Pokemon and the New 3DS

It is certainly expected that Nintendo, suffering from its various mis-steps with the Wii U, would tread a careful path with its other current console line, the Nintendo 3DS series.  And that is what it felt like with yesterday’s announcement of the New 3DS line.

The New 3DS

The New 3DS

There were a some comments about the button colors and how that harkens back to earlier Nintendo console controllers.  Oooh, nostalgia.

But the key discussion points have been around the upgraded processor, the addition of a second analog stick (the little nub above the colored buttons, which will keep players from having to buy/use an add-on peripheral for games that require dual analog sticks), the extra shoulder buttons, the slightly larger screen, some changes in layout, and the dubious current naming plan, under which Nintendo has christened the new units (which will come in both standard and XL form) as the “New Nintendo 3DS.”

I foresee in the not too distant future somebody going to GameStop and asking if they have a “Used New 3DS.”  Maybe that makes more sense in Japanese.

Aside from the name, there is also the question of a more powerful unit.  That seems like an uncontroversial move by Nintendo, but what does it mean?  What is Nintendo telling us by giving these new models more processing power?

My first thought on reading about this new unit was, “Am I going to need this for Pokemon.”  Because my own 3DS XL… which is a great piece of hardware… is pretty much a console for playing Pokemon games right now.

From what I have read, it does not seem likely that I will.  At least not for the next release.

There were a couple of points when playing Pokemon X and Y where the hardware felt like it was struggling a bit to keep up with what it had to draw on screen, but that felt more like rough edges from Gamefreak’s first attempt at a rendered Pokemon game rather than any shortfall in the hardware.  I suspect we won’t get to November and the Pokemon Alpha Ruby and Omega Sapphire release only to find ourselves wanting for more CPU power.  At least we had better not, since the New 3DS models won’t be coming to the US until some point in 2015.

But over at Forbes they are worrying that Nintendo has already said that some games will require the processor power of the new units.  That gets me back to the naming scheme, because if you’re going to ship games that run on one generation of a platform but not another, it had better be very clear up front which is which.  Nintendo has been through this before, with the Nintendo DS to 3DS generation change, and they not only made sure everything was carefully labelled, but 3DS cartridges have a tab that sticks out, preventing them from being stuck into the older DS platform consoles.

So we shall see if Nintendo manages to fracture their user base or not with nominally compatible systems in this generation, some of which may not be able to play all of the games available.  I suspect, no matter what, Pokemon will remain playable across the board.  Messing with a huge selling title like that comes with risks.  I bought my current 3DS XL just to play Pokemon, but I am not sure I would buy another one just a year later to carry on.

And the other aspects, the improved battery life in the standard size version and slightly larger screens, do not really move me.  The current 3DS XL is big enough for me to use without putting on my reading glasses, which is what really matters to me at this point, and the larger battery pack on the XL unit has me covered.

3 thoughts on “Pokemon and the New 3DS

  1. C. T. Murphy

    I’m worried, if only slightly, about the fragmentation. I’m likely ignorant of some of Nintendo’s handheld past, but I don’t recall immediately a time when an upgraded platform resulted in this sort of divide. I’ll be fine if it’s only a title or two (though Xenoblade stings), but if every game starts having additional marketing where it is faster/better or has some new feature only available on the new system, I’ll be really offended.

    Other than the more immediate implications, this move could also harm my interest in Nintendo’s future handhelds. I love my 3DS enough that I would be onboard for buying their next platform (especially with dual sticks and HD), but now I’m not so sure. Nintendo has just done such a great job at convincing me that the launch version of their handhelds should always be a no go.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @CTM – That is always the way of things with hardware. Parts get better… and sometimes the supplier stops making the parts you need, so you have to upgrade… designs get refined, and experience from the field illustrates where things can be improved.

    Nintendo, like all hardware companies, has a history of releasing improved models. The GameBoy line is full of such updates. The original DS model was supplanted by the much improved DS lite, which still might be Nintendo’s best bit of industrial design, not too far into the life of that generation.

    But they have not, in the past, has hardware nominally of the same generation that couldn’t run new releases for that generation. That just makes me go, “Hmm…”


  3. C. T. Murphy

    I’m well aware of the nature of hardware, especially on something as design-intense as a handheld device. A reworked console may be more aesthetically pleasing, but that rarely improved how it functioned. Changing a handheld gives you a chance to fix usability issues.

    It shouldn’t give you a chance to shore up the platform in a way that creates an obvious fragment among your user base.


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