When all is said and done, the Nintendo 3DS may end up being the most interesting Nintendo game console even it isn’t the most successful. The story surrounding Nintendo’s little handheld over the past two years—from technologically groundbreaking E3 2010 star to 2011’s biggest commercial flop and onto 2012’s staging ground for Nintendo’s transition into full digital commerce—has been tumultuous and exciting to watch. (At least if you’re not one of Nintendo’s diehard fans or shareholders.) What’s more, none of the questions surrounding the 3DS have been settled, save one: It might yet be successful, it might take a new form after the Nintendo 3DS XL, but Nintendo can say we confidence that its future does not lie in stereoscopic 3D effects.
In a Thursday interview with The Independent, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata backed further away from stereoscopic 3D technology than he has in the past. He and his company touted the 3DS’ glasses-free 3D effects as the key selling point for the device prior to and immediately after its release. Releases like Super Mario 3D Land were sold on the premise that 3D would redefine how Nintendo makes games. Since then though, Nintendo has downplayed that message, focusing instead on the handheld’s upcoming games and its network capabilities.
“I think [3D is] an important element, it makes graphics more impactful, it proves a sense of immersion that 2D doesn’t have, so I would say generally that 3D is better than 2D,” said Iwata, “It’s nice to have good graphics but not necessarily on their own, so I don’t think we’ll present [3D] as one of the key features of our consoles but will probably stick with 3D as one of the minor elements of our consoles in the future.”
Even this slight acknowledgement of disinterest in a machine’s features is a rarity from Nintendo and its executives. Usually it stands by design decisions and focus through and through. The Wii Remote Plus attachment for the Wii controller was touted as a wholly optional upgrade at first, not a much-needed improvement to the original remote design. Nintendo then went on to quietly make all Wii controllers Wii Remote Plus enabled. Saying outright that 3D isn’t a focus going forward means that Nintendo has been forced to recognize that consumers just aren’t interested in the technology.
As the 3DS’ story continues to unfold, it will be fascinating to see just how many developers working on the system continue to build 3D presentation. The stereoscopic effect takes up quite a bit of the machine’s processing power. How good will 3DS games look if they forego 3D completely?