Nintendo have managed to annoy quite a few people with the announcement of their new handheld device, the rather poorly named “New 3DS”. Aside from the additional controls on the unit itself, there will be additional CPU power in the console, which means games targeting the New 3DS won’t work on your older device.
I’ve been reading over comments from the internet (which is a risky business) and speaking to 3DS owners, including a few who’re part of RedGamingTech, and opinions seem split right down the middle on Nintendo’s decision to release a more powerful console. Some believe that it’s too soon for Nintendo to release the New 3DS, particularly as this new is capable of playing ‘exclusive’ titles. Console gamer’s aren’t so used to being in the ‘a new version is coming out’ club. Sure, we (they) understand a PS3 can’t play PS4 games, but there’s no incremental upgrade. Every several years a new Playstation, Xbox or whatever the hell Nintendo call their latest system is released. For PC gamer’s, we’re likely used to this principal – you buy a super high end GPU and something better comes out 12 months later. But that doesn’t mean that your GTX 680 (for example) isn’t suddenly incapable of playing the latest games now, but eventually you’ll have to turn down the Anti-Aliasing and eventually the overall graphics quality if you want to stick with it.
Nintendo Gameboy and 3DS Release Timeline
But really, are Nintendo releasing a new console too soon? That’s debatable. The original GameBoy, which sported a green screen, two buttons and a d-pad was released way back in 1989. This model stayed around for some time, until 1998 when the GameBoy Light sprang up in April. The real change came shortly after this, when the Gameboy Color (GBC) appeared on shelves just in time for your parents Christmas shopping in 1998 (so just about eight months later). There were obvious advantages with the display (it… was color), additional RAM, better CPU and so on. There were of course exclusive titles for the GBC too.
In 2001, we saw Nintendo reveal the GameBoy Advanced (GBA), sporting a massively improved color display (capable of thousands of colors, rather than merely a few dozen) and CPU, memory, video memory and the rest of its hardware specs were leagues higher than that of the GBC. So late 1998 until March 2001…. less than three years and once again, exclusive games for another device. A few incremental upgrades popped out, including the GameBoy Micro and Advanced SP, but for all intents and purposes despite improvements to their battery life (and size) it wasn’t a major change in the actual CPU. No exclusive Pokemon here for the SP for instance.
|Part Of:||Nintendo 3DS||Nintendo DS|
|Console Name||Nintendo 2DS||Nintendo 3DS XL||Nintendo 3DS||Nintendo DSi||Nintendo DS Lite||Nintendo DS|
|Release date (Japan)||12 October 2013||28 July 2012||26 February 2011||1 November 2008||2 March 2006||21 November 2004|
|CPU||Dual-core ARM11||133 MHz ARM9 and 33 MHz ARM7||67 MHz ARM946E-S and 33 MHz ARM7TDMI|
|Graphics Processor||Digital Media Professionals||Nintendo’s own GPU creation|
|Main Memory||128 MB RAM||16 MB RAM||4 MB SRAM|
|Backward compatibility with other systems?||Yes, if you downloaded the games.||Nope, nothing to see here.||With GBA Game Pak|
In November, 2004 (three years later, roughly) out comes the DS. From KB of RAM we go to 4MB of RAM, much larger cartridge support, two screens and a bunch of other stuff. Obviously this is a totally new GameBoy – so naturally new and exclusive games are released. A ‘Lite’ version of this DS is released in March 2006, which mostly focuses on portability and once again, improved battery life.
November 2008 we see the introduction of Nintendo’s DSi and a year later (November 2009) comes DSi XL. The CPU speed doubles (roughly) and memory expands from 4MB to 16MB (now we’re cooking with gas). Additionally we see front facing sensors, additional storage solutions and better battery life (if you’re playing on brightest settings!).
February 2011 now hits, and so does the 3DS. Ram expands to 128 MB, and screen resolution increases by a massive amount. The CPU improves too, with a faster and dual core ARM processor added to provide additional grunt. The XL is released July 2012, and the 2DS is released October 2013.
