Nintendo 3DS - Predictions, Projections, & Opinions
Updated: 4/10/10

On March 23rd 2010 I woke up to the unexpected announcement of a new Nintendo system, the Nintendo 3DS, which according to the abnormally brief press release issued by Nintendo, is at this point only a tentative name.

If you don't know, all that Nintendo has announced at this point is that the Nintendo 3DS will be the successor to the Nintendo DS line, will display games in 3-D without the need for special glasses, and is planned to launch by March 2011.

It seems like only yesterday the when prospect of polygonal 3-D environments on the original Nintendo DS was mind blowing, and today we now await news on its replacement, the first serious dedicated attempt at true 3-D on a video game system since the ill fated Virtual Boy.

While filming a hastily prepared video for YouTube, I promised to do a feature on my site in which I laid out my theories and speculation about this new portable, and since I might as well do so before official news becomes widely available, the feature I promised in the video will henceforth follow, starting wtih various 3DS related rumors and my reaction to them.

Rumors & Reactions

RUMOR: Nintendo 3DS will feature visuals comparable to Nintendo Gamecube.

REACTION: This is actually a pretty realistic expectation. The PSP proved that graphics approaching the quality of last generation’s home systems were possible back in 2004, so with Nintendo having worked on the 3DS for who knows how long, and with a slated release by March 2011, I can only expect the graphics to be comparable to those of the Gamecube.

Considering the progressive steps of each Nintendo handheld cycle, from Gameboy Color, analogous to the NES, Gameboy Advance, analogous to the Super NES, and Nintendo DS, analogous to the Nintendo 64, it only stands to reason the next generation will be analogous to Gamecube.

The Nintendo DS and Wii, which were underpowered compared to their competition, created an untrue perception that Nintendo doesn't care about graphics, but really it’s a matter of Nintendo being unwilling to sacrifice an affordable price point and great battery life for better graphics. In fact the current home console cycle is the first in which Nintendo’s system was the least powerful contender at the time of its launch.

RUMOR: The gap between the Nintendo 3DS’s dual screens will be thin enough that the screens can be effectively used as a single, continuous display.

REACTION: This claim, like the one above, came out of 2010’s Game Developer Conference. I say it’s reasonable enough to be very possible, but I wonder if the gap between the screens will be so narrow that a possible digital camera akin to the DSi will no longer have a place between the screens facing the player?

I expect the 3DS to have two cameras like the DSi and that they’ll be placed similarly to the DSi.

Concerning the screens specifically, I imagine the screens will be equal to or slightly larger than those on the Nintendo DSi.

RUMOR: The 3DS will feature an analog joystick of some kind.

REACTION: I would expect so, and an actual legitimate joystick and not a sliding disk thing like the PSP. Despite having capabilities for rendering 3-D environments akin to the Nintendo 64, surprisingly few games actually took the Nintendo DS in that direction, possibly due to the lack of a true analog control.

At launch, Nintendo packed in a wrist strap for the Nintendo DS that had a pad players were expected to strap to their thumb for a simulated analog control via the touch screen for Super Mario 64 DS. This control setup, both the strap itself and the moving on-screen analog “bulls eye” players used as a joystick, were needlessly complicated.

Very few games I know of used this setup and Nintendo actually stopped packing the thumb strap with the Nintendo DS soon after.

If the 3DS is going to feature not only 3-D environments, but true three dimensional display effects, an analog stick to me would be an obvious no-brainer, but this is Nintendo we’re talking
about here, so nothing is to be taken for granted.

RUMOR: Demonstrations of the 3-D technology to be used for Nintendo 3DS are, as of April 2010, available on sites such as YouTube

REACTION: This one annoys the heck out of me. Footage of a Japanese Nintendo DSi Ware game using the camera for 3-D effects have been available well in advance of the Nintendo 3DS announcement, but are now falsely being circulated as "demonstration footage" of the Nintendo 3DS and otherwise well informed gamers are actually forming opinions of the 3DS based on this misinformation.

