Critical Hit | 10 Reasons why the Nintendo 3DS is Still Relevant and can Co-Exist with Mobile Gaming

By Jorge Ba-oh 16.09.2013 6

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Dedicated portable games consoles like the Nintendo 3DS and Sony PS Vita have come under heavy fire from critics over the last month that feel there is less room in the crowded market for these devices.
There's no questioning the increasing presence of mobile phones and tablets as viable options for consumers to play video games. A large majority of the population carry a smart-phone, with the percentage creeping up to sixty percent in both the US and UK. That's not to say that that each and every one of the ownership play games on these devices, but the option is always there, an invitation for touch screen tapping and swiping.
The general consensus from those arguing against the Nintendo 3DS in particular is that young children prefer the iPod to the Nintendo - with one example in particular gaining attention amongst the gaming community: "put an iPad Mini and a 3DS on a table next to each other and most kids today will reach, if not jump, for the iPad", said blogger John Gruber earlier this month.
Yes, more consumers - young and old - are playing games on touch devices, but that shouldn't mean that the Nintendo 3DS suddenly becomes obsolete and irrelevant. With hardware sales soaring, a more affordable 2DS option and a strong set of upcoming games, the console has become even more pocket friendly that ever before.
There is certainly room for both dedicated gaming consoles in the market, each providing something different for the consumer - more options.
Here are ten reasons why the Nintendo 3DS is still relevant and can work alongside touch devices/mobiles in providing rich, gaming experiences whether on the move or at home.

1. Variety is the Spice of Life

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One advantage that video games have over other mediums is that content can be exclusive to a specific hardware platforms. For example, a song or movie will generally play the same on a computer, TV or smartphone - the resolution and output quality can differ, but the content would be the same. Films, books and music aren't generally developed for a device in mind, whereas gaming has the advantage of tailoring the experience towards the hardware.
Because the Nintendo 3DS and touch devices offer different setups, it allows different control mechanisms for each; there are some titles that play better on a tablet and others are more suited for Nintendo's physical button interfaces. With so much unique and innovative content across multiple platforms, there isn't a better time to own and use multiple portable devices to play video games.
Space, guns, mystery, caves, educational, music, thrillers, puzzles - there isn't a genre that isn't represented on the Nintendo 3DS or DS that players can dive straight into. Likewise on mobile/tablet platforms, there are also a range of compelling titles, but when it comes to a wider range of games that don't require additional in-game payments and give a comprehensive, rewarding experience - the Nintendo 3DS just works.
Children leap from one fad to another. One day it's Angry Birds, the next it may well be Candy Crush, but when it comes to Nintendo, the company's reputation and past quality gives that reassurance for fans and parents to come back to the likes of Super Mario Bros and Pokémon time and time again.
But what about those five minute bursts of entertainment whilst waiting for a bus or, dare I say it, going to the loo? With a "sleep" function and many titles offering quick play features, the Nintendo 3DS can join mobile/tablet platforms as a pick-up-and-play device, with the option to continue further when there's more time.
Just because someone may stop playing a Nintendo 3DS for a while and shift towards iPad, doesn't mean it's the end of the road. Because of the different, exclusive games for each platform, a gamer can easily shift from each depending on the newer titles being offered up. PCs and consoles easily co-exist, so why can't portables and mobiles?

2. Just as Good as Chocolate Buttons

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Buttons aren't the only solution when it comes to video games and we certainly wouldn't rule out touch-only experiences. There are games, again designed for the hardware in mind, on tablets/smartphones that work through prodding and swiping. Whilst a majority could be disregarded as gimmicky and repetitive, a growing number have had a little bit more thought and design poured into them - they just couldn't be done on a dedicated console and work better on mobile.
On the flipside, the Nintendo's inclusion of face buttons, analogue stick, shoulder buttons in addition to a responsive touch-screen is a difficult combination to beat. A flick to the left on the circle pad will guarantee a character moving to one direction, a light press on one of the face buttons can secure that well-timed punch to the face. There's no need to continually look down at the controller to keep the action flowing. The same just doesn't quite work as well on a touch device's on-screen virtual gamepad. Sluggish, mixed interfaces depending on the game can make the experience far more difficult than it should be. There are additional physical controllers for mobiles/tablets that bridge the gap, but the compatibility is still flaky at best.
Still though, it's different stokes for different folks. There are a good range of touch/phone games that invite more touch/motion play, and do work well, but others are more suited to portable games consoles. Again, it's all about the variety and type of game being played - each format has its own set of advantages.

