News Article

Talking Point: The Evolution of the 3DS

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Learning to walk

On 7th December the latest firmware update arrived on the 3DS, adding new features, functionality and playable content to the handheld. In fact, the system now has a more rounded feel to its functionality, with the current fully updated console boasting significant additions to its original capabilities. We've already put together a comprehensive Guide to the Nintendo 3DS System Update but we’ll outline some of the most valuable changes so far, and what could enhance the 3DS further in the future.

Before the most recent update there was a major upgrade in June when Nintendo added an internet browser, the ability to transfer data from a DSi to a 3DS and, most importantly, the eShop. The lack of the eShop on the system’s launch was a disappointment, contributing to an impression that, arguably, the 3DS was launched too early and under-prepared. The eShop arrival brought with it the ability to buy DSiWare, of course, but also Virtual Console Game Boy titles and 3DS exclusive downloads. The early releases were perhaps underwhelming, particularly in terms of 3DS download titles, but recent weeks have seen a notable step-up in content. With five 3D Classics titles and encouraging entries such as Zen Pinball 3D, Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! and the recently released Pushmo, known as Pullblox in Europe, hitting the platform, there is a developing catalogue catering for a variety of gamers.

The latest firmware update, arriving in good time ahead of the holidays, provides another welcome and significant boost in content. Perhaps the most intriguing new feature for creative 3DS owners is the ability to film 3D videos using the 3DS outward-facing cameras. Although the quality of the cameras is low, it’s a fun function that not only allows the shooting of standard video, but also experimentation with settings for alternative colour palettes or even stop-motion videos with the Frame Pick option. The images and videos may be blurry and low resolution, but as an enjoyable extra on a games console, it’s tough to complain.

Also arriving in the latest update was further content and upgrades to the StreetPass Mii Plaza. On the home page there are new menus that show you the regions where you’ve successfully met others through StreetPass, a slideshow gallery to view completed puzzle images, a music player and an achievements system. There’s also an all-new StreetPass Quest, or Find Mii in North America, with more levels, branching paths and a lot of hats to collect: there’s also added depth with potions and the ability to spend Play Coins on reusing Mii characters from your plaza. Finally, this application now receives updates via SpotPass, meaning that new content could become a more regular occurence, welcome news particularly for those who aren't getting many StreetPass hits. In isolation these are all subtle tweaks to the original formula, but taken together they represent a real step-up for the StreetPass app, adding to its status as a quirky and fun extra on the console.

The eShop’s enhancements, though not particularly noticeable to most at this stage, also show willingness from Nintendo to improve its digital platform, introducing new functions that bring the 3DS more into line with competitors. The way that games are purchased has received a more than welcome enhancement, with the ability to top-up funds with a small amount to make a purchase, alleviating frustrations at spending £10 when all you need is £1. You can save credit card details onto your console, not Nintendo’s servers for those concerned about account hacking, so that purchasing funds is quicker. In addition, it’s now possible to select multiple purchases, put your 3DS into sleep and leave it to download them all at once without interruption. These are all simple features, found on smartphones in particular, but welcome upgrades to the eShop, improving some of its clunky original design.

If Nintendo and third-parties use this DLC capability to expand titles beyond their original content, this could prove to be a welcome and thoroughly necessary addition to the console.

The eShop has more upgrades in store that will further bring it into the forefront of gamer’s minds. The capability now exists for retail demos to be distributed as downloads, with the first titles already available in Japan. A concept common on competitor’s home consoles, and to a limited extent on the Wii, it will be a boost to gamers to try before they buy. Also on the horizon is DLC (downloadable content): while this does raise some fears of developers holding back standard content to simply charge for it at a later date, a less cynical view raises the possibility of new tracks being released for Mario Kart 7, additional stages for Super Mario 3D Land or even new dungeons and side-quests in a future 3DS title in The Legend of Zelda series. If Nintendo and third-parties use this DLC capability to expand titles beyond their original content, this could prove to be a welcome and thoroughly necessary addition to the console.

Finally, the Friends List application has received an all-important update. In its launch day form this feature wasn’t particularly useful: it was possible to see if friends were online, read a very short message and see their favourite game, but it wasn’t possible to interact in any way. That was a disappointment, but the recent upgrade has added the ability to join a friend’s online game directly from this area. Coinciding with the release of Mario Kart 7, the ability to pop into this screen and simply join a game is a level of intuitive and instantaneous online connectivity not necessarily associated with Nintendo. With a messaging system also on the way, friends will also be able to exchange more detailed messages in future.

