The New Nintendo 3DS Could Be A Glimpse At The Wii U’s Future

Late last week when I was on vacation enjoying some video game news radio silence, Nintendo sneakily announced a brand new 3DS model. Outside of Nintendo dedicated sites, the response was mostly a predictable eye-roll and wanking motion — Nintendo was releasing yet another version of the 3DS? Whatever. Of course nobody particularly complains about Apple and Samsung’s unending parade of new models. If anything, people should criticize Nintendo for not iterating on their handheld hardware enough.

The New Nintendo 3DS (that’s literally the machine’s name) is essentially this generation’s DSi or Game Boy Color. It adds just enough fresh features (a new camera nub, a 3D screen that can be viewed a greater range of angles, rad multicolored face buttons) that it isn’t quite a 3DS, but it’s not a full successor either. Unlike the DSi, the New 3DS also features significantly beefed up internal hardware — rumor has it the handheld’s clockspeed is triple that of a regular 3DS and its RAM is doubled.

Nintendo let slip the reason for this increase in processing power when they revealed the New 3DS’ first exclusive title will be a handheld port of the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles. Before its release, the 3DS was rumored to be around as powerful as the Wii, but we’ve seen little evidence of that since. The island from Wii Sports Resort was replicated fairly accurately in the 3DS’ Pilotwings Resort, but aside from that, Wii-level experiences have been nearly nonexistent on the 3DS. This boost in power will let Nintendo tap into the Wii’s rather deep well of underappreciated core titles — I’d be shocked if the Wii’s other major overlooked RPG, The Last Story, doesn’t come to the New 3DS, and hey, Nintendo could easily tweak Metroid: Other M a bit and give Nintendo fans that portable Metroid they’ve been crying out for. Also, portable Mario Galaxy. There are a lot of possibilities.

Your portable worlds are about to get a lot bigger. 

Ultimately though, the most interesting aspect of the New 3DS may be its name. It’s pretty much the consensus opinion at this point that Nintendo stumbled badly with the naming of the 3DS and Wii U. High-ranking ex-Nintendo employees admit as such. Nintendo went for Apple-style cutesiness instead of clarity, and the result has been a massive, profit-destroying quagmire of confusion.

To this day, three-and-a-half years after launch, most mainstream consumers still don’t know the 3DS is a new system. Just spend 10-minutes in any GameStop if you’re looking to confirm this — you’re almost guaranteed to overhear at least one confused parent asking about the difference between the DS and 3DS, or the wails of a disappointed kid who grabbed a 3DS game off the shelf only to be told it won’t work in their DS. It may seem a bit artless to just slap the word NEW on the next 3DS model, but it’s exactly this technique that made the rather unremarkable New Super Mario Bros. series a massive, 70-million units sold success story.

Put NEW on something and people will buy it, beeecause we’re all trained dogs. 

The 3DS isn’t doing terribly, with around 40 million units moved to date, but that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the 150 million+ the original DS has sold. That New in New Nintendo 3DS isn’t there to set the system apart from the original 3DS, it’s there to finally, definitively differentiate the 3DS from the DS for the scores and parents and kids still confused. The New 3DS is, essentially, a relaunch of the system with (hopefully) just enough new features baked in to get the faithful who have already purchased a 3DS to double dip. Will it work? It’s impossible to say for sure, but the New 3DS certainly has a better chance to succeed than the misbegotten 2DS, and if it does spark a major uptick in 3DS sales, I would bet the farm that a New Wii U will be right around the corner.

Can Nintendo right their mistakes of this generation, with more clearly labelled, buffed-up versions of their current hardware? Try it out with the more stable 3DS market, then move onto a New Wii U with a redesigned GamePad and more muscular hardware that can compete with the PS4 and Xbox One — that seems to be the experiment Nintendo’s attempting here. True successors to the 3DS and Wii U are on the way, but for obvious reasons Nintendo’s going to want to take their time and make sure everything’s perfect before they launch them. Until then, Nintendo’s New thing might just buy them some much needed time. Worst-case scenario, at least some GameStop employee headaches will be alleviated.

Could it really be this simple?

What do you folks think? Interested in upgrading your 3DS? For the many who haven’t purchased a 3DS or Wii U yet, would New versions entice you to take the plunge?