3. Nintendo-exclusive IPs

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Whether critics love or loathe Nintendo, many would agree that the company's greatest assets, aside from hardware, are the life-long characters and franchises that never seem to go out of fashion. Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Animal Crossing, the Wii range of games, many of these are still household names amongst children and adults. There's a common assertion that Nintendo makes compelling, enjoyable experiences that are suitable for gamers both young and old. It's this reliability that keeps fans interested and parents confident to invest in Nintendo products.
With Nintendo 3DS continuing to build momentum with a number of well-received exclusive games, it's a perfect time to step into these immersive, fun worlds on the move. Super Smash Bros, Mario Party and Pokémon are on the horizon.

4. Fixed, reliable hardware

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One advantage of consoles like the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita over mobile/tablets is a consistency in hardware interface and processing ability. All Nintendo 3DS consoles have the same graphics chip, same button layout and processor - developers program and ensure games, for the most part, work as intended. When it comes to mobile, the problem lies with the sheer number of different devices available. Even the most recent models, complete with quad-core sandwich makers, may have bugs or be incompatible with certain games. Apple iPod/Touch has a greater sense of guaranteed-to-work over Android, but problems still exist.
Nintendo games work well simply because Nintendo, experienced and indie developers know and understand the platform, consistently pushing the initial barriers and making the most out of the setup. Whether a player uses a 2DS or 3DS XL, the game is expected to run in the exact same way (with the 3D switch set to "off".).

5. Sharing games and cartridges

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Many would argue that because of the pricing structure of mobile games and availability of tablets/smartphones, consumers wouldn't necessarily have to share games considering a fair few are free. With the 3DS though, consumers are still able to physically share cartridges with friends and family, using the same save data and potentially sell on games or purchase second hand. Mobile/tablet titles do have the advantage of being easily transferrable when it comes to switching device, or owning both a mobile and tablet of the same operating system - far easier than the Nintendo 3DS's archaic digital approach, however.
The 3DS does lack the ability to share digital games and is still backwards when it comes to account management across multiple consoles - but Nintendo are looking to improve this aspect of the system in the future.

6. Affordable pricing options

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Whilst some 3DS critics have suggested that because smartphone sales are soaring, it means the end is nigh for Nintendo, it simply shouldn't be the case. Most consumers purchase a phone as a device to make calls, send texts/emails and browse the internet, with video games as the secondary feature. When it comes to the Nintendo 3DS, consumers purchase the console for one major role, playing games. The two mediums simply can't be compared it terms of sales - the purchase intent is very different. It's like comparing consumer PC sales to video game consoles; it shouldn't be the case.
Because the Nintendo 3DS offers exclusive games and physical buttons; it adds another way to play, a purpose for buying one, over, for example a separate MP3 player.
With these exclusive games, an expansive back-catalogue and the prospect of more quality titles in the future, Nintendo have pitched now three different price-points: the entry-level Nintendo 2DS out in October, the standard Nintendo 3DS model, plus the super-sized-yet-comfortable XL for those wanting a bigger screen.
The Nintendo 3DS/2DS isn't designed to replace a tablet, and with the pricing, should be a strong contender for the primary gaming device, and something to compliment the tablet/mobile whether on the move or at home.

7. Durability

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Here at Cubed3 Towers I've been the clumsy one who has unfortunately dropped, prodded and at one point, soaked Nintendo DS, 3DS and GameBoy consoles. Fortunately, with a little dollop of TLC, the hardware still works as if fresh out of the box - albeit with a scuffle or two along the sides. Tablets and mobile devices for the most part will too, survive the brunt, but at a far higher price-point should be more considered when letting youngsters use them.
Nintendo are renowned for longevity also, so as the mobile/tablet operating system starts to degrade slowly with time, the 3DS and DS hardware still maintain a consistent performance with potentially less maintenance required. Batteries will still need replacing eventually; but a Nintendo 3DS or 2DS console will be built to last.

