Nintendo used a Japanese Nintendo Direct this morning to announce a new version of its 3DS handheld. The news has surprised many, and so have the details about what the 3DS revamp actually contains.
The new pair of 3DS models appear to be literally called “New 3DS” and “New 3DS LL (XL),” but more on that head-scratching name later. Each features an upgraded CPU, a new small analog nub above the SNES-recolored buttons, and additional shoulder buttons next to the current ZL and ZR buttons. It supports sliding custom covers and will have better 3D than previous models as well.
It’s the CPU that’s drawing the most attention, however. Not because of its power necessarily, but because Nintendo seems intent on fracturing their 3DS userbase with this new model. They’ve announced a new Xenoblade Chronicles game for the New 3DS, and also revealed that it actually requires this new CPU to play.
This is alarming many Nintendo fans who currently own a 3DS, sending out a signal that perhaps most new games for the 3DS will indeed require this “New 3DS” CPU, or even the functionality of its additional controls. The idea is that with more power and more buttons to work with, why would developers not design games for the new system?
But it’s not as if players can even simply take the expensive step of buying a new New 3DS (can’t resist discussing this name much longer), because if they do, Nintendo lacks a unified account system that would allow them to say, transfer and download their old, purchased games to the new handheld.
There are just over 44 million 3DS handhelds out there right now, and Nintendo has worked painstakingly to encourage adoption of the unit after an initially slow start. But now this idea that some games may be playable on both models while some may only work on the new version is worrisome.
It would be one thing if this system was a full on sequel to the 3DS, and with these kinds of upgrades, it practically is. But once again, Nintendo’s naming department has totally botched branding. From what we can tell from the announcement and subsequent marketing, I will repeat, they have actually named this new model “New 3DS,” which is an even more confusing identifier than the famously terrible “Wii U,” which misled people into thinking the brand new console was just a peripheral for the existing Wii.
But “New 3DS”? I can already imagine the conversations at the GameStop counter.
“Do you have a new 3DS?”
“I’m sorry, did you say new 3DS or New 3DS?”
“My son wants a new 3DS for his birthday.”
“A new New 3DS?”
“A new 3DS.”
“We have a used New 3DS.”
“I will take the cheapest one.”
“Ah, that would be a new old 3DS”
*child cries on his birthday*
It’s like the “Who’s on first?” of video game hardware naming.
Right now, this information is too new and unclear to make any firm judgments about the handheld yet. Nintendo has only announced the system’s release for Japan on October 11th, and confirmed to Eurogamer it wouldn’t be out in the EU until 2015 (no word on NA yet). Perhaps there’s some solution regarding the fractured userbase that won’t totally leave old 3DS owners in the dust. Perhaps there’s a better name for the new unit on the horizon that isn’t an Onion-level parody of Nintendo’s naming skills. But all we know is what’s been announced, and it’s a cool piece of tech that has some very perplexing caveats attached to it right now.