comments: 22

The idea of the New 3DS is awesome, but is dividing the user base worth it?

Somewhat unexpectedly, a bomb dropped this morning: a new model of the 3DS and 3DS XL, called the "New 3DS," is coming to Japan in October (and Europe in 2015 and North America in probably 2015). This new system is like your old 3DS, but it also can play exclusive games that will only work on this new upgraded system, like Xenoblade Chronicles, which is coming to 3DS in 2015.

It has a whole slew of other additions, too. It has two more shoulder buttons and a weird Circle Pad nub as a second analog stick. The 3D viewing angle is improved. It uses microSD instead of SD. With an improved CPU, it will run better.

The last time Nintendo did a system upgrade like this, there were problems. The DSi, an improvement over the DS and DS Lite, allowed for exclusive games and an online shop for games. Though I'll always carry a torch for the DSiWare lineup, those DSi-exclusive games appeared to bomb. Nintendo's upgrade didn't increase software sales. The hardware sold, but mostly because of the success of the DS and DS Lite, as well as the existing software base.

More recently, Nintendo did something similar, spinning the 3DS off into the 2DS. The new system wasn't technologically different, but aesthetically, it was a drastic departure in the same vein as the Game Boy Micro. The Nintendo 2DS and the Micro both sold under expectations. While we don't know exact 2DS numbers, the fact Nintendo hasn't trumpeted the sales regularly in a press release means the 2DS wasn't a slam dunk, even more surprising considering it launched alongside a Pokémon title.

Looking further back, Nintendo did something similar with the Game Boy Color back in the late '90s, but that's a much different situation. The Game Boy Color came out almost a decade after the original Game Boy, and the landscape wasn't as crowded with downloadable games, mobile platforms, and more. As a kid, I remember it not being super clear what worked on the Game Boy Color and what didn't, and that’s with much clearer branding than "3DS" and "New 3DS."

So what makes the new 3DS different? Well, it does hit a different audience. The 2DS was seen as a downgrade or at best, a sidestep, meaning people didn't upgrade to the 2DS. In that respect, the New 3DS is more comparable to the Game Boy Color, since both systems are an upgrade to their predecessor. Current 3DS owners, including probably 75% of the staff here at Nintendo World Report, are more likely to upgrade to the New 3DS. Splitting the audience with another version of the 3DS seems treacherous. Xenoblade Chronicles only works on the new 3DS, and even though Xenoblade is a supremely rad game, a new 3DS version of that RPG won't bring the sales thunder. At this point, you're going to have four distinct versions of the 3DS, and only one of them has exclusive games. From a parent or even a retail employee prospective, that can't be easy to explain, especially in a world where folks still confuse the Wii and the Wii U and there is a DS, a 2DS, and a 3DS.

I'm stoked for the new 3DS model. Everything about it is essentially what I'd like to see upgraded about the 3DS, and hopefully that weird little C-stick nub thing is comfortable. However, I believe splitting the market with a system that has its own exclusives won't work that well, especially given the recent track record for Nintendo. Then again, with Miyamoto’s recent comments, maybe Nintendo is indeed doubling-down on their loyal audience, hoping that their fans who want to upgrade carry them through. That makes sense especially when it seems like the company bet hard on the 2DS last year and that seemingly floundered.

Only time will tell, and we will have to wait even longer since the New 3DS isn’t slated to leave Japan until next year. As a fan, I can’t wait for this new system and a port of a game I’d love to play on the go, but on the other hand, the entire 3DS system situation is confusing. I just hope that Nintendo somehow remembers what made the Game Boy Color successful as opposed to the middling reception of the Game Boy Micro, DSi, or Wii U. A more powerful version of a system can work, but all I can do is just raise an eyebrow and fret that the New 3DS will fall flat.



MythtendoAugust 29, 2014

Game Boy Color was a different system, not just an upgrade.

Did Nintendo really expect the Game Boy Micro to do well? When they announced it, I remember thinking what a stupid idea it was and that there was no reason to pick it over a Game Boy Advance SP (I still feel that way), so i was not shocked when it bombed.

daverhodusAugust 29, 2014

It seems like DSi, a half step toward the next generation. I'd like to know exactly how much faster the CPU is. I'd love to see current games patched to take advantage of the CPU. Especially games that suffer from poor performance, like Luigi's Mansion 2.

