The 3DS is a revolutionary console for its day, combining 3D (without glasses needed) and gaming on a portable device. Unveiled in 2010, the handheld succeeds the Nintendo DS, which it is fully backwards compatible with. There have been multiple redesigns of the system with consoles such as the 3DS XL and 2DS being part of the 3DS line.
Featuring Nintendo’s StreetPass, SpotPass, 3D camera capabilities, access to the Nintendo virtual console through the Nintendo eShop, Nintendo Video, the Miiverse social network, an internet browser, access to Netflix/ Hulu and YouTube, SwapNotes and Mii Maker.
Looking back in Nintendo’s history, they have tried (and failed) many times to create a 3D console or peripheral. In fact, looking back far enough, it is possible to see the company experimenting with 3D game tech as early as the 80s! This attempt was to create the ‘Famicom 3D System’ that was released in Japan, though due to difficulty selling on the market was not released elsewhere.
Nintendo’s next garner at creating a 3D console came with the infamous Virtual Boy, which is known well for being a commercial failure, often making players feel ill and nauseous. The GameCube was the next system to venture into 3D technology. An LCD attachment was created for Luigi’s Mansion to make it entirely 3D, however plans fell through for a market release due to the high price of the peripheral. There is also evidence of the company attempting to create 3D gameplay on the Game Boy Advance SP.
After the almost accidental success of the DS, Nintendo began looking at how to potentially develop the system further. Rumours started around the media of what this could be. It has been revealed now that the plans for the system included a motion sensor which eventually developed into the 3DS. By 2010, the technology had started to be developed and a small handful of Japanese developers, including the Pokémon Company, had received software development kits.
Around the time of announcement of the system, rumours started to circulate around the hardware and software of the system – mainly the 3D aspects of the handheld. Shortly announced before general release was that hit series such as Mario Kart and Animal Crossing would have games ready for the console as well as the Mii Maker and Augmented Reality (AR) games included on the system.
A series of pre-launch events were held across the UK which introduced the public to the console and allowed them early access to game demos on the new handheld.
The initial problem that Nintendo faced with the console was the high price it was retailed at. To save this initial hindrance, the price was dramatically reduced and an ambassador’s scheme launched which offered 10 free Game Boy Advance or SNES games to the people who had bought the item at full price. Due to this, the 3DS quickly became the biggest selling handheld console. On September 30th 2016, Nintendo announced that they had sold 61.57 million units worldwide.
With this success a larger model, the 3DS XL, was created which featured a screen 90% larger than the original. Furthermore, a 2D , flat, cheaper model was created and aimed at younger children.
The original console was redesigned in 2014 with better camera qualities and tracking for AR games, coloured buttons inspired by the SNES, an automatic brightness adjustment and a marginally larger screen.
One feature of the 3DS is the camera which includes built in photo and video recorders which are integrated with a media gallery and photo editor. The two front facing cameras work in synchronisation to take 3D photos and a ‘low light’ mode is present for taking photos in those conditions.
Other features include a built in music player, which can be transferred onto the console through Micro SD.
Certain applications hold abilities that can suspended to temporarily open another application. The apps included in this are Games Notes, Friends List, Notifications, Internet Browser, Miiverse and Camera.
Some of the software services include:
The Nintendo eShop is where retailed and download only games can be installed on the system, as well as virtual console titles. Each purchase is linked to a players Nintendo Network account though can only be used on one system. Up to 10 background downloads can commence at a time.
The Miiverse is where players can personalise their own ‘Mii’ character. The system originally launched on the Wii and Wii U. This also doubles as a social network where players can send handwritten messages to one another as well as screenshots. These messages are filtered by both software and a human resource team to moderate the platform and to not include game spoilers. This further integrates with popular social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
The Video Services available start with Nintendo Video which allows users to watch a television series or selected short films. Netflix, Hulu and YouTube are also accessible though only 2D content can be viewed despite the fact that it is a 3D system.
The system has previously used video services including SpotPass TV (Japan) and EuroSport (UK and Australia) that were both discontinued without reason a year after their inception.
SwapNote (also known as Nintendo Letter Box in the UK and Europe) is the consoles primary messaging application, outside of the Miiverse.
Mii Maker is the application that allows players to create their own ‘Mii’. Through taking a photograph on the system it can automatically generate a character for you. It is also possible to import characters from a Wii or Wii U console.
The Activity Log tracks a players gameplay (how many hours on which game etc) whilst also tracking physical activity such as how many steps a person has taken in that day.
With 293.40 million 3DS games selling worldwide (by 30th September 2016), many games have been developed for the system. 34 of these games have passed the 1 million sold mark and of time of writing, Pokémon X and Y has sold 15.64 million units worldwide.
AR games are included with the handheld, with 6 available AR cards at launch. One game called ‘Face raiders’ comes as standard on every 3DS system.
DS Download Play allows two players to connect when at a close distance to one another. This is backwards compatible with older DS systems.
One interesting element of the 3DS, is the systems non-gaming uses. The Louvre Museum in Paris contracted Nintendo to create an audio/visual museum guide, featuring interactive features with the artwork displayed. Taking up this challenge, there is now over 30 hours of audio and over 1000 photographs of the artwork and the museum, some of which even optimise the 3D aspect of the 3DS! This app is not region locked and can be downloaded from the Nintendo eShop.
Reception to the system has been very positive, with many enjoying the upgrade to the standard DS. Alongside these reviews, many have noted that for 3D to work well it has to be at a certain angle and the battery life is low; though this is generally overshadowed by the popular handheld.
The first remodel of the 3DS, the 3DS XL also has very positive reviews. The new handheld features improved battery life though there have been complaints over the quality of the camera.
Nintendo state that no child under the age of 6 should be using the 3D functionality and target the 2DS to these younger audiences. Health officials have claimed that there is no risk and that the company are covering themselves in the small chance of a case appearing. Some people have even suggested that under 6’s using the 3D aspect could be beneficial to their health! If a young child is having difficulty seeing the 3D or reacting badly to it, it could potentially point out a depth-perception issue with their vision (which is easier to treat at a young age).
The company also faced some legal issues with a Sony employee over the 3D functionality. The employee (Mr Tomita) sued the company for infringing a patent he owned over a ‘no glasses’ 3D screen. After many re-trails it was decided that Nintendo would have to pay Tomito 1.82% of the wholesale price of the consoles.