Handheld gaming should be dead right now. It’s now 2017 and handheld gaming still isn’t dead despite years of predictions to the contrary. Smartphones and mobile gaming were supposed to kill it as soon as they became popular, but here we are. Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous and mobile gaming has become a huge market. Despite this, handheld gaming has remained popular (and profitable). Of course, by “handheld gaming” I mean Nintendo’s 3DS/2DS line of products and games. Handheld gaming as we know it was a Nintendo idea and a sphere Nintendo has always dominated without contest. Thanks to this, Nintendo fans have now enjoyed a fun and unique gaming experience for over 27 years. Still, even though handheld gaming is still going strong and is still serving Nintendo fans well, there are those who think Nintendo would be doing its customers a huge favor by phasing out their handheld line of products. I don’t think that’s the case. Not at all.
To be fair, the author of the article linked above, entitled “Nintendo can give fans an amazing gift by slowly killing the 3DS”, makes a few good points. Their main argument is that phasing out the 3DS would be more convenient for consumers. They would have to make fewer choices when it comes to the gaming experience they want, and they would have to own fewer devices to play all of Nintendo’s games since Nintendo is now making forays into mobile gaming. If the sorts of games available on smartphones aren’t up to snuff, then fans need simply rely on their Nintendo Switch. The author also supposes that Nintendo would no longer have to decide which product gets which series either. With the 3DS out of the picture, the next Zelda would simply be the Zelda and not just the console or handheld version. While I do agree that having to own fewer devices would certainly be more convenient, I believe that convenience would ultimately serve Nintendo more than it would Nintendo’s customers.
First and foremost, if the 3DS were to be phased out then gamers would lose the unique gaming experience it offers. Thanks to its dual screens, the 3DS has had a huge impact on handheld games and what players expect from them. Ever since the original DS, players have enjoyed their handheld games without having to constantly fish through menus in order to check inventories or call up maps. Instead, all that extra information and utility is constantly at one’s fingertips. It may seem like a small thing at first, but it would definitely be missed after having been a standard feature for over 12 years. The thing is though, I don’t think that the second screen is the only thing the 3DS would take with it.
I’d like to pose a question: Why do the games available on the 3DS exist? This is no trick question or anything. The answer is actually very simple. The games made for the 3DS exist because Nintendo needed to make them in order to support the device; that’s it. I posit that if the 3DS were to be killed off, all the games that would have been made for it and its successors just wouldn’t get made. They wouldn’t even be conceptualized. If Nintendo only has one device to support, then they don’t need to make as many games. Why would they bother to make another Zelda game on the Switch when they already released one for the system? Why would they need to make another Mario game when they’ve already made the Mario game? Would we really be getting both Samus Returns and Metroid Prime 4 if the 3DS was no longer supported? I highly doubt it. Smartphones won’t impact this result, because Nintendo doesn’t need to support them. They’re under no obligation to make anything for smartphones. Having to have two Nintendo devices in order to play all of Nintendo’s games may be more inconvenient than the alternative, but the existence of that second device ensures that Nintendo creates more of the games we all enjoy so much.
There may come a day when Nintendo decides to abandon the idea of offering their own handheld device in favor of the Switch and smartphones. It’s a decision that would bring a measure of convenience with it, but would also come at a cost. If Nintendo does away with their handheld line of products, we would lose more than we would gain. We’d lose dedicated handheld gaming devices, the dual-screen system we’ve all grown accustomed to, and all of the other convenient innovations that still set them apart from smartphones. Along with that, there’s a good chance that we’d lose out on most of the excellent games Nintendo would have made in order to support their handheld system. Does that really sound like an “amazing gift” to you?
What’s your take on the idea of killing off the 3DS? Would you be in favor of the more unified library and convenience it would bring? Do you share my concerns? Got a completely different perspective altogether? Please share if you do!