Visually, New 3DS looks pretty appealing -- especially for potential 3DS owners. The OG 3DS was an eyesore right from the start.

CericAugust 29, 2014

The Gameboy Color did have that whole you know, Color thing going from it even with Older Gameboy games.

OblivionAugust 29, 2014

Quote from: daverhodus

It seems like DSi, a half step toward the next generation. I'd like to know exactly how much faster the CPU is. I'd love to see current games patched to take advantage of the CPU. Especially games that suffer from poor performance, like Luigi's Mansion 2.

Visually, New 3DS looks pretty appealing -- especially for potential 3DS owners. The OG 3DS was an eyesore right from the start.

Some hackers have figured out it has twice the RAM and 4MB more of VRAM.

ECMAugust 29, 2014

I would strenuously second that Nintendo allow games to use the faster clock on the zippier CPU/GPU to give *all* 3DS games a kick in the pants--that would help differentiate the device a bit, albeit *not* with the market that's already given up on Nintendo (which is why it probably won't happen, since only the niche of 'core' gamers would care and it isn't worth the time/money/headaches to test all the games to make sure no issues crop up).

Also: it's painfully clear this device is meant mainly for Japan, and has us (Westerners) as an afterthought, so I don't think a lot of the concerns addressed in this article really apply. For most of the mass market, this upgrade will probably be fairly transparent and/or a complete non-issue because the 3DS simply isn't selling to the lowest common denominator like the DS did (much to Nintendo's stock price chagrin).

Mop it upAugust 29, 2014

I'm hoping it's more a DSi situation but it could end up more like Game Boy Color. I wonder if they could do what some GBC games did and have extra control options and run better on the New 3DS but still be playable on the Old 3DS.

Even if a game releases that I want, I won't be getting one. I figure we're now 2 years off from the Real 3DS Successor (official name) and it will probably play New 3DS software, so might as well wait for that.

AdrockAugust 29, 2014

Quote from: Mythtendo

Game Boy Color was a different system, not just an upgrade.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere (possibly these very forums) that Nintendo themselves don't consider Gameboy Color separate from the original Gameboy. I'm too lazy to look it up (and honestly, I wouldn't know where to start) so I'm not making this claim with any certainty.

In any case, Gameboy Color was along the same lines as DSi and New 3DS. The hardware was updated though not incredibly so and there are some exclusive games. It was out for less than three years before Nintendo launched Gameboy Advance. Gameboy Color had a lot more going from it. At the time, moving to a color screen was a bigger deal than anything Nintendo added to either DSi or New 3DS and the original Gameboy was out for like seven decades before Nintendo decided to drop a stopgap system.

Anyway, in response to the article, I see New 3DS being closer to DSi than anything. It will sell alongside the other models and be treated as another 3DS by the vast majority of people rather than something separate. Third party developers won't make many exclusive titles for it (if any), most games that use the extra CPU power and functionality will have a normal 3DS mode and/or use the Circle Pad Pro. I only recall hearing about a few physical DSi exclusive retail games. I don't even remember the names and I could easily look them up, but they're so inconsequential that I won't even waste my time. Otherwise, DSi had exclusive DSiWare titles. I bought a couple, mostly because I had extra points left over from Shantae: Risky's Revenge. New 3DS won't even have that as the eshop is available to all 3DS users. I suppose we can look to the indie scene, but what developer is going lock themselves out of the greater 3DS audience just to take advantage of some processing power? They'll port down before sacrificing sales they can't afford to sacrifice.

Xenoblade Chronicles is an odd choice for an exclusive game. I understand and completely believe that it needed the extra processing power, but it isn't a game that people are dying to buy new hardware for, particularly since it's a port. If Nintendo wants to make New 3DS a serious piece of hardware with its own exclusives, they're going to have to put their money where their mouth is by releasing the brand new installments of Zelda, Mario, and Pokemon on New 3DS only. Does anyone actually see that happening? I don't. How many major exclusives did Nintendo make for Gameboy Color that weren't just colored Gameboy games? Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal comes to mind. There's Wario Land III if you count that as major. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons were released a few weeks before Gameboy Advance.