As of the time this is being written, there is absolutely no footage available anywhere of the Nintendo 3DS system, nor is it known what technologies or techniques its 3-D effects will employ.

My Take on the Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo’s E3 2008 media briefing was generally considered one of the most disappointing showings in Nintendo’s recent history.

Lost in Nintendo’s perceived over-emphasis on audience expansion and so called “casual gaming” was an odd moment in which Nintendo VP Cammie Dunaway challenged those in attendance to imagine a world in which the Nintendo DS was not just a toy, but a lifestyle device akin to a smart phone.

She highlighted an experimental system in which DS owners can bring their systems to a baseball stadium to get live game and player statistics, watch instant replays, play trivia games, and even order refreshments.

Furthermore, Cammie envisioned a day when Nintendo DS would be used in airports to, for example, check on the status of their flight.

At a time when the most up to date Nintendo DS system was the Nintendo DS Lite, changed only in looks from the system that launched in 2004, this seemed a far out prospect.

The idea of DS as a lifestyle device excited me of course. The DS Lite was already as stylish and nearly as portable as any iPod, but already I understood the roadblocks the DS Lite faced in living up to Cammie’s proposal.

First, the Nintendo DS has no memory of its own. Everything from the experimental baseball application, to their current demo download stations in stores across the country, requires that the person:
  1. Have their Nintendo DS with them
  2. Be aware that a download station or other service for Nintendo DS is offered at that location.
  3. Be within range of it, both for the download and for any connected services offered by the location.
  4. Actually go into their system’s main menu and download the application to their system, which can take upwards of a minute.
  5. Be willing to lose whatever they downloaded the second they turn their DS off, and put up with not being able to play any games while using the downloaded software.
In an age when any smart phone can download and save many dozens of heavy duty applications which can be accessed at will without needing to be within range of a special access point, the idea of anyone, especially an adult, wandering around with a video game from Nintendo looking for an access point to start a time consuming download of a temporary piece of software they can’t take home with them is at best a case of wishful thinking.

This lead me to believe a new Nintendo DS which better leant itself to these ideas was in development, and a few months later the Nintendo DSi was announced.

Downloadable games? Digital cameras? Actual considerable storage space? Wifi touch screen web browsing? Facebook connectivity? A digital music player? This set of features nearly rivals those of an iPod Touch! (excluding all those features added by applications)

Still, as awesome as the DSi was (and still is), I could feel in my gut that this system was essentially a way for Nintendo to test their ability to build and market a Nintendo handheld with more internet connectivity and features leaning towards that of a lifestyle device, and that Nintendo DSi would be a bridge between the first generation Nintendo DS (which believe it or not turns six this November) and its full fledged successor, which we now know is the Nintendo 3DS.

It’s interesting that the Nintendo DSi came about at a time when many technology analysts began to (and and continue to) question Nintendo’s relevance in portable gaming, insisting that portable devices built for gaming are mere kids stuff and that the true future of portable gaming laid in devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Some of these people went as far as to suggest that anyone over the age of seventeen would be ashamed to be seen playing a PSP or Nintendo DS in public, which I know to be false given how many older teens and young adults I’ve seen playing PSP out and about on trains, in parks, in college campuses, and how many people of all ages I’ve spotted playing Nintendo DS nearly anywhere imaginable.

Sure there is a certain terminally hip demographic that would love to be seen at the mall or the school cafeteria playing a tilt controlled racing game on their iPhone, yet wouldn’t be caught dead with a Playstation Portable or holding a Nintendo DS stylus, but the great success Nintendo and Sony have had in enticing adults who hadn’t previously considered a portable game system goes to show that this terminally hip subset does not dominate the market to the extent that Nintendo’s detractors insist.

So, what does this mean for the Nintendo 3DS?

Nintendo knows their initial target will be the hardcore early adopters who will be camping out in front of stores on launch day, the trendsetters who are willing to pay more for the newest available technology. 

