Is the 3DS Nintendo's new Wii? Before you question my knowledge of video game history, I do not mean that the 3DS could be the successor to the Nintendo Wii. There is no way that Nintendo would just abandon the home console market to focus solely on handhelds. As the name of the Nintendo 3DS suggests, it is most definitely the successor to the popular Nintendo DS. My question is more in terms of the capability of the 3DS to touch home with a new audience with glasses-free 3D the same way that the Wii brought in new audiences to gaming with its then unique motion controls.
The Wii may get a lot of flack for being behind the curve in a lot of ways compared to its current competition; Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, but no one can argue the success of Nintendo's motion controlled gaming system. The Wii has sold over 84 million units, 30 million units more than either Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 -- and that is without high definition graphics. Not to mention, the Nintendo DS has sold over 144 million units, surpassed only by the Playstation 2. The fact is Nintendo knows how to sell systems.
Both the Wii and the DS had something in common: unique control mechanics. The DS combined regular gamepad controls with touch screen controls, and the Wii brought in motion controls as its main control mechanic. It is not a stretch to say that these control mechanics helped push these two systems into markets that would not usually buy gaming systems.
Fast forward to March 2011, Nintendo releases its successor to best selling console to date: the 3DS. Touch based controls are still present, but this time they added another new hook: glasses free 3D. 3D itself is not new to the gaming world. Nintendo had even tried to introduce it once before with the Virtual Boy. They probably do not want to talk about that, however. Many games are now being released with the option to play in 3D, but most people do not have the luxury to afford a $3000 3D TV. On top of that, 3D glasses are a pain. So will handheld glasses-free gaming grab people like touch and motion controls did?
I decided to take my own 3DS and pass it around to some members of my family that do not usually play video games to get their reactions. The first was my brother, probably the one with the most experience gaming out of the bunch. I let him play the Face Raiders and Augmented Reality (AR) games. His reaction was amused but mostly indifferent. He seemed to enjoy his time with the 3DS, but I think he may have had more fun with a full retail game.
Next I tried my brother's wife. She owns a Wii, but has not been to keen on the whole idea of video games. I figured the best solution for that would be to shoot down her husbands floating head in Face Raiders. What wife would not want that? She tried out the AR games as well and seemed to get sucked in by the 3D so much that she would actually get phased when the little dragon jumps out to bite you. Interestingly enough, she seems to have been the most interested in the 3DS of all those I showed it to.
After my sister-in-law, I took it over to my dad's place to show him and my step-mom. My dad found the glasses-free 3D to be impressive, but he was also never keen on video games, and though he enjoyed the built-in games for a few minutes, I'm mostly positive he's not currently sitting at his desk wishing he was playing a 3DS.
My step-mom got pretty sucked in by the 3D as well going so far as to create her own Mii and saving it on my system. My dad joked that she would now have to buy one so that she could carry it with her at all times.
Despite everyone enjoying their time with the 3DS and finding the technology interesting, I do not think that any of them were left with more than passing thought of the system itself. The glasses-free 3D, while cool, does not really change the way the games are played in the same way that touch and motion controls did. Plus the 3D can cause eye strain pretty quick, so if someone is picking up the 3DS for the 3D and not for the games they will most likely be disappointed.
As for my personal opinion, I tend to go back and forth between playing in 3D and in 2D. So far the 3D does not make or break the system. It is mostly just there if wanted. However, hardcore Nintendo fans like myself would mostly likely pick this up even if there was no 3D, and maybe some curious passersby. I do not see the word of mouth being strong in long run for the 3DS.