The major firmware updates since launch, alongside features just around the corner, are allowing the 3DS to evolve into a console capable of meeting its consumer's expectations. By releasing major firmware updates regularly in this manner, with significant functional upgrades, Nintendo is demonstrating that it's adjusting to the new gaming landscape. Connectivity and a diverse feature-set are important in modern gadgets, particularly with smartphones that emphasise the fact, and the 3DS is slowly and surely starting to join the modern age.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your opinions on the updates so far, those that are on the way and what Nintendo should do next. Are these features making 3DS a truly ‘next-gen’ console, or is there still a long way to go?

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User Comments (66)



GamerDude said:

I think nintendo are really trying to get the 3DS up to date and they are doing a good job too all they need now is even MORE games the 3DS cant live off mario for ever!



Cengoku said:

We need a better resolution for DS games :-/ I hope that Nintendo will enhance this. In the eshop, the old dsiware games have just 2 little pictures of them that we cannot see :-/ If they add videos for all the dsiware too, it will be great, people can see better what the games looks like, 5-6 pics inside 3 per game would be a cool addition.



Nintonic said:

I think Nintendo should start adding Flipnote Memo soon, does anyone know when it comes us?



skywake said:

I noticed that the screenshots on the eShop page for Pullblox (Pushmo) are in 3D. I think that's a first and a small but important improvement from not having any with 3D screenshots.

While they're at it more games, retail games also, should have 3D trailers on the eShop.



SkywardLink98 said:

Currently, the 3DS doesn't seem to much of an upgrade. The features are nice, but so far almost none of them have been used so the features really don't matter.



Reggie4Life said:

Great article, Thomas! I enjoyed it thouroughly. Nintendo has been doing a great job keeping up with the 3DS.



winter123 said:

People don't seem to realize 3ds has had some good third party games. Not MINDBLOWING, but just good fun. Lego pirates I bought with the system at the launch of the eshop (just walked in toys r us at random and bought it - amazing), monkey ball is not as great as the originals but still good (wish it had monkey golf...) And most recently skylanders! I wish they could get more 3DSware, though.



IronMan28 said:

The fact that Nintendo are making HUGE strides toward rounding out their experiences with online and connectivity speaks volumes on the R&D and one hopes they can innovate the structure like they've done with other avenues (controls, specifically) in gaming. I can't wait to see what else they'll bring to the table.



NX01Trekkie1992 said:

there's an error with that first image, the circle pads are the colour of the consoles, which isn't the case in reality, I know, I'm nitpicky like that.

Even so, the 3DS is a great system, and it's gonna be uphill from here with KI:U, RE:R, MH, LM2, and eventually an original Zelda and Smash 3d



Kriedler said:

If they really want to make the 3DS a great machine, they only need to do two things: Swapnote, and adding the ability to launch DSiWare from the SD card. Then, I'll be 100% satisfied with my purchase.
Oh, and when the new Flipnote comes, it'd be cool if they could be sent in a similar fashion to Swapnote



Raptor78 said:


Which features havnt been used? In most of the games I have at least one or more of the new features have been used that arnt available on previous models of DS. In addition to that has been the improvement of the features on the other DS systems such as the internet browser. Although available on the DSi I can now pause the game use the browser for gamefaqs or whatever and then jump back into the game itself (which apparantly the Vita will be unable to do). So not only has it evolved with new features the old features have moved along quite nicely too.



shingi_70 said:

Agree with this article on almost all points.

I didn't buy the 3DS until the price drop and Haven't looked back since. So far I have gotten.

Only problems I have is that the messaging app isn't built into the OS and DS games aren't downloadable.



Chairman said:

The 3ds is a pretty cool device with lots of great features but I don't see how it will be able to compete in the long term with smartphones or tablets. In my opinion most of the downloadable content is pretty weak when compared to android or smartphone content and usually costs more. It also seems to me that the eshop is "padded" with re- issues and older dsi and gameboy content. While I do like the 3ds, I do believe it will be a short lived platform unless a large number of quality games are made available for download at a comparable price to all those free, .99 cent or $1.99 iphone and android apps. I hope the 3ds is around forever bit I am not so sure it will be.



skells33 said:

I happy with the updates so far so all we need now is two things, that date for the gba games (If i was them i get the date out in the open asap to stop rumors) and letterbox



Wonderclutch said:

I had my 3DS since Day one (April,May?) and I'm STILL waiting to see an eshop point card in any store in Canada. Learning to walk indeed.



Blue_Cat said:

The updates and added features are great, but I hope they continue throughout the systems lifespan. Some people are saying these additions are features that should have been available at launch, so I hope Nintendo disproves them by having at least a couple new system updates every year that add entirely new features instead of just additional content for pre-included apps.

