Nintendo’s not willing to call the 3DS “dead” yet, but the company’s latest briefing has made the whole thing feel like Weekend At Bernie’s.
One year ago today, Nintendo held a briefing for investors at which it said it would “continue the 3DS business” and that it was “preparing new software for release in 2019 and beyond.” Just prior to this meeting, Nintendo had announced a large batch of new 3DS games, like Luigi’s Mansion and WarioWare Gold, and the company pointed to this release schedule as proof that Nintendo still planned to support its handheld.
Yesterday, Nintendo held this year’s version of the same briefing, and the difference was night and day. No announcement beforehand of new games for the handheld platform, no mention of the 3DS business in the briefing. There are currently zero first-party games on the schedule for the 3DS, and just a tiny handful of upcoming third-party retail games—just one in the U.S., for example, and two in Japan.
“We have nothing new to announce regarding first-party software for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems,” a Nintendo spokesperson wrote in response to an emailed request for comment by Kotaku. “We can confirm that new software is coming from third-party publishers.”
Make no mistake: If Nintendo planned to support the 3DS this year the same way it did last year, it would have announced some new games prior to this week’s financial briefing, and talked them up during its presentation, to give investors the idea that the company was serious about continuing the business in a significant way. Instead, the most likely scenario here is that Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn ends up being the final first-party 3DS release, and we won’t see much if anything of significance from third parties past Persona Q2.
Nintendo is going to keep the 3DS, the 2DS, and accompanying software on shelves this year, as evidenced by the fact that it said in its forecasts this week that it intends to sell 1 million 3DS systems this year. Perhaps it will, simply off the strength of its evergreen games. (Or not. Last year, Nintendo forecast that it would sell 4 million pieces of 3DS hardware, but only sold 2.5 million.) Still, all indications are that it won’t be introducing any new games to boost those sales.
Okay, so, the 3DS is probably dead now, even if Nintendo isn’t ready to admit it yet. What this is likely leading up to, as has been reported by many different outlets, is the release of a Switch-compatible handheld that is a more adequate replacement for the 3DS line. Smaller, cheaper, more rugged, built for portable play. Something you’d have no issue giving to a younger kid or maybe even putting into your pocket when you leave the house.
Bloomberg reported that this new Switch could be released as early as June. Later, that outlet reported that Nintendo’s president Shuntaro Furukawa had said that Nintendo does not plan to announce any new hardware at E3. Of course, that hardly means anything—remember that year at E3 when Japanese newspapers reported Nintendo was making a 3DS XL, and Nintendo said this was all “speculation,” and then it announced one two weeks after E3? That’s what this is all feeling like right now.
Once such a model of Switch is available, there will be no need for 3DS anymore. Yes, Nintendo will likely keep selling it for a while, since there’s no way that even a redesigned Switch will be able to be priced at the $80 level of the 2DS. So I wouldn’t expect the 3DS line to disappear entirely. But it’s looking very much like, as far as new games go, that’s all she wrote.