Update: Clarification of Tatsumi Kimishima’s statement has surfaced today, and it seems the quotes regarding a “successor” to the 3DS were incorrectly interpreted by the original source. The quotes that appeared online yesterday were pulled from a Japanese newspaper, Kyoto Shinbun. The newspaper lifted the quotes from a recent Corporate Management Policy Briefing and Financial Results Q&A held by Nintendo, which has now been officially published in its entirety. For the sake of being concise, the transcript essentially states that the 3DS and Switch can exist alongside each other, as the markets for the two platforms are very different from one another. Regarding a successor to their dedicated handheld line, Kimishima stated they will “keep considering it as always”. While this clarification renders some information in this article pointless, the article itself makes points about the potential success of the Switch that are still relevant to the conversation, given Nintendo’s insistence on the 3DS existing alongside the Switch. While the markets for the two platforms may indeed be different, a lack of developer focus on the Switch still creates a potentially harmful divide in the Nintendo ecosystem. Read on for the original piece written prior to the transcript’s release.
Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima Recently made a statement indicating that a 3DS successor is being considered, as he believes that there is a need and a market for it. Being one of the many 3DS owners who loves their handheld, this should be exciting news. Would they stick to dual screens? Maybe a more traditional form factor like the Vita? A higher resolution screen? But instead of asking these questions, I can’t help but worry. When I saw the news, I didn’t get excited. I didn’t speculate. My stomach dropped. Because the idea of a 3DS successor could mean failure for the Switch. Or at the very least, the death of its most exciting idea.
The most exciting prospect of the Switch is the idea that all of Nintendo’s development efforts would be condensed onto one platform. There would be no more fragmentation of Nintendo’s user base. No more deciding which Nintendo platform to get based on where the games you were interested in released. No more nearly dead-on-arrival console releases. If you want to play Nintendo’s games, just buy this one box, and use it at home or on the go. Whether this dream would come to fruition or not hinged greatly on whether Nintendo would continue to support the 3DS, or let it die. Sure, they said they would continue to support the 3DS, but they and many others have made similar statements before. My personal hope is that they will let the 3DS die, cementing the Switch’s position as the ONE place to play Nintendo’s games. But with a 3DS successor under consideration, Nintendo’s direction may be somewhat clearer.
If the Switch were ever considered to be the “only platform to play Nintendo games” within the company, they would likely not be so publicly considering a successor to their 3DS line. Nintendo, to my knowledge, has never outwardly stated that Switch would be the only place to play Nintendo games. But given the feature set and focus on both portability and connectivity, it was implied that this would be the case. Should a handheld console exist alongside the switch, I don’t foresee the switch doing any better than the Wii U did, which by all accounts was a failure for Nintendo. I love the games on Nintendo platforms, and I would hate to see them actively work against unifying their user base under one console when they have a very clear opportunity to do so.
The other side of this is that Nintendo could simply be gauging interest in another dedicated handheld. If their fans respond positively to the idea, they will likely push forward. Or maybe the statement was never intended to be made public. Maybe a 3DS successor really is nothing more than talk at this point. There is really no way to know for sure, everything is purely conjecture at this point. And there is no guarantee that if Nintendo does continue to pursue the dedicated handheld market that they will release a new handheld anytime soon. Assuming talks go well from the start, I can’t see any new hardware releasing from Nintendo until 2020 at the earliest. That would give the Switch three years to grow and develop as a platform before a new one is introduced. That’s not much time, but if Nintendo pushes hard enough, they could make the Switch a compelling enough device to push its theoretical lifespan further.
Could a new handheld derail the Switch? It’s hard to say for sure. Given the popularity of Nintendo handhelds versus consoles, it’s hard not to worry about the Switch’s future if a handheld were to come to fruition. Not to mention a new handheld would likely mean no core Pokémon or Monster Hunter entries on the switch, both of which are very significant sales drivers for Nintendo hardware. The Switch’s potential success was already hanging in the balance of Nintendo’s future decisions surrounding the console, and this news doesn’t bode well for the device. If Nintendo wants the Switch to succeed, they need to focus solely on it. Get as many developers as possible on board, and come down on the platform with an avalanche of compelling titles to drive people to purchase and support the device. I still have hope that this will be the case, but the life of the Switch is in Nintendo’s hands. Their decisions as a company will decide whether they build a castle, or a casket for their newest platform.