What Becomes of the Nintendo 3DS without Pokemon?

Earlier this week (or late last month, if you prefer) Nintendo hosted a big Pokemon press conference to talk about upcoming plans and titles for the franchise.

Press Conference 2018

This was kind of a big deal for me.

When it comes to Nintendo hardware there is really only one franchise that interested me.  I’ve played some variations on Mario and a couple of other brands, but I am really only about Pokemon.

And, from time immemorial… or at least since 1996… the core of the Pokemon franchise has lived on the Nintendo handheld hardware.  In addition to not being up on their other titles, I am also behind on consoles on every front save one; Nintendo handhelds.  I have a relatively new Nintendo that I got this past Christmas.  And I wanted it only to be sure I could play the next round of Pokemon games that would surely find their way to that platform.  After all, over on the Pokemon.com site, the icon for the video games category is literally a Nintendo handheld.

Pokemon video games are on the DS

So I watched the updates from the press conference and waited for an announcement aimed at me and my fellow handheld players.  We are, after all, the core of the Pokemon community.  They had to have something for us.

But they didn’t.  They spoke of Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee for the Nintendo Switch, which sound similar, if not exactly like, core Pokemon RPG titles.  There is even a pair of them being launched together.  And they spoke of how two people could play together and how you would be able to transfer Pokemon over from Pokemon Go.

Let’s Go coming November 16, 2018

They also spoke of the whimsical and blocky looking Pokemon Quest, also for the Nintendo Switch.

Taking place on Timecube Island

And, finally, they spoke of a real core Pokemon RPG game coming to the Nintendo Switch in 2019.

Not mentioned at all was the Nintendo handheld family, which left me feeling left out of the picture.

I realize that Nintendo has been very much intent on getting everybody they can to buy a Switch.  And it has been selling pretty well.  But so has the Nintendo handheld line.  The Nintendo 2DS/3DS line has been doing okay on sales.  While they the numbers are down from the peak in 2013, they have bouncing back from their decline with 2017 beating out 2016 for units shipped and 2018 so far almost equal to 2017 sales already.  (Annual sales chart)

So what is Nintendo’s plan here?  Have handheld units been effectively abandoned?  I know that there is more to the 2DS/3DS game catalog than just Pokemon, but it is pretty much the Pokemon platform, and sales of the core Pokemon RPG games both drive and are driven by handheld unit sales.

I hope this doesn’t signal the end of the line for the Nintendo 2DS/3DS line.  The durable little dual screen handheld units have served me well for a decade now.

8 thoughts on “What Becomes of the Nintendo 3DS without Pokemon?

  1. Aywren Sojourner

    Aw… man. I was super excited to hear about Pokemon for Switch since I’m in love with my Switch and was looking forward to Pokemon games for it.

    But… I really do understand your disappointment. I enjoy my old 3DS immensely, despite it being the first generation of the old large-screen version. It still keeps on trucking for me, and I still have lots of games in my library to play on it… though it struggles with loading times. It’s a great little handheld and I hope it doesn’t get left behind!

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – I didn’t want to go so far as to say I wasn’t buying a goddam new console for Pokemon, but my daughter and I are already invested in the DS/3DS hardware. I think we have more of those around the house still than all the living room TV console systems I’ve ever owned combined. We’ll see. But I will be bummed if Nintendo leaves the 3DS line high and dry after I just got a new one.

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @MaximGtB – Well, that sucks. No, the Switch isn’t really a handheld, not like the GameBoy line. I’ve held the Switch. It feels a lot less solid than a 3DS. And it certainly wouldn’t fit in my jacket pocket. I was comfortable dragging the 2DS XL around FanimeCon last weekend in my pocket as well as bringing it along on vacation. I wouldn’t do that with a Switch.

    Pokemon isn’t the only game on the 3DS line, but there isn’t much that comes anywhere close to it in popularity. Without Pokemon Nintendo handhelds become a dead end.

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  4. zaphod6502

    I think it is only natural Nintendo wants to continue the line of Pokemon games on the Switch. It is just such an amazing platform to play games on and has rekindled my interest in JRPG’s (the fantastic Xenoblade and BoTW).

    My assumption is the 2DS/3DS platform has had more than its fair share of Pokemon games so there is a good variety to choose from? (I have never played them as they seem more kids games to me).

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @zaphod6502 – “My assumption is the 2DS/3DS platform has had more than its fair share of Pokemon games so there is a good variety to choose from?”

    Technically, as noted in the post, the Nintendo handheld hardware has had ALL of the core Pokemon RPG games, a consistent run since 1996. This was because the games were designed to be shared with friends, to allow trades between the different parallel versions.

    So with my current unit I can play any of the Pokemon RPGs from Diamond & Pearl forward. Sort of. Since the move to the DS series there has always been an online component to the games, something that has become more and more central to the games as they have progressed. But with every generation Nintendo shuts down that part of the game. So, to get the full range of options from a Pokemon game, you have to play the current versions. And, if the series goes to the Switch, that will end that on the handhelds.

    Likewise, tournament play, which is built in to the games themselves, requires you to be playing the latest version. Right now you just take your game and your console with you to the tournament. I suppose you could do the same with the Switch, but despite the videos of hipster rooftop parties and playing on the subway, it is both a larger and more fragile unit which also doesn’t have the battery life of the handhelds. Add in the fact that the entire installed base for the core games is on the 2DS/3DS line and moving to the Switch is going to mean a big change to Pokemon.

    I’m also bummed because the next retro remake due from Game Freak should have been Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, which is where I came in on the Pokemon experience more than a decade back. I have played through every generation since then and was kind of hoping to get that game in to play with my daughter before she went off to college. Such is life.

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  6. Jenks

    To me, the Switch is clearly the successor to both the Wii U and the 3DS. I think you are hoping against hope on this one. If anything, maybe there will be a “Switch Mini” redesign down the road, similar to the GBA SP and the 2DS, that will make it acceptable to your particular pocket fitting needs.

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