I would be surprised if the Nintendo 3DS didn’t have everything the DSi has in terms of digital music player, twin digital cameras, a web browser, and SD card storage for music, games, and (hopefully) applications. These features will hopefully be enhanced in many ways, specifically:

When it comes to downloadable games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a system similar to the PSP where many new games are offered both as downloads and at retail as physical software.
If the 3DS is expected to be an attractive lifestyle device akin to the iPod Touch, Nintendo can’t expect players to carry around a pocket full of cartridges to play multiple games on the go.

I’ve had an experience where in order to change games on my DS Lite, I had to pull out a bunch of DS Cards, find the one I wanted, switch it with the one already in the system, and then had to insert and eject the card repeatedly trying to get it to show up on the system’s main menu, all while the guy sitting next to me plays his iPhone without a problem. Fittingly enough I felt just like the PC guy in the Mac commercials.

DSi Ware on the DSi gives the player the ability to carry many downloadable games in addition to the one cartridge based game stored in the system. This improves portability far more than any reduction in hardware size ever could. Perhaps Nintendo will offer some games both at retail and as downloads akin to the PSP, or else give 3DS owners the ability to download or save a temporary digital copy of their game to their system after buying it at retail, which would of course be connected to a personal user account akin to an iTunes Store purchase and strictly controlled to prevent unauthorized sharing.

Most interestingly, president Satoru Iwata, in an fairly recent interview, expressed interest in the bundled wireless broadband of Amazon’s Kindle, which is free with the system and integral to the experience of using the device.

Nintendo obsessively makes a point of not charging customers extra fees to make their wireless connection, and bundling free broadband with the 3DS would allow Nintendoto ensure near universal consumer participation in features or services which would otherwise be reliant on wifi access and be limited to users and locations that had such access. Add wifi into the mix, and the 3DS could even be a trojan horse to enable 3DS owners with Wii systems to access Nintendo Wifi Connection on their consoles.

Around the time of the aforementioned Iwata interview, perhaps by coincidence, there came a quiet rumor that Nintendo has launched some sort of communications satellite into orbit around the earth. Could the satellite, if it exists, be in some way connected with a future wireless broadband service to be bundled with the 3DS? Only time will tell, but the prospect is simply thrilling and alone could totally transform the experience of playing Nintendo games.

If bundled wireless becomes a reality, I would expect the Nintendo 3DS to be availalbe in two packages, the cheaper version featuring only wifi and the more expensive with the bundled wireless. I imagine the system being offered without the broadband only to make the system more attractive to parents who might not want their small children constantly connected to the internet on a portable device.

One feature many DSi owners have been clamoring for is a service akin to the Wii’s Virtual Console in which legacy games can be purchased and saved to the system, with some suggesting a “Virtual Handheld” which would focus on portable games and systems.

Many games for the original GameBoy haven’t been available or released in any form since mid 1990’s. Perhaps soon Super Mario Land, and the original Pokemon may find their way back to the screens Nintendo portables.

But why should Nintendo limit themselves to portable legacy games for the 3DS? As we can expect the 3DS to be technically capable of handling any system the Wii’s Virtual Console currently emulates, why shouldn’t we be able to enjoy the full scope of the Virtual Console on the 3DS?

The big question in regards to that is if Nintendo would attempt to force Wii owners who already paid for numerous Virtual Console downloads to re-purchase every single one of those titles for a theoretical 3DS Virtual Console. Nintendo simply can’t expect people to pay twice for identical versions of the same content.

Even Apple doesn't go as far as to force their customers to pay for, say, a song or a movie for each Apple device they play it on, once you download something it’s theoretically yours barring any DRM restrictions, and even with DRM I don’t have to pay for one computer copy, one ipod copy, one iphone copy, and so on once I download a title.

In fact, even many DVD movies these days include a license to download a digital copy of the movie for use on their mobile devices.

Nintendo can in theory use their Club Nintendo system to attach purchases to a user’s personal account, therefore enabling them to access the content they rightfully own on multiple systems, or else can design a system specifically for this purpose.

