Sunday, January 23, 2011


Regarding the 3DS

So this week we found out all about Nintendo's plans for the 3DS.

And... yeah. I don't want one.

I'm sure it'll be cool, and it'll make a lot of people very happy, and Nintendo will get a lot of money for it, and yes, being the consumer whore I am, I'll probably end up getting one anyway. Or maybe I won't.

See, when I say something like "I don't want a DSi XL.", what I really mean is, "I wish my DSi was a DSi XL." It's less about a lack of desire for a product and more a statement of resentment about the whole process of upgrading from a perfectly good piece of technology to something that's marginally better. When my desire for the product outweighs my resentment, the upgrade happens.

There are features in the 3DS that appeal to me -- 3D movies and photographs, augmented reality games -- but I'm not sure if they can really outweigh the marks against it. What are those marks?

Battery Life

This is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows about it, but no one in the press is impolite enough to point out how much it sucks.

Three to five hours. On a three hour charge.

And keep in mind, this is just the "press release" estimate. I've never bothered to clock them, but it never seems like my Nintendo portables ever last as long as the official estimates suggest. I remember how quick the red light came on for my original Game Boy Advance -- and that one had a much higher battery life expectancy. Three to five hours? What the hell good is that?

I remember that the Game Boy's strength over its flashier portable competition was always that the batteries seemed to last, in comparison, forever. This is a huge step backwards. It's seriously going to hobble the usefulness of the device.


Nintendo portables have been slowly creeping up in cost over the last decade, haven't they? The Game Boy through the Game Boy Advance SP had always hovered around the $100 mark. The DS started to tiptoe past that point, but most models were still under $150. The DSi XL pushed perilously close to $200, but that's just the price you pay for getting the deluxe model.

Now we're at $250? That's the price the Wii launched at. And speaking of the Wii, the games are said to be going for $40-$50 apiece. I dunno, to me, part of the appeal of portable games has always been that the games are right on the cusp of impulse purchase price. $30 for a Pokemon game? Why not get both versions?

This is a huge money sink. I guess that speaks to how much technology is on board, but... do we really need that much technology to make a fun game these days? This is going to lead to a really high-end, competitive market. I don't think developers are going to find that it prints money the same way the DS did.


Launch games are almost always shit. The original DS proved this -- there were hardly any games worth owning until the system was finally updated to the DS Lite.

What's been announced for the 3DS so far? Ports of Nintendo 64 games. The sequels to the same franchises that hit every new Nintendo console. The only thing I'm really interested in is the Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton game that's in the works, but it'll be years before that makes it to America.


This one kind of sticks in my craw. I've noted before how much I like the DS for the spirit of game development it brings to the table -- it has the horsepower to do some fancy 3D effects, but its heart and soul is in 2D gaming. Now that Nintendo's moving forward with a handheld that, reportedly, looks almost as good as the Wii, is this going to be the end of sprite games? At the very least, I can't see 2D games enjoying much success in the first year or two of the system's life as gamers and critics fawn over the 3D effects and seek games that make the most use of it. (Remember when the DS came out and there were reviews that took points off for "not using the system's features"?)

It'll Be Replaced in Two Years

Bet on it. With the DS, Nintendo sent the message that early adoption is for suckers. From 2004 to 2010, there have been four different hardware models with successively better features -- on average, a new version every year and a half. Considering how forgettable the first round of games is going to be, there's really nothing to lose by waiting for Nintendo to work out the new model with the fifteen-hour battery life and ever-cooler new features.

Nothing to lose, that is, except your $250.


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