There’s been a lot of discussion recently about what will become of the 3DS. According to Nintendo, the 3DS will continue on separate and apart from their new console, the Nintendo Switch. However, there’s a noticeable lack of 3DS hardware in stores and sales had already started to slide last year.
There’s the other matter that we’ve heard this story before: when the Nintendo DS was released. Back then, the GameBoy Advance was the popular portable and Nintendo declared that the DS would be a separate line and that the GBA would continue on. Well, the DS and all the risk that came with it was a huge success and Nintendo quickly stopped producing GBA games.
That’s why I believe the Nintendo Switch will become the singular Nintendo hardware of the next (and current) generation.
There are several great reasons why I forecast this with absolute certainty. Nintendo has a built-in advantage to make the Switch great if it can focus all of its teams on one piece of hardware — doubling the number of games they can make for it. The Wii U suffered from a lack of a year-round library because half their workforce was assigned to the 3DS. A lack of strong third-party support left too many empty windows where nothing engaging was being released.
Nintendo can end that with one Switch to rule them all.
Secondly, what’s the point of making a console/portable hybrid if you have a second portable on the market you need to support? They risk splitting sales. For example, the most recent Smash Bros. game was sold on both the Wii U and the 3DS. Many bought just the Wii U version. Some bought only the 3DS version. Some bought both. Did they sell more copies of Smash in total because it was on the 3DS this time? Yeah, probably. However, an enormous amount of effort went into that portable version with its many customizations and optimizations. It also dragged down the console version as the Ice Climbers had to be nixed to maintain cross-portability.
None of this would happen with the Switch.
Add to this that a console/portable hybrid serves to combine two markets thus allowing a development shop to make a single game that has an even wider audience. They no longer have to choose. More games will be developed for the Switch than the 3DS and Wii U ever had because the difficult choice is gone. (And let’s be honest, most of them chose the 3DS because of the market share and left the Wii U behind.)
So, how do you replace the 3DS?
A Switch With Limitations
Let me start by saying that Nintendo cannot possibly simply rely on the Switch to replace the 3DS as it stands today. At $300, parents are not going to buy this console for their kids and younger folks can’t buy it so easily as it’s $100-$150 more than the 3DS.
Nintendo has seen this problem before, however, and delivered a beautiful solution to it: 2DS.
Back in 2013, Nintendo released the 2DS, a stripped down version of the 3DS that was capable of playing all the same games. It was a brilliant solution to a problem most collectors and serious gamers didn’t realize existed: the 3DS was still too pricey and not kid friendly.
Nintendo basically took the 3DS, shrunk the screens a bit, condensed the hardware into one “slate” (removing the hinges and multiple panels), removed the 3D hardware (which kids and many adults couldn’t use anyway), and sold it all for $130 which was almost half the price of a 3DS. Was it as nice as a 3DS? Heck no, but it wasn’t designed for the finicky gamer.
That was the day my kids finally had their own
The same will be done for the Switch in what I think will be Q1 of 2018. A new model Switch will be released that can hit the $200 price point (or lower) by making the following modifications:
There will be no detachable joycons. Eliminating the hardware involved in making those joycons slide on and off will cheapen the price and be more kid-friendly. The SL and SR buttons will be gone. It will also lessen the number of separate hardware panels just like how the 2DS did making this revised Switch one contiguous and connected unit. No “dogface” controller piece will be provided either. Very few games will be unplayable due to this change — only 1-2 Switch comes to mind right now. Every other game is perfectly happy being played in handheld mode and local 2-player simply won’t be an option just like the 3DS doesn’t offer it today.
The screen will be smaller. This is obvious. The Switch screen is big and beautiful and there’s (sadly) plenty of room to shrink it. Compared to the 3DS screen, the Switch’s looks like a football field, so a remodeled Switch can still boast a much bigger screen than 3DS while saving valuable production costs shrinking it. if the 3DS’s screen is 3.5″ and the Switch is at about 6″, we’re probably looking at the 4.75″ range.
There won’t be a dock available nor will there be system support for it. This new Switch won’t come with a dock and won’t have the circuitry to support it either. There will of course still be a USB-C port for charging, but that’s all. This saves a lot of the $300 cost. Heck, it even greatly decreases the size of the packaging!
There likely won’t be an IR camera on the right joycon. The IR camera is only handy when the joycon is held in your hand (which we can’t do anymore), so this will likely be nixed to save on cost some more. Again, only 1-2 Switch seems to use this, but that game will already not be playable. HD Rumble and NFC will stay, of course, as that’s pervasive through most games. Not the IR Camera, however.
Certain games will be locked out from playing. As I stated earlier, there will be a mechanism in place to prevent games like 1-2 Switch from playing. At all. The same will be true for Just Dance 2017. It’s better to prevent these from even loading than to provide the player a confusing experience. Stickers will be provided to retail chains to mark those games as only playable on the real Switch and they’ll be specifically locked out via some form of system update. (Or however they want to do it…maybe they’re already planning this.) The 2DS could avoid this as the 3D effect was never actually required by the 3DS. Since our changes are more fundamental on this revised Switch, we’ll have to eliminate these games from being played.
Given all these hardware cost reductions with the smaller screen, contiguous hardware, no camera, no “dogface,” and no dock hardware, the $200 price point is achievable. It’s not quite $130 level like the 2DS, but it’s $50 cheaper than the 3DS launch price and a heckuva great start. Hopefully by 2018 Nintendo can cut the cost of the Switch, too, and increase the savings.
Kids…get ready to have some fun!
Would you have a need for a portable-only version of the Switch. Let us know in the comments!