If Nintendo tries to force me to pay for downloaded emulated legacy games for the 3DS that I only just weeks ago paid to download on my Wii, my participation in a theoretical 3DS Virtual Console will be limited to (hopefully) classic handheld games not available for download on the Wii.

What about the 3-D visuals? In a different interview, Iwata said something to the effect that the next Nintendo DS would include some sort of equipment for tracking the player’s face. Around the same time, a DSi Ware game was released in Japan in which the DSi’s camera track the player’s face to create 3-D effects by means of relating the scene depicted by the system to the player’s face.

Footage from this Japanese DSi Ware game is currently being falsely circulated on YouTube as a demonstration of the Nintendo 3DS, and this is unfortunately leading to some false first impressions of what the 3DS may have to offer.

Cameras may possibly have something to do with the 3-D capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS, but we have no reason to believe that the extent of the 3-D effects is what was seen in that DSi Ware game. They are numerous different technologies that may be employed in conjunction with cameras to create effects far beyond that the DSi can make possible, and the fact is at this point (late March 2010) we know virtually nothing of what the 3-D effects of the Nintendo 3DS will entail other than that the player won’t be required to wear special glasses while playing.

What about the gameplay? Is the 3-D going to be a mere increase in the quality of the visuals? Or is Nintendo planning radical, innovative (or to naysayers, gimmicky) new games which would not have been possible without the benefits of 3-D? I predict examples of both sorts of games when the system is revealed at E3 2010.

Two other predictions I’ll make in the realm of interface is tilt control akin to the iPhone and iPod Touch, (or more properly, akin to Kirby Tilt&Tumble on the GameBoy Color and Wario Ware Twisted on the GameBoy Advance), and built in force feedback.

With the reasonable expectation of graphics at least as good as the PSPs, I predict that many developers of grittier, more mature games who have previously chose the PSP over the DS will be attracted to working with the Nintendo 3DS.

Though the Nintendo DS is as technically capable as the Nintendo 64, which played host to many darker, grittier games, developers of those games, and the gamers who play them, tend to be attracted to the highest quality of visuals currently available, and the Nintendo DS, whose admittedly limited hardware excelled at bright, cartoon-like or anime inspired games, which were often sprite-based offerings, the system was largely overlooked as a platform for mature gaming.

An obvious example is Rockstar’s full hearted attempt to bring the success of Grand Theft Auto to the DS with Chinatown Wars. For as much as Rockstar leveraged the strengths of Nintendo DS to make Chinatown Wars not just a good DS game, but one of the most warmly received GTA games of the current generation, many players of Grand Theft Auto on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 merely glanced at a single thumbnail screenshot of Chinatown Wars, thought “those graphics suck”, and never considered the game again.

Nintendo 3DS not only has the potential to become ”the system for everyone” in terms of ease of use and accessibility, but in terms of content variety as well. Playstation 2 in the previous console generation got this balance of content variety down to a science.

The hardware itself I expect to be within a matter of millimeters the same size as the Nintendo DSi, but have noticeably larger screens, though of course much smaller than those of the DSi XL. The system’s design will reflect Nintendo’s design direction over the last decade, which has shifted from the purple, embarrassingly toy-like Gameboy Advance to the sleek, staid, and socially acceptable Nintendo DSi.

I expect the Nintendo 3DS, when folded shut, to look almost exactly like the Nintendo DSi. The colors I’m hoping for are white and black. In my opinion there is little need for any colors other than or in addition to white and black for the 3DS launch.

The launch will take place as Nintendo promised, by March 2011, but may take place as early as November of 2010.

Finally, I expect Nintendo to stick with the name Nintendo 3DS in the end. Nintendo often announces products with names they insist are tentative, only to use them as the final retail name after months of insisting that the name would change.

A perfect example of this was the original Nintendo DS, which was said to be a temporary code name when first announced in January of 2004. Reggie even made it a point at the E3 press briefing to stress that Nintendo DS would be marketed with a new name. After more than half a year of insisting that Nintendo DS was merely a placeholder name, Nintendo ended up confirming it as the final name for the system.