DSi didn't do as well as Nintendo wanted, and I can see that affecting how Nintendo views New 3DS. It won't have many important exclusives because it isn't meant to. I think Nintendo wants and wholly expects New 3DS to be The Amiibo 3DS, especially with the same logo design. Handhelds and collecting stuff and/or things are huge in Japan. The regular 3DS has the Amiibo NFC peripheral which is handy when you're at home, but a pain in the ass out in the world. Having built-in NFC makes this exponentially easier on the train or just walking around a city/park.

marvel_moviefan_2012August 29, 2014

What if they are testing the market to do a follow up next year with a slightly upgraded Wii U?

AdrockAugust 29, 2014

The Wii U isn't popular enough to make that worthwhile. The most we'll see is a redesigned box and/or more internal memory, and even that is kind of a stretch. I see Nintendo just riding out Wii U until they can launch a successor in late 2016.

Some people will disagree with this, but I think they should go slightly more powerful than PS4 and launch at $200. They're either too early or too late, but either way, they'll be most people's second system so keep the cost down. That's what they're going to have to do to be "the system people by Nintendo games for."

Mop it upAugust 29, 2014

When New 3DS comes out, I expect there to be an update for all current games that makes them brick Old 3DS models, forcing people to upgrade.

CericAugust 29, 2014

I fully expect that Nintendo will be letting games that support the CCPro just have the option on the New 3DS.

Also the more I look at the XL the more Fugly and the less it makes sense.  The N3DS has nice colorful button and those shells.  It is definitely the GBA Micro of the whole DS branded products.

TheXenocideAugust 30, 2014

I personally find this to be annoying on an Apple level. My wife got me my 2Ds for Christmas to replace my regular 3ds. I've had the thing less than a year, and already the fact exists that there will be games I can't play without the next model.

Oddly enough, there's parallels between the GBC era and the current lineup

Game Boy Pocket = 3DSXL (much needed improvement to a bad system)
(Game Boy Light = 2DS, regional exclusive)
Game Boy Color = new 3DS

Which would put the next generation console somewhere in 2018 or so.

ShyGuyAugust 30, 2014

I seem to recall a couple of comments from I think Iwata over the past year or so that make sense in the light of New 3DS.

I remember him talking about doing more frequent hardware iterations and I also remember him talking about a unified software base like Smartphones.

I wonder if this is successful if it will be the start of an Apple style hardware path; The iOS software remains compatible from generation to generation but eventually support gets phased out as the specs get beefier.

The iPad is only a year older than the 3Ds, but look at all the upgrades it has gone through.

AdrockAugust 30, 2014

Quote from: Shaymin

Oddly enough, there's parallels between the GBC era and the current lineup

Game Boy Pocket = 3DSXL (much needed improvement to a bad system)
(Game Boy Light = 2DS, regional exclusive)
Game Boy Color = new 3DS

Which would put the next generation console somewhere in 2018 or so.

Sooner than that. In Japan, Gameboy Color launched on 10/21/1998 and Gameboy Advance launched on 03/21/2001. New 3DS is launching in October 2014, its successor would launch in March 2017 if we're going by parallels. That might work out for Nintendo if they launch a Wii U successor late 2016. The new systems would launch close enough to each other without cannibalizing sales during the holidays.

chilenozoAugust 30, 2014

I never owned a handheld but I have been considering to buy a 3DS since its library seems awesome. But I needed a more portable system (similar size to the original 3DS, but better battery life) before buying and this system seems to answer that, albeit I will only get between 30 min to an hour extra...plus I want to use the 3D, I don't have eye or brain issues....so I like the adaptive 3D of the New3DS


- We have enough evidence (data points) that Nintendo PR and advertizing ppl (Iwata's fault?) have no clue how to chose names for their hardware. All of this can be traced back to the DS days and thereafter.

- Another weird timing in the announcement. News are global these days, and even if they want to release this in 'Murica in 2015 I can't stop thinking that some costumers will now just wait past Christmas. I think smash may have brought some fans, not many, but some to the 3DS specially with the bundles they will offer. Even I was considering buying one for smash, specially with the tempting Club Nintendo smash-cd offer!...but to me this announcement is more important than Smash and now I will wait longer...I will get smash on the wiiu so...

