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Feature: 3DS and the Trend of Colourful Handhelds

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Who needs rainbows?

It’s been on the market for less than a year, yet the 3DS is already available in five distinct colours, with multiple limited edition console designs also in stores or on the way.

The reaction to new colour announcements is always interesting: while some bemoan yet another ‘new’ 3DS hitting the market, many seem to accept it as an inevitability. Looking at Nintendo’s major handhelds, it’s easy to see why colourful variations are expected, as it’s been a trick of the business with every handheld variation. Let’s take a quick look at the history of this trend.

Game Boy to DS, so many choices

To trace Nintendo’s habit of multi-coloured handheld consoles, it’s necessary to go all the way back to the Game Boy. That said, the original light grey model had the market to itself for years after its initial launch. It was in the mid 1990s, as the handheld began to age and revisions were in the pipeline, that Nintendo released a range of new colours, known as the ‘Play it Loud’ series in North America. In the UK, meanwhile, there was a limited edition console with Manchester United branding – not a handheld to play near rival fans.

It was with the release of Game Boy Pocket, in 1996, that the concept of selling multiple variants seemed to take off. A number of new colours hit the market, including some snazzy region-specific limited editions. In fact, there was such a variety of different iterations within a limited space of time that finding accurate historical details of release dates and territories is decidedly tricky. The Game Boy Light was also released with some intriguing designs, though this particular console iteration was only available in Japan.

The Game Boy Color took the concept of multiple editions to a new level with the logo itself, the word ‘color’ written in five different colours to represent the variety of options available at launch. Limited edition models with new colours or designs were particularly common in Japan, while special editions matching particular brands or gaming franchises were also available. A lot of these models arrived within a short time of each other, meaning that a newcomer to the console in 1999/2000 would have – if enthusiastic in tracking down different models – a lot of options from which to choose.

The trend would continue with the Game Boy Advance and the DS ‘family’ of consoles. The GBA SP in particular had a large number of special editions, no doubt due to the possibilities of special designs on the outside case of the ‘clamshell’ design. The similar, albeit larger, design of the DS consoles led to a significant number of special and limited editions, both promotional and released on a larger scale. The modest number of standard colour designs doesn’t seem excessive, but the sheer range of additional designs and themes are self-evident. Some celebrate major anniversaries, such as the Mario DSi XL pictured, while others are exclusive to particular stores or regions.

Which 3DS colour is ‘me’?

Is that a question that current consumers are asking? As our very brief outline has highlighted, buying a Nintendo handheld isn’t a simple process of walking into a store and picking up the only version on the shelf. With the 3DS there are mainstream choices such as Aqua Blue, Cosmo(s) Black and Flame/Metallic Red, other plain colours such as Ice White or Coral/Rose Pink and the rather attractive limited edition Zelda 3DS console. That doesn’t even take into account the interesting redesigns currently on their way to Japan or elsewhere as prize giveaways: the Metal Gear-themed 3DS is an example and gives a new twist on Cosmo Black, while three wonderful Mario 3DS consoles will be up for grabs via Club Nintendo promotions in Japan, Europe and Australia.

On the one hand, it can be frustrating for early adopters and Nintendo fans without a stable bank balance to see attractive handhelds continually roll off the production line: not to mention the outrageously gorgeous Japan-only exclusives. There's probably a reasonable number of 3DS owners looking at their launch day consoles and thinking, begrudgingly, that it’s not as easy on the eye as the latest special limited anniversary edition. Nintendo isn’t alone in this regard with Sony’s PSP, for example, also available in a number of different colours and designs.

So 3DS has clearly wasted no time in expanding its range, and with more on the way there’s one inescapable fact that explains why Nintendo handhelds are available in all the colours of the rainbow: they sell. The practice of releasing multiple versions of these consoles is now over 15 years old, and as the saying goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". If it helps the 3DS to succeed like its predecessors, then it’s easy to see why the 3DS designs are already becoming so diverse. Gamers with light wallets, meanwhile, can only look on at shinier, more attractive versions with envy.

What do you think of the different 3DS colours so far, and which do you want to see in future releases? For those of you with special edition Game Boys or DS consoles, which is your most treasured possession? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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User Comments (75)



k8sMum said:

i have always wanted a handheld that was a lovely, not-too-dark forest green. when they do green, it's always too olive or yellowish.



Azikira said:

I loved my Silver GBA~ And my Red N64... Pretty much any console that isn't regular colored. XD



MrKenta said:

I'd like this trend to move back into the home consoles. It makes me kinda sad when I look at how white and bland-looking the Wii U is, they could've at least put in colorful face buttons like the 360.



B-Ray97 said:

The colors they have now are good enough for me, maybe some specials of games. and the collection will be complete!