Due to this incident, many were shocked when Nintendo followed through with their plan to rename “Nintendo Revolution” shortly before E3 2006 after calling it that for more than two years prior to that event.

Still, I would bet my money on seeing a “Nintendo 3DS” on store shelves within a year from now.

Before I predict some Nintendo 3DS games we may see at E3 2010, I'd like to soapbox a bit and comment on the reaction some Nintendo fans have had towards Gamespot's "Gut Reactions" feature concerning the announcement of the 3DS, which can be seen here.

I genuinely don't understand the outrage expressed by certian Nintendo fans regarding Gamespot's feature, with people claiming that this is an "anti-Nintendo article" or that "Gamespot hates the Nintendo 3DS". The reactions of the editors are generally skeptical and cautious, but that dosen't mean they hate Nintendo or think that the 3DS will suck. Not everyone has to be excited as you are that Nintendo has (just barely) announced a new system with features that rightfully have some commentators sctatching their heads.

And if some of these editors, like Andrew Park, mistakingly beleived that the Nintendo 3DS was another iteration of the Nintendo DS that launched in 2004 rather than a next-gen system, given the nature of the incremental upgrades Nintendo has given the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS over the years, I can hardly blame him for having made such a mistake or assumption, paticularly if he wasn't nescessarily scouring the web for every available 3DS detail as a dedicated Nintnedo fan at home might before he was asked for his opinion.

My point is, everything a writer, reviewer, or magazine says about Nintendo dosen't have to be blindly enthusiastic and supportive in order for them not to be "Nintendo haters". X magazine or X website does not have a secret vendetta against Nintendo simply because your favorite big-release Wii game didn't score a 9 or a 10 in their review.

Please don't accuse gaming related news sources of being biased against Nintendo, while the very people making those accusations in fact want those same news sources of being biased in favor of Nintendo.

And with that out the way, I’ll predict some 3DS games we may see at E3 2010.

Super Mario 3DS

An all new free roaming polyonal Mario platformer akin to Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy, but employing 3D effects for all sorts of new gameplay elements. The game will mostly take place on the upper screen, akin to Super Mario 64 DS, but sometimes use both screens as one giant display, made possible by the reduced gap between the screens.

I also predict that this game will be the very first footage shown of Nintendo 3DS gameplay, just like how Super Mario 64DS (then called Super Mario 64x4) was the first game shown during Nintendo’s E3 2004 media briefing where the first Nintendo DS was revealed.

Wario Ware Inc. 3D$

Wario Ware has always been a proving ground for Nintendo's latest technology. It was one of the first demos for the Nintendo DS prototype back in 2004, and it's since appeared in a tilt-sensetive GBA game, a waggle-fest for Nintendo's Wii and a chintzy and dissapointing camera based DSi Ware offering. Who knows what crazy tomfoolery Wario Ware could inflict with not only cameras, but 3-D, rumble, and possibly even tilt control. Wario Ware 3DS is something I'm almost as certian will appear at E3 2010 as Super Mario 3DS.

New Super Mario World

A 3DS Ware Mario Platformer akin to a mix of New Super Mario Bros. and Wario Land on the Virtual Boy taking place on separate layers which Mario can jump between, perhaps even taking place simultaneously on separate layers on both screens playing as both Mario and Luigi. This is the first episodic Super Mario platformer, and will make good use of the tilt control, though the primary controls will be button based.

F-Zero: 3D Grand Prix

Are you ready!! Let'go!! New style racing game is born!! Nintendo push one new racing car F-Frezo: 3d Grand Prix!! It will lead you to a bran-new racing wrold. Newly graphics dimentions 3'rd imprpve-enhance for highly skill and depthly point of view!! If you are a crazy racing fans, let's enjoy the racing!! If not, let's join in firstly!! Its time to training you to be super F-Frezo driver. Fans, are you ready, let us hurry and go to touch it!! Ready! Set! Let's Racing!!