(At least it’s better than the DSi, which had like, 3 updates? Facebook functionality, and the other two were piracy blocks)



Dodger said:

@Wonderclutch Frustrating, eh? I have a friend in Canada who was complaining about the same thing. I think she even contacted Nintendo of Canada about it and they just sent a form letter saying they would note her interest in buying 3DS cards in her region or something like that.



grumblebuzzz said:

What is this "TRILL" thing people keep yammering about?

Anyhow, the 3DS feels like a fully-functional system now and I love it. Heck, I even loved it back when I bought it at launch and it was a glorified tech demo back then.



TeeJay said:

I know this article is about software improvements, but I have to mention that the 3DS itself has been improved a bit. In the new batch of 3DS consoles, the bottom screen doesn't rise so much (or the top screen does) so there aren't any scratches or circle marks on the top anymore, and it doesn't let loose a loud CRACK when you open the system.



daznsaz said:

i loved mine before it got any updates.want to see some games with big 3d world for open exploring to see what 3ds can really do.



k8sMum said:

i am planning on getting a 3DS in january. one concern i have is the shoulder buttons: i keep reading that they become wonky. is this true? i am pretty gentle on my handhelds. is it only happening to those players who are more, um, enthusiastic?? or is it a real problem.



Linkuini said:


So far, the only person I ever hear "yammering" the word "TRILL" around here is Mr_Moore3506.


Argh, why didn't they do that stuff earlier? That mark the circle pad leaves drives me nuts!



paburrows said:

I think that they are doing a great job. Only addition that I would have is a video player like Nintendo 3DS Sound where you can put movie/TV files onto an SD card and watch them on the 3DS just like you can currently listen to MP3 files.

Oh and get rid of the ability to turn on the camera mode with the L & R buttons. I'm frequently turning that on when I don't want to.



NiaLovesNinty said:

I'm satisfied with the 3DS update so far. A minor complaint would be that SwapNote is said to be an app and not a part of the system itself. It would have been cool to message friends while playing games. I'm looking forward to next year, Kid Icarus and Heroes of Ruin are my most anticipated games. I excited for more than just these, however.



Mariokart7fan said:

Will there be an ability to talk to each other over the micro phone while online?

Yes very pleased with the update- 1 up to nintendo



Raylax said:

"raises the possibility of new tracks being released for Mario Kart 7, additional stages for Super Mario 3D Land"

Won't happen. That's not me being cynical, it's simply that they've not been built for DLC. You can put things onto the system, but the game has to know that it has to 'look' for it, which neither of these games do. And since you can't modify the internal code of the game cart, you can't make them look for DLC either. Games in the future almost certainly will support DLC - I suspect Animal Crossing may well be one of the first titles to do so - but MK7 and SM3DL physically cannot.



JJtheTexan said:

I'm about ready to give up on StreetPass. I spend 99 percent of my time in two of America's largest cities (Atlanta and Dallas), and no matter where or how often I carry my 3DS, I don't get any StreetPass "hits". In six months, I've had exactly two. Where are all the 3DS owners?



Dodger said:

@K8SMum It depends on what games you enjoy. I play a lot of Bowser's Inside Story, Mario Kart DS and other games that use the R button. My DSi R button would break from normal usage all the time (if you count twice in the two years I owned it before getting a 3DS all the time ) and my 3DS is currently getting repaired because of it. My friend had the exact same problem because he played a lot of OoT 3D and he just got his back from Nintendo. Nintendo does have good customer service so if you accept the fact that you might have to give it up for two weeks in about a year then you'll be fine. The bigger problem is the screen scratching. My friend's brother just got one and it already is starting to scratch.

The hardware on the 3DS is really good though. It feels complete now. Really excited for the games that were announced a couple of years ago that I bought the system expecting they would come out before 2012 but still don't look complete when I look at trailers (AC3D isn't translated, same with Paper Mario 3D). Oh well. I'm torn. The system itself is great when it isn't breaking itself but Mario Kart 7 and SSF43D are the only game carts for it that look fun to me.

And streetpass is really weird. I'm in the northern Indiana area and I get lots of streetpasses in all sorts of towns, big and little but I know people in much larger areas that almost never get any. Try malls. Especially indoor malls.



Glade said:

Umm I don't see the 3DS as next gen, it's more like a bunch of ambitious current generation ideas that are slowly being added to it with each spaced out update..



StarDust4Ever said:

Um, we still need an option to run DSi-ware off the SD card. I nearly stuffed the internal memory of my 3DS just with the games I transferred from my old DSi. Hence why I don't generally buy new DSiware games, because I don't have room for them. Sure, the system memory on the 3DS is bigger, but not by enough, and most of that space is reserved for the system itself...