8. Increasing digital options and Indie eShop Games

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Nintendo may be known for the cartridge format, but the Japanese game maker does know and appreciate that the digital boom is happening and the physical medium may not be around till the end of time. To remedy this, a large number of games are now available on the digital eShop store, to download and run from the console itself, as apps, plus there's a growing selection of smaller indie releases to tuck into like: Mighty Switch Force! 2, The Sharship Damrey, Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, HarmoKnight and Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger.

9. Compatibility with Nintendo DS back catalogue

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(Image credit: yangkuo)
The Nintendo 3DS has its own set of critically acclaimed titles like Fire Emblem Awakening, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario Kart 7 and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but there is a vast collection of Nintendo 2DS games that can all be played on the system without a second's thought. The past Pokémon games, Mario Kart DS, Brain Training, Hotel Dusk and many more can be purchased at low, affordable prices and give long-lasting and innovative experiences.

10. StreetPass Content & Social Gaming

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Right from day one, Nintendo 3DS owners have had the ability to exchange "hits" by simply walking past or being close by to another owner. These new virtual friendships can be used in mini-games and within apps. Now with the most recent update, fans are able to exchange StreetPass hits in Wi-Fi hotspots in a relay format for even more friendship exchanges.
Nintendo have also opened up the door for players to share screenshots from selected games on social networks like Twitter and Facebook via a dedicated web app, making what would normally be a solo experience into a far more community driven and engaging one.

Room for both

There is certainly room for both portable games consoles and mobile/tablet devices. Mp3/music players are on the decline because mobile/tablet devices can play the exact same song without needing an extra device. Likewise, the same dedicated DVD player has practically become obsolete because the tablet can play the exact same film, just retrieving the file digitally.
When it comes to gaming; the power of the medium grants that device-exclusive content; games to be designed and played for either the tablet/mobile or dedicated console. It's why the two can co-exist and complement one another in some ways, but offer competition in others.
That's not to say that Nintendo should simply plod along all merry and unchanging. The company have taken steps to address the wave of digital content and demand through the eShop, and are strolling towards other models like free-to-play. Nintendo will need to work harder to raise awareness for the types of experiences only available to 3DS/2DS players, but the growing power of mobile media shouldn't mean Nintendo would be written off completely. At this stage in time, one would be a fool to consider Nintendo irrelevant.

What are your thoughts - are portable gaming consoles like the PSP and 3DS still relevant alongside mobiles and tablets?

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Nice article! Smilie

Yeah great article. Hate all the negativity towards Nintendo. I love the 3DS, never thought I would get one but its my favourite handheld. 

In my opinion it always comes down to the exclusive games, being able to play things you can't get anywhere else is why people choose a specific console. You also don't get the same experience with mobile games. Even with physical controllers, I don't think the average mobile user is willing to pay more than the current cost of mobile games. Nintendo will continue to be able to make a profit with their portable systems for years to come.

heathenmagic said:
Yeah great article. Hate all the negativity towards Nintendo. I love the 3DS, never thought I would get one but its my favourite handheld. 

Me too, when the 3DS came out it was the first Nintendo console/handheld that I hadn't ever bought on launch/launch window since the N64. Quite frankly the idea of 3D put me off and i didn't think it was all too impressive, especially at the entry price point.

Earlier this year i picked up a 3DS XL and i have to say that it the best handheld i've ever had, the back compatibility with DS games makes it an even greater piece of hardware, i would have been over the moon if they had a model with a GBA port (after all its probably fat enough) but nonetheless some really great games are on the system that have probably bettered the DS library. 

Once Smash Bros, Metroid (hopefully) and Fzero (i guess i'd be dreaming) come to the system then it really will be unrivaled in handhelds.

Great article, i think Nintendo should make a more concerted effort with integrating other features into the 3DS though. Imagine having a BBC iPlayer app, or a Sky Go app that could download 3D content? A Spotify app for music and even Skype for calls? eBooks, or release a successor to 100 classic book collection. Put these into the game and you might get a few off their iPads and other tablets for other reasons too!

You are right Flynnie. I heard there is going to be a You Tube app, but perhaps it was rumour. I use I player a lot on the Wii, so anything like this is welcome on 3DS. Still going through 100 classic book collection lol. More apps would be nice, though I know its mainly for the games.

Youtube on the 3DS would be great to watch movies in 3D.

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