- Social media hyperbole: Just as there were so many critics with the 2DS, there will be lots of critics (I wonder if they ever owned a Nintendo console) of this. No this won't fragment the market, it does not make any financial sense to forget the 40 million 3DS install base. We also have historical evidence with the DSi, not enough software was produced and the old DS remained strong. The extra CPU will be used to port wii games for little or no effort. That's what Nintendo wants know....keep the buz with the 3DS. Few original games will come, sometimes with droughts apart, so why not filling the -media- gap with Wii-ports announcements?

- Is just me, or you guys agree that, even without having test it, those rear buttons will become very tricky to use?...I don't see how I won't be ending up pressing L while trying to press ZL in game-stressing situations!

- If they improved the CPU and 3D technology...why not upgrade the 3D cameras resolution?...sigh...opportunity lost!...Ninty is the only low-tech affordable-tech company that have the tech to both record and see right away the results of 3D photos and videos!...specially now that they double down with the 3D display!


- Better battery life, for me this is a must for any handheld...can't understan buying one to play games mostly at home....duh. Even if I'm a hardcore gamer, I just think that's too much!

- Interchangeable skins!....awesome....the 3DS has been the go to handheld when is about cuteness and case style....so many options...so many great skins! I bet that 3rd parties will jump like crazy into making even better looking skins! Do not underestimate the power of user skin customization! Even the teenager side of my brain would have loved that back in the day!

- An attempt for more buttons and extra stick....well this remains to be seen, I understand the size restrictions so in principle I give Ninty the benefit of the doubt. The "Nintendo nipple" and the ZR & ZL additions could proven awesome, but I have my reservations.

- Faster downloading and web-browsing times: no brainier....nobody should complain about this.

- Amibo: Don't care but I know ppl who love all of this so I guess it's ok....all of this aims to the future of a merge of the handheld and console business of Nintendo.

- Wii-ports!!: Yes!!!...mark my words....we won't see original content created for the New3DS but we may see an explosion of Nintendo AAA Wii games coming!

- Worth 3D display. I've seen the 3D effect on those games worth playing with it...and it's awesome. I did notice the view angle restrictions, and can see that becoming annoying, specially when I take flights...so I really appreciate the new adaptive 3D effect. I will use the 3D as much as I can!

All and all, I agree with this move by Nintendo. They probably updated the system cause the new parts are cheap or they got better deals with suppliers. At the same time it provide a refreshing update for prospective costumers, that may be good enough to incentive sales up to 5-10 million more...I think that in the actual market, Nintendo should be satisfied if they pass the 50 million 3DS, with huge celebrations if they ever reach 60!

OblivionAugust 30, 2014

Remember, those skins and sexy buttons are only for the new 3ds, not the new 3ds xl.

Such a stupid idea.

Triforce HermitAugust 30, 2014

Quote from: Oblivion

Remember, those skins and sexy buttons are only for the new 3ds, not the new 3ds xl.

Such a stupid idea.

Are you shitting me? They are going an extra mile for the skins and then they half ass it? Waste of money.

OblivionAugust 30, 2014

Not shitting you. This is just another piece of the reason why this announcement was a bunch of bullshit.

azekeAugust 30, 2014

Quote from: Oblivion

Remember, those skins and sexy buttons are only for the new 3ds, not the new 3ds xl.

Only cover plates are for N3DS. N3DSXL buttons are also coloured:
Skins as in OS themes are for 3DS systems, and are the only part of that Direct that will launch in EU/NA in 2014.

Spak-SpangSeptember 01, 2014

I find my interest and value in this is directly related to understanding what is Nintendo's next plan.

If Nintendo is planning on keeping the 3DS on the market for 2 more years this is a great investment.  If Nintendo is going to try to Apple the 3DS and significantly upgrade it every 2 years then maybe not.

I also want to know if any other changes are there but unannounced. 

marvel_moviefan_2012September 01, 2014

They were talking about a unified OS a while back so maybe this is the first step in that direction, which would indicate they are probably going for a new device every two years or so that seems right.

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