Radixxs said:

I dont really notice an issue with DS games on the 3DS, but stuff like that really irks me. Is it just screen size, or is the quality truly worse?



ThomasBW84 said:

@RaylaxKai - Unless it's been categorically stated that MK7 and Super Mario 3D Land don't support DLC, I wouldn't rule it out. I haven't seen any definitive statements saying that DLC won't be possible on these games - by all means point out if it has been stated. Who's to say that the software on these game carts doesn't support potential DLC? Nintendo R&D will surely have been working on that part of the 3DS's digital future for a while.

I like the idea, and it'd be terrific if it came to pass. Regardless of the scenario with those two games, it'll be interesting to see how DLC is used in the future.



SanderEvers said:

@42: And that's why the 3DS is next-gen. The 3DS is the first next-gen console/handheld out there. And so what that it had a rough start? Nintendo is getting there, faster with every step.

The DS wasn't perfect at the start either. So neither is the 3DS. Same goes for the XBOX, XBOX 360, PS1, 2, 3, PSP, PSVita, (name any other console here).

The 3DS isn't a DS, like the PSVita isn't a PSP. So yes, it's a new generation of Nintendo handheld. So YES, it's next-gen.

@46: Because Nintendo said so.

Nintendo will also offer something like this for the titles Nintendo publishes next year, in a way that should be appreciated by our consumers.[/qoute]



brandonbwii said:

Nintendo did so much what with the release of Mario, Mario Kart, the massive firmware update and all that for a little bit I forgot what 3DS was promised but is still missing. Game Gear and Turbographx-16 VC and GBA Ambassador games.

The fact that I forgot about those, albeit briefly, is a testament to how significant the two games and, especially, the update truly were (Wii news about getting Xenoblade, Rhythm Heaven and Mario Party all early next year didn't hurt either.



k8sMum said:

@dodger: thanks! i do play a lot of bowser's story, mario kart etc and other games that use the R button, but i've never had to have any work done on my DSi, which i've had from day one. i guess i will just not worry about it and see what happens.



ThomasBW84 said:

@SanderEvers - Thanks for the link, I read that as no DLC content until 2012, and although MK7 tracks were rightly described as unlikely, at the time I took the wording differently (Nintendo published products could receive DLC in 2012, though it can also quite rightly be read as meaning new titles actually published in 2012).

I guess my optimism ruled in writing that particular line in the article, and if my English Lit studies have taught me anything, interpretation of words can be exceptionally varied



AVahne said:

Hoping Flipnote Memo comes soon, and I'm hoping that when they add Swapnote they'll also add a standard messaging system to the OS so we won't have to repeatedly exit games just to message friends. Also, video chat will be really nice, especially with the position of the camera above the screen this time.



belmont said:

3DS has some good games (DOA is my favoutite). I personally still wait for an rgp that is not port of an older game.

However the overall sortware seems not so good to me. The device takes a lot to load, same goes for applications, games and shutting down. There is no way to load the game card immediately. The wifi seems slow, the browser is not so good, the e-shop is a pain to navigate and there are no e-shop cards in local retailers. The games included in the 3DS are boring and you can't play some of them if you don't have coins.

However I am optimistic for the future of the console. The good games will come but will be a little late, the VC will pick up slowly. The features I'd like on a firmware update are the ability to transfer VC games from the Wii to 3DS and a tweek to make the overall experience faster. Also some social network applications like the one the PSP/Vita have (Facebook, Skype etc). Also the ability to load DSi-ware from the SD card would be great.

With the recent rpg additions to the PSP's library, the upcoming PSVita and the new 3DS games I think that handhelds generally will have a good future.



mullen said:

What I really want is skype or whatever video chat app on 3DS. It can be the first major device that support 3d video chat.
Also, I hope that we can import data to the build-in note function, and can have more pages. Therefore, it's possible to directly import walkthrough / maps to the system.
Finally, I think if it is possible, nintendo may consider to bring onlive to the console, which will expand the game gallery a lot.



Hokori said:

3DS is getting better and better every day, now wheres my Mario VS DK, and Metroid Fusion



skells33 said:

I have a sneaky feeling Japan will be the 1st to know the date of the GBA free games and as it is Monday over there hopefully this week we can stop asking about Mario vs DK and Metriod fusion (two games that i have not played yet) (after all Nintendo is Japan)



NintenHero said:

Yep, Nintendo is doin' a fine job so far. Let's see some NEW games now yeah? and I'm not talkin' about Mario, Zelda or Pokemon lol.



bro2dragons said:

"Are these features making 3DS a truly ‘next-gen’ console?"

