6 MIN READ
One year later, devs reflect on the rocky past and promising future of 3DS
On the anniversary of Nintendo 3DS's U.S. launch, developers chat with Gamasutra about the handheld's tumultuous launch, its bright future, and the "little gold mine" they see in its eShop download platform.
"12 months later, it feels like things have fallen into place," says Andersson. "Just like on the original DS, it seems to be building up momentum after a slow start. The 3DS did better than expected over the holidays, and I'm hearing good things from other developers that have shipped titles." 5th Cell's Slaczka comments, "Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 are the types of games that get systems off the shelves and into consumers' hands. Not only is the 3DS outperforming Nintendo's own projections, but it's sold 5 million units faster than any of their other systems have before." 3DS's eShop is a "little gold mine" While there still aren't many third-party hits for the 3DS at retail, quite a few developers see a lot of potential for the eShop, the handheld's equivalent of Apple's App Store, featuring smaller downloadable games with much cheaper prices than retail releases ($1.99 to $9.99). "The eShop has also been an exciting thing to witness and be a part of," says Renegade Kid's Jools Watsham. "Pushmo really kicked things off with a superb title, and with other games like Mighty Switch Force, VVVVVV, and our very own Mutant Mudds following suit, the eShop has proven itself to be a worthy place to go for quality games at an affordable price." Mel Kirk, marketing VP at Zen Studios, adds, "At this point, we really view the eShop as a little gold mine. It seems that a lot of studios have ignored the opportunity and this has provided a very open window for quality content."
His studio recently ported its Zen Pinball series -- which previously found success on PlayStation Network and the App Store -- to the eShop. That title's performance has prompted it to bring Marvel Pinball 3D to the platform in a few months, as well as another game based on a new IP this summer. Even games originally released to Wii's languishing WiiWare platform have enjoyed a warm welcome on the eShop. Shin'en ported 2008's Fun! Fun! Minigolf to the service earlier this month, and it quickly hit the top of eShop's sales charts in most countries. It's producing two more eShop titles, Art of Balance Touch and Jett Rocket Super Surf, too. Colors! 3D developer Andersson says, "To me, the eShop is the single most interesting thing... for the 3DS. Not necessarily because we'll see the best games there, but this is where we will see what the platform is made of. "[It] will show us how Nintendo is different from Apple. The iPhone's eco-system promotes games that can be played in chunks of 5 minutes or less, abandoned without frustration when the phone rings. And that is great, but that also drowns out games that invite deeper engagement. This will not be the case on the 3DS." 3DS's challenges and bright future Healthy hardware sales, more companies buying into the 3DS, and the rise of the eShop all bode well for the future of the system -- as does Nintendo's strong slate of upcoming exclusive titles Mario Tennis Open, Animal Crossing, and a new Mario 2D side-scroller. Third-party publishers also have some promising 3DS releases in the works, like Disney's Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion and Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts 3D, along with a number of games announced for only Japan so far but will likely come to the States eventually. n-Space's creative director Ted Newman, who predicts a hardware redesign for the 3DS featuring two analog pads at some point, is upbeat about the years ahead for the portable: "Lately the 3DS is really hitting its stride which is exciting to see. It seems like every month there's some new must-have game on the shelf with smaller eShop titles filling in the spaces along the way.
n-Space's Heroes of Ruin"We hope to see this trend continue, with a regular schedule of larger boxed titles that show off the unique capabilities of the system supplemented by an increasing library of smaller downloadable games. If the 3DS can keep up this pace and expand the horizon even further with features like downloadable content and software updates, then the future seems very bright." Andersson also believes that Nintendo's work establishing the system as a console leader is far from over. "It will take stubborn developers and a Nintendo that puts its innovation talents toward all forms of connected experiences to truly push the 3DS to center stage, but I think it can happen," he says. "It may not be possible to trump Holiday 2011, but I see a very bright future for the 3DS," adds Watsham. "I think the biggest challenge is going to be convincing more publishers to support the handheld. Nevertheless, Renegade Kid will continue to support the 3DS because we believe in it."