Tasuki said:

I wish that they would bring the white one out in NA. If they did that I would be so tempted to trade in my red one for that.



Sam_Loser2 said:

I would have paid dearly for that special zelda 3DS, or the Ice White one. But I have too keep telling myself it was more important I got into the ambassador program than getting one of the new paint jobs.



New_3DaSh_XL said:

colors r good right now. still wish ninty would do the club nintendo thing with the limited 3ds in america.



WaveBoy said:

Aqua Blue owns all, Nintendo will never beable to top it.
Although I may think differently if Nintendo ever decided to the release that Purple 3DS. As for the Orange...Yuck, looks like a polished brick.

Agreed concerning the Wii U's design...It doesn't even have a Wii U logo on it. I'd throw in a splash of color, maybe a touch of glossy Sky Blue to compliment the White.

But, it's still not final....But as it is, it's easily Nintendo most unoriginal, blandest design and effort yet. There's nothing unique or different about it that seperates itself from every other nintendo console from before.

The name's bad enough(I know i know, I'm over it). I was hoping for WiiDream hehe.



THE_AG said:

Why did not Nintendo made it possible to change the covers on their consoles? So we do not have to choose...Would be nice...



Ristar42 said:

With the 3DS I just went for lowest priced available colour at the time, so have the black version which looks cool to me. I have a white DS lite and the 'Classic NES' GBA.



theblackdragon said:

@warioswoods: you and me both! i want that sweet orange one they showed off too, and the purple is also very nice. i'd assume they'll be along eventually :3



ThomasBW84 said:

I almost had a moment of weakness with the Zelda console, even though I already had the game and a launch day black 3DS. If I were a wealthy man, it would have been mine.

That said, I'm not normally fussed about console colours, and I've never changed models just for the sake of a colour or design. The Zelda 3DS was the closest I've been to bucking that trend.



WingedSnagret said:

I want one thats dark blue with Pit's white wings on the back, that would be awesome. But of course, that will never happen... But all is well as it is, I'm happy with my Aqua Blue 3DS!



super-nintendo said:

Purple is hot for sure....."Purple Rain, Purple Rain"'s some Prince lyrics for any too young to I love my Black but that purple might be a purchase as well.

And for the perfect green fans: Search Luigi's Mansion 2 leaf green 3DS...great color coming to Japan with the anticipated game!! A Links 'Tunic Green' with a Hylian Shield on it would be nice.



Kyloctopus said:

The DSi had a couple colors as well
Black, Light Blue, Pink, White, Red, Orange(Target/Zellers Exclusive) Green (Walmart Exclusive) Navy Blue (Black Friday Special) Lime Green (Japan Only) Kingdom Hearts Edition, Pokemon Black Edition, and Pokemon White Edition. But they didn't do it quite as well as the 90s with all their different colors of Gameboy and the Nintendo 64 came In quite a few colors.



HanuKwanzMasBif said:

Yeah! I don't know what's so hard about adding some purdy colors to systems. When I was 8, I got a semi transparent pink GBA from my (female) cousin when she got a DS. That console was beautiful. When will they do something like that again!? @PhoenixCake Translucent systems are the best!



Mk_II said:

i think Nintendo knows very well that some people (like me) will want to buy all colours and variations. I've already got two kinds of 3DS and will undoubtely end up with more. They must love the fact that they can sell me the same product multiple times.



asoccerstar43 said:

i wish they had the purple one out like at E3 but i dont think thats happening. for now ill stick with aqua blue



TeeJay said:

I love my black Zelda 3DS. I've always owned black game systems, and the golden etching is beautiful.



Yosher said:

I've got a few special edition handhelds: A Pikachu/Pokémon Game Boy Color, a Tribal GBA SP, a Zelda GBA SP, and a Zelda 3DS. As well as the red Mario Wii.. even though that's not really anything special considering the European one doesn't even come with the special Super Mario Bros. game, instead just having Donkey Kong pre-installed on it. But oh well.

As for future 3DS colors, I probably won't get another unless it's an updated 3DS a lá DSi to DS since I already have two. If they release a special Yoshi edition though, I won't be able to help myself! I'm hoping they'll even release a Yoshi edition of ONE of their (future) systems at some point. For actual colors though, I'm liking the orange one in warioswoods post!



kyuubikid213 said:

I don't really care TOO much about what color the hardware is. When I got my first GameBoy Color, it was the greenish one. I saw people with other colors, but I had one, so I didn't care. Same with the GameBoy Advance SP. Other people had red and dark blue. I had the lighter of the blues and still enjoyed it. When the DS rolled around I got the black one while everyone else had pink. blue, red, and white. Now with the 3DS I have Aqua Blue.

I don't care what color it is as long as I can play the games.