No. The 3DS is a current product widely available to consumers. It is a current generation handheld. The PSP and the DS family are last generation. The Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 are current generation consoles. A "next-generation" console or handheld would be the Wii U, PS4, Xbox 720, PlayStation Vita (although, seeing as how that will be in competition with the 3DS, it would more likely fall into the same handheld generation as the 3DS) or Nintendo's follow-up to the 3DS which we'll call for now the 4DS (for lack of a better term). Semantics, probably, but still the truth. An existing system will never be a future system, one of my biggest pet peeves with Sony and Microsoft marketing.



bro2dragons said:

@Mullen: No, it cannot be. The 3DS has 3D cameras, yes, but on the outside. For the other user to see you in 3D, you'd have to hold the back of the system to your face, meaning you couldn't see them. I won't understand why Nintendo didn't make it with two inward-facing cameras instead of just one, but maybe they'll fix that along with a built in second slider on the 3DS Lite or 3DS Plus or whatever they are going to call their inevitable updated model.



TikiTong said:

This seems sad, but the only person I tagged on StreetPass was a clerk at EB Games. I went to Portugal for two moths, and I didnt tag anyone at the airport, or mall, and I havent tagged anyone new in Canada yet. I bet my 3D Mii is lonely.. Why cant more people have a 3DS in Sleep Mode?????



Ren said:

I've gotten a few hits, it's just expensive enough of a toy that even the people that have them probably don't take them out as much as they're designed for. There is great potential there but it needs lots of support. The Streetfighter streetpass game was pretty lame, but a nice idea.
I'm really happy now with everything, the ambassador program was welcome since there wasn't much to do the first few months and the video function is awesome, my favorite toy now. It really needs a simple video editor, though, I hope theres a future app for it. Just simple clip trimming and joining maybe an audio dubbing feature for recording music or voice over finished videos. We should really be able to send pics and videos to friends as well.




TikiTong, I taggged 3 people in McDonalds at our local WalMart. You just never know where it may happen. Good thing they were carry 3DS' & not ipods... and Wonderclutch check your local Shoppers DrugMart for the e-shop cards, though they are just called 3DS points cards, also there are new cards specifically for the Wii & DSi, the old cards should be phased out by now...



SanderEvers said:

59: The 3DS is the start of the "next-generation" of handhelds. The PSV falls in the same generation. Just like the DS and PSP (the DS was first as well).

So the DS was last-gen, the 3DS is current-gen. The Wii, XBOX 360 and PS3 are still current gen since there are no new consoles atm. The PSP is last-gen, the PSVita will be released in less than a week (in Japan).



zyxion said:

Im glad to see Nintendo stepping it up the besg thing for them to do now is to utilitize as much compatability between the 3DS and Wii U as possible. And as soon as they announce a price I can preorder a system for a launch day party! I'm also custom building a raceseat for the sytem and working on design for a special 4 Player/mat DDR dancefloor



alLabouTandroiD said:

The whole update just screams Nintendo. In a good way that is.
I mean i thought they’d just add new puzzles and a few more floors for StreetPass but they actually gave it new features. Of course it could be they’re only playing catch-up because of the rushed 3DS launch here. But i really hope that’s not the case and that they’ll keep adding new features and apps in the future. There’s just so much potential. For example i still think there’s a lot of fun stuff missing from the pedometer app. Take a look at Personal Trainer: Walking / Walk with me!.

Being able to spend less than 10 € in the eShop even seemed like a radical move for Ninty and gives me the most confidence in their online future.

With all the free things we received, NoE’s great giveaway of Kid Icarus and the 3DS competition this is what makes the 3DS feel really special to me. It also gives me hope that it’s the true beginning of the big N reaching MicroSony’s online appeal.

Edit: I didn't find Catrap easily when i wanted to download it on Friday. It wasn't in the featured Virtual Console section so i had to use the search function. If i wouldn't have known about the game i would have overlooked it. Which would have been a shame. So i'd say even there's room to improve things.

Nintendo could easily wow me again be doing these things:

  • Wireless multiplayer in the VC and GBA games
  • offer VC games from the systems that were announced before
  • enable DSiWare to run from SD cards like all the other downloads on the 3DS
  • making the communities found in Mario Kart a system feature the communicates with all games that support it
  • have a unified shop account / framework that allows you to download your Wii’s VC and some of your WiiWare and retail games on your 3DS

PS: Huge props to skywake (5.), Blue_Cat (26.), Mariokart7fan (38.), Ren (62.) for their comments.

PPS: The 3DS is not HD so it certainly isn’t next-gen.

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