5 forgotten promises of the 3DS
Do some digging into Nintendo's own announcements for the system and you'll begin to find that the current state of the 3DS is a far cry from what we were led to expect. Promises were made. Features were implied. Yet, here we are today with a system that isn't all it could have been.
1.An online revolution
Oh, Nintendo. When will you learn? The 3DS could have been the start of another gaming revolution, but then you squandered it. Personally, the thing I was most excited about was the 3DS's online capabilities. Featuring faster wi-fi than either the DS or PSP, the 3DS was going to jump feet-first into online gaming...or so I thought. I was hoodwinked on the proliferation of “passive download” games, just like that same feature never really flourished on the Wii. I was tricked into thinking Nintendo Network would allow us to create a robust account system, although it is certainly better than Friend Codes for each game. I foolishly thought that Nintendo would be smart and interconnect their Virtual Console account between the DSi, Wii, and the WiiU, but it never happened.
But worst of all, I expected the 3DS to actually play online games. Granted, there are some 3DS games capable of playing online, but the feature is so grossly underused compared to what modern technology allows. For goodness' sake, the Vita already has a fully-fledged MMO on it! Street Fighter IV supported online play, and yet a port of a game that had online (Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate) somehow can't manage to do online, too? Why didn't Nintendo opt to allow online co-op for NSMB2: Golden Abyss? After seeing how Nintendo handled the WiiU's Miiverse network, it appears to me that Nintendo likes flirting with online moreso than actually supporting online play. They're happy to create odd-ball online features like in-game Miiverse communication or “passive downloads”, yet when it comes to the simple, nitty-gritty capabilities of playing online multiplayer, Nintendo can't seem to hack it.
While it was only implied once the 3DS's tech specs were leaked, the tantalizing possibility of installing your games to the system never came to fruition. Perhaps Nintendo's aforementioned lack of a true unified account system is what held them back, but this hardware feature would have made the 3DS far more attractive to the general public. Similar to how digital downloads are handled on PSN or XBL or even the Wii and WiiU, Nintendo could have tied the installed copy to the person's account. For instance, once you installed the game to your system, it could deactivate the ability to install to any additional systems until the first system went online and deleted the installed copy.
Of course, this feature was implied, not explicitly promised, but it is something that could have radically altered the future of the 3DS.
3.Motion controls, Cameras, and microphones
Glasses-free 3D wasn't the only hardware aspect highlighted when the 3DS was first announced. The system's three cameras were touted to play an important role in the 3DS's lineage, though we've never seen the cameras utilized beyond Face Raiders and the auto-Mii feature where the system takes a picture of your face and turns it into a Mii character. The AR cards failed. The potential for video chat or even voice chat seems like it will never see the light of day.
But perhaps the most notable omission was the gyroscopic motion controls that Nintendo (and game developers working on the system) hinted. From the perspective of Nintendo prior to launch, it was probably a good idea to scrap motion controls, which would interfere with the 3D effect of the top screen. However, since the system's 3D capabilities are becoming less and less of a selling point for upcoming games, it makes me wonder if leaving in the motion controls would've benefited the system. With the ascension of the iPhone, tilt-controlled games are some of the most common games in the industry. Even the Vita has tilt controls. It wouldn't have hurt the 3DS to include itself on that bandwagon.
4.3rd party support
While it is true that – just recently - 3rd party support for the 3DS has picked up a bit, the system had a solid 18 months where there wasn't very much to play. What's worse, a lot of the 3rd party games were garbage. The 3DS went through what I call “the N64 effect”. Back when Nintendo launched the N64, a lot of franchises were diced up and mutated to fit the new 3D philosophy. Some games, like Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64, did wonderfully. Other games didn't fare so well. Franchises like Castlevania, Earthworm Jim, and Mega Man all took a hit to the gameplay department in order to “get N or get out” with 3D graphics. And some franchises just got weird. While there was a half-hearted Pokemon fighting game (Pokemon Stadium), Nintendo thought it made sense to NOT put a fully-fledged Pokemon adventure on the console, but to instead make Hey You! Pikachu and Pokemon Snap. Sadly, developers for the N64 never realized that it was okay to not do everything in 3D.
The 3DS went through some of the same hiccups. Steel Diver and Pilot Wings? Really? Those games were supposed to bolster the launch of the 3DS? Street Fighter 4 and Dead or Alive? Two fighting games (which have never performed well on handhelds) are supposed to help the system sell? It was months before we saw real system-sellers like SMB2: Golden Orgasm and Mario Kart 7. The recent 3DS Castlevania game is miserable, simply put, and the game's choice to switch to Other M-style 2D/3D mechanics is all the more puzzling in light of the success of not one or two, but THREE sidescrolling Castlevania games on the original DS. Mega Man would have liked to find a home on the 3DS, if it hadn't been cancelled. Resident Evil Revelations (now going multiplat) was actually quite good, but Mercenaries was an obvious cash-in. Where's that Square Enix support? Oh, you mean a Final Fantasy-themed Elite Beat Agents? It's not a bad game, but...really? It has been two years since the launch of the 3DS with not a single notable release from Square Enix (in the West, at least). Unlike the N64, developers have thankfully realized that the system's 3D effect isn't the be-all-end-all feature like Nintendo wanted us to believe, so they're sending 3D to the back seat while focusing instead on gameplay and graphics.
Nintendo is currently doing a much better job of supporting the 3DS with 1st party and 3rd party games, but it remains to be seen if the system can gain the affection and attention of 3rd parties like the DS once did.
At the E3 2010 reveal of the 3DS, Reggie Fils-Aime took a clever jab at Sony's push for 3D screens in the living room, saying (to the effect) “after an investment of 1000s of dollars, you still need to wear those goofy glasses, and there STILL aren't any 3D movies to watch”. He was, of course, setting the audience up for the 3DS's glasses-free and not-1000s-of-dollars 3D screen. Times have changed since 2010, though not in favor of 3D. Sony's push for 3D TVs has not been received with open arms, the movie industry is becoming less and less confident in the marketability of 3D, and despite the 3DS's launch two years ago, no other major piece of hardware is trying to imitate its glasses-free 3D. It tells me that 3D doesn't matter like Nintendo told us.
Remember, the 3DS is the sequel to the freakin' Nintendo DS, the second-highest selling videogame system of all time (and it will probably outsell the PS2 eventually, now that the PS2 has been discontinued). Nintendo could have taken the stage way back in 2010 with the DS2 and simply said “DS. With graphics better than the Wii”, dropped the mic, and left the stage to an uproar of applause. Instead, they pushed the system in a direction no one seemed to want. I will admit that the 3D effect can be neat, but it can also be detrimental. Super Mario Land 3D is very difficult to play without 3D due to the hybrid camera angle and level design, but it is painful to play for people whose eyes are sensitive to the 3D effect. In games like Fire Emblem: Awakening, the 3D effect is perfect because it is subtle. Can Nintendo finally admit that glasses-free 3D is a bust? Can we finally move on to more important things, like online multiplayer and improved game design?
Well there you have it. This isn't meant to disparage Nintendo. Rather, it's a good thing to look back at what a company promises and see if they matched up to the expectations.