AVahne said:

All I got are the 25th Anniversary Zelda 3DS and the 20th Anniversary Mario Micro. Saving up for a brand new 25th Anniversary Mario DSi XL.



Beechbone said:

I really like my aqua blue 3DS but always they announce new color or special edition, I just go like 'hey, this one is the best color evaaar'. Every single time, I'm just hopeless So far the Zelda edition was probably the one that I really loved, and I would like to see maybe a vintage, book-like, profesor Layton themed console.



Beechbone said:

@Koto I envy your Mario GB Micro. I was even thinking about getting one of these lately but it's rather pricey these days.



Knuckles said:

I own a Pearl Blue GBA, a White DS Lite, A Black DSI, a Red Wii, and a Cosmo Black 3DS, thank you very much



emiru69 said:

I usually don't care that much about colors and limited editions but then I saw the picture from # 20. Kimiko and I changed my mind, I want that freaking metalic purple one!!



BulbasaurusRex said:

So far I haven't been hurt color-wise as an early adopter. Aqua Blue is still my favorite color out of the bunch. However, if they ever release a proper green 3DS, then I'll be jealous.



ThomasBW84 said:

@LordTendoboy - We have white and pink 3DS consoles in the UK, also in the rest of Europe and Japan I believe. If they haven't landed in North America yet, I doubt they're far away



CosmoXY said:

I have the Cosmo Black 3DS and I think it's a very sleek, cool handheld. I also have the Pokemon Dialga/Palkia DS Lite and the Pokemon White DSi. My GBA SP is the Pearl Blue. And I had the original grey GameBoy. Lots of good memories.



Amauriel said:

I actually collect Nintendo handhelds...there's enough to keep me interested and shopping eBay for good prices and such. For example, I've got all the Game Boy Colors mass released in the US except for the Tommy Hilfiger one, I believe. (As was mentioned in the article, getting a definitive list of what's out there is extremely difficult.)

Even though I got an Aqua 3DS at launch, my husband surprised me with the Zelda edition for Christmas this's beautiful. The first time I've felt that my special edition handheld is "classy" rather than "childish".



Aqueous said:

Aqua Blue 3DS, a couple new ones are nice but I already have my favourite colour. I never had special editions but I have a purple gameboy colour in working order and nice condition, a red gameboy advance, a little beat and a blue and black ds lite, also had a white ds lite.

What's neat though is some of my 3DS streetpass friends have epic zelda covers on their sytems, here is one
The other is ganondorf punching link and it's black instead of green



Dak_n_Jaxter said:

@Blizzaga .... that was a beautiful thing....
@Kimiko ... I think i would have to buy that...
I've got the aqua blue and i love it, but i am jealous of a lot of these special editions..



Wheels2050 said:

I've got the 25th Anniversary DSi XL - it's a really nice console! Plus, importing it from Canada (given that it came with Mario Kart DS) saved me at least $100 over buying it in Australia.

The colours are nice (I'd get the purple 3DS if it was out and I was buying one) but, for the most part, I just grab my favourite colour of the options available when I go to purchase. If something else comes out later, that's just bad luck!



Ichiban said:

I'd like see the Wii U launch with a few different colours to choose from. seeing as pretty much every console is revealed in different colours then launches with only one (The Wii in particular)



pikku said:

I miss purple being one of Ninty's main colors, honestly. I love my purple GCN and translucent purple GBC



Dodger said:

I really wanted red when it was announced at E3 but it wasn't a launch color so I went with blue. I wish they had the red one at launch, it looks so good.

I don't get it when people replace their system after only 9 months just because the new model has gold tinted buttons and a Zelda design or something like that. I could think of a lot of other things to do (even just buying new video games or saving it for the Wii U or something like that) with $160 or whatever. Might just be me. I don't know.



3dbrains said:

I got a WHITE 3DS yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wooohoooo for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

They start selling the white one on its own on the 10th Feb!

cant play mine untill sunday (birthday)



SuperLink said:

I'm happy with my Aqua Blue one, but if I had to choose another color I would definitely get the white one. It just looks so awesome!



Skeet102 said:

I like my aqua blue one. I dont see why to buy multiple 3ds' just because it has a different colour



Drawdler said:

I had a Pikachu GBC, And currently don't know where it's lost in the house. I kept my Pokemon Mystery Dungeon DSLite and Mario Bros DSLite. I'm still using my 25th Anniversary Mario Wii until the Wii U is out, but I kept the controllers and games packed and sealed. As for 3DS, I'm perfectly happy with my Aqua Blue! I may change colors if an updated version come out, but that would probably require rearranging my game case.



Plumber-of-Time said:

I would love a yellow one that resemble a Pikcachu. I would totally buy that, even though i have an aqua blue.

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