Pokemon Parkesine and Bakelite Versions

These have actually been hinted at for a while, and will not just be another badge quest in a new region with new Pokemon, but a significant re-imagining of the main Pokemon RPG franchise.
When exploring the world, the upper screen will feature modern graphics significantly updated from those seen in the Pokemon RPGs for the DS, while the lower screen features graphics identical to, or at least inspired by the DS games, with extensive touch controls.

The interface will maximize use of the touch screen and dual screens to streamline gameplay and information display, nearly to the point where the game acts as its own interactive strategy guide, something which the games have been heading towards since the GBA iterations. The battle system will be significantly overhauled.

As of 4/10/10 this prediction is officially busted. While I was correct in predicting the next generation Pokemon games, Pokemon White and Black, they seem to be planned for the current Nintendo DS platform, not the Nintendo 3DS.

Metroid Double Prime

Nintendo has hinted at an all new Nintendo DS Metroid game for years, and direct teasing of such a development from Nintendo continue even after the rumored “Metroid Dread” was allegedly cancelled.

Reggie or some other Nintendo officialdom within the last year has hinted that Samus may be making a return to first person on Nintendo portables.

With Metroid Other M for the Wii employing interchanging first person and side scrolling elements, imagine both taking place simultaneously in Metroid Double Prime for Nintendo 3DS.
Samus, explores a high resolution 3-D rendered side scrolling world reminiscent of Super Metroid on the upper screen while the player also observes a fully three dimensional view of the environment through Samus’s visor on the lower screen, with precision touch screen aiming for blasting certain enemies and obstacles, real time weapons change (har har :B), map positioning, and object scanning constantly available on the lower screen.

Observing and exploring Samus’ environment takes on added complexity and realism with 3-D, forcing players to observe and investigate just as Samus herself would do, when not trading fire with space pirates and evading hostile alien wildlife.

Personal Trainer: Knitting

With 3-D tutorials and downloadable patterns, players will be knitting their own Mario caps and custom Nintendo 3DS cases in no time! Include special knitting needle styluses.

Personal Trainer: Breathing

The perfect compliment to Personal Trainer: Heartbeat for use with the Wii Vitality Sensor, Personal Trainer Breathing uses the 3DS’s cameras and microphone along with 3-D representations of the human respiratory system to turn players into master breathers in no time. Play friends in multiplayer mode and compete for the lowest Breath Age!

Battalion Wars 3DS

Observing the battle from two perspectives on each screen in true 3-D, and with simple but effective touch screen commands, the challenge and intensity of Battalion Wars 3DS will be unparalleled. Online multiplayer is a given for this one.

Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Banana Bonanza

Ditching the lame Lemmings clone format of the DS Mario Vs. Donkey Kong games, Banana Bonanza gets back to the puzzle-platforming basics that made Donkey Kong 94 and the first Mario Vs. Donkey Kong as quintessential Mario as the Super Mario Bros. games themselves.

Using the two screens together in the style of a vertical arcade cabinet, Banana Bonanza pays homage to Mario’s roots with an absurd abundance of challenging, but fast paced stages that will surely put long time Mario veterans through their paces.

Star Fox 3DS

Come on, flying and shooting in true 3-D on the go with analog control. The only thing that could spoil a 3DS Star Fox would be a Krystal nude code, or just as bad, for Krystal to be in the game at all.

The Legend of Zelda 3DS

This will at least be mentioned in some form, but likely not actually shown to the public.

Kirby 3DS

Being a franchise near to Mr. Iwata's heart, a totally gimmicky, yet totally awesome Kirby adventure utilizing every aspect of the 3DS is a very possible candidate for E3 2010.

That sums up my predictions and projections for the upcoming and very mysterious Nintendo 3DS system.

Come this June we will know how my predictions line up to the actual details revealed at Nintendo's E3 2010 Media Briefing.

This feature was written on 3/27/2010 and posted the following day, with additional updates as more news becomes available as my original predictions are confirmed or disproven.

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