So where does that leave us? 2014 of course (or 2015, if you’re not living in Japan) and the release of the New 3DS. A faster CPU, better battery life, extra buttons and the warm feeling of owning a new console.
New 3DS A name & marketing failure
My rather long winded point being – Nintendo releasing constant upgrades is nothing new – it’s pretty standard in the mobile gaming industry. In fact, you can see a pattern of a micro, a 2DS or similar being released and a year or so later a more powerful revision of the original hardware (say the GBA) comes out. The Gameboy Pockets, the 2DS, the XL’s and so on are there to be a cheap to develop, easy to put out piece of hardware to remind us that the Gameboy (or DS) line still exists and also to ask us to cough up for more money.
I don’t feel the problem here is Nintendo releasing the ‘New 3DS’ but rather they’ve given it the worst name possible. It’s named so poorly it gives the Wii U a run for its money. You can bet your bottom dollar there’ll be staff in game shops who will need to explain to an angry parent (or a dare I say casual gamer) the reason their new purchased doesn’t work isn’t because the game is broken, but because they have a 3DS and they need a New 3DS. And you can imagine the comedy skit you could write when the person says “what do you mean a New 3DS, I only bought this two months ago”. “No,” the poor member of staff will explain, “it’s New as in New 3DS is the name of the console.”
|Part of:||Game Boy Advance||Game Boy Color||Game Boy|
|Name||Game Boy Micro||Game Boy Advance SP||Game Boy Advance||Game Boy Color||Game Boy Light||Game Boy Pocket||Game Boy|
|Release date (Japan)||13 September 2005||14 February||21 March 2001||21 October 1998||14 April 1998||21 July 1996||21 April 1989|
|CPU||16.8 MHz 32-bit ARM. It also could emulate GameBoy games too, so can operate in that mode.||4 or 8 MHz 8-bit Zilog Z80||4.19 MHz 8-bit|
|Main Memory||256 kB WRAM (outside the CPU)32 kB + 96 kB Video RAM (internal to the CPU)||32 kB RAM16 kB Video RAM||8 kB S-RAM (but can have up to 32kb if extended)8 kB Video RAM|
|Backward compatibility with other systems?||Nope, nothing here||Game BoyGame Boy Color||Game Boy||It was the first GB, so it can’t be!|
Nintendo’s biggest issue here is the confusing naming of its own products. If you’ve been a console gamer for some time (particularly in the N64, Saturn and Playstation era, AKA the 32 / 64 bit wars) you may remember that you could buy a memory upgrade for your N64 or Saturn. In the case of the N64 this would be a RAM pack that was needed to make certain games run correctly (or at all), and in the case of the Saturn it was a cartridge that plugged into your machine and expanded the RAM from 2.5MB to 6.5MB (giving its memory lead over the original Playstation’s 2MB an even larger advantage).
While I understand that buying a new console and a faster one being released can be frustrating, it’s also something that’s been standard in the industry since the beginning. There’s also a good chance the faster CPU isn’t the only reason there’ll be exclusives, but the additional buttons on the pad will likely help developers create more complex titles. The original 3DS sorely lacked the precision of the additional analogue (known as the C-Stick as a homage of sorts to the C-Buttons on the N64), so if nothing else it’ll be a welcome addition to the New 3DS.
The naming of Nintendo’s newest family member is the real culprit here, gamer’s likely taking the news a little kinder if the big N had decided to call their new console say “GameBoy Ultra” or “Power Mario!”. It conjures up images of a completely new architecture, while the name ‘New 3DS’ conjures up the image of a 3DS that’s simply been overclocked. Other features get pushed to the side. It’s a marketing screw up – at least in my opinion (which if nothing else is shared by a few other RGT members).
If you’re yet to buy a 3DS then clearly waiting for the New 3DS’ release is the smarter move, but if you’ve already bought into Nintendo’s handheld family the decision will likely only make sense when there’s a few exclusives out that your older hardware can’t play. That being said, Xeno is a pretty damn good reason to buy the console – but buying a console for one game isn’t the best idea, unless you’re loaded with cash of course.