The Empire of Nintendo Handheld: A Celebration of the Nintendo 3DS
Across the last few decades, it’s nearly impossible to think of the handheld market without Nintendo. Since the Game Boy’s release in 1989, the company has practically dominated the market. Competition has come forth in the form of the Sega Game Gear, Nokia N-Gage, and more prominently, the Sony PSP, but throughout the years, and especially in a market where mobile phones take an increasing share each year, Nintendo has managed to maintain an edge in producing some of the best and most creative technology the handheld market has to offer.
When Nintendo revealed it developing a 3D handheld, it certainly raised some eyebrows. 3D technology was certainly nothing new, but for the most part the technology required special glasses and the idea of such for a handheld was scrutinized. Not to mention, the Nintendo Virtual Boy came to mind, which had tried at the idea of immersing the player deeper into the game only to come out as one of Nintendo’s worst performing and worst selling systems. Doubts aside, Nintendo ran a constant campaign for the 3DS during development and set out to prove to the world that it was ready to floor customers once again with its brand new handheld.
The Nintendo 3DS was head and foot over its most recent predecessor, the still-new at the time Nintendo DSi XL, in terms of features and power. No glasses were needed – the system used stereoscopic 3D effects that only required that the player hold the device at a certain distance and angle. In addition, the device included 3D cameras, backwards compatibility with DS and DSi games, and wireless connectivity to name a few of the many new features. For the first time, players could go online to the Nintendo eShop, browse and purchase classic Nintendo, Gameboy Advance, and Game Boy games in addition to other downloadable content. Amongst critics, the 3DS was largely considered to be a technical masterpiece of a system, limited only by its inability to allow more than one person to view the 3D effects and its relatively short battery life.
A system can only do so much on its own, however. Launch titles are arguably a factor of purchase for many consumers, but the 3DS wasn’t lacking. Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and a remake of Star Fox 64 were just a few of the titles that would come to the 3DS shortly after its arrival. Moreover, it would enjoy the likes of Street Fighter 4, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Games such as Resident Evil: Revelations and the fourth Super Smash Brothers debuted on the 3DS exclusively at first and played flawlessly on the system. It would take some time to build, but the 3DS would eventually amass a strong library of games for all players.
The system didn’t exactly have strong sales out of the gates, mostly due to the fact that it had one of the highest price tags on a handheld in history at launch ($249.99 in America). Nintendo would eventually rectify this by slashing the price on the device nearly worldwide, offering games and incentives to those that bought the 3DS at original price. With this, the 3DS’s sales would eventually pick up and within two years, it was one of Nintendo’s highest selling systems of all time. In fact, on December 31st, 2015, Nintendo revealed in a sales report that the 3DS in all of its forms has sold nearly 58 million units since its release.
When it comes to platforms, licensing or content support, Nintendo has had an arguably spotty record in recent history. However, if there’s one thing that the company has shown it can still handle, it’s a solid handheld. The 3DS has been a fantastic seller for the company and solid source of entertainment for Nintendo fans worldwide since its release. It’s a testament to Nintendo’s continued ability to create something that will turn heads and have staying power. Sure, you may not be able to say that about all of Nintendo’s ventures these days, but the 3DS is proof that the company still has creativity on lockdown when it comes to the handheld market.