Thomas Whitehead: How about the growing eShop library, has that boosted the console in a major way, or is it a sideshow?
Dave Frear: Sideshow. The Virtual Console selection could use some bulking out. There's actually more than I thought on there but it took a long time for Game Gear games to appear.
James Newton: To guys like us it's useful but I wonder if it makes any difference to your average 3DS user.
Desiree Turner: It's still more in the 'sideshow' category to me, though I feel it's a disservice to games like Pushmo, which are great fun.
Mike Mason: The new additions have been very necessary in my opinion. The system launched without eShop, and in this increasingly digital age that hurt the system. I reckon the eShop is a big boost — it doesn't have a massive catalogue of original 3DS games yet, but in the future I'm sure that'll change.
Desiree Turner: It's like it was with the DSi — a waiting game, really.
Mike Mason: The integration with SpotPass and notifications will help to make it relevant to people in time. As long as they've got their system net-connected.
Mark Reece: I tend to use the eShop games as stop-gaps. If I've got a few days to wait until an anticipated release and I'm beginning to get antsy, I'll splash a few quid on something to keep me going. Other than that, I don't spend a lot of time looking at eShop games.
Corbie Dillard: Judging from eShop sales, I'm not sure how much influence they have on actually boosting the system, rather being more like icing on the cake. It shocks me still how many 3DS owners I know personally rarely, if ever, take their system online. When I begin talking about games like Mutant Mudds and Mighty Switch Force, most of my buddies look at me like I'm crazy. I can't count the number of them I've had to show how to go online and purchase games from the eShop.
Of course gamers like our readers and those who follow the system more closely on the internet itself are likely more in tune with the eShop and just how many great games it has to offer. I hope over time we see more and more people getting on the eShop, and a lot of that will depend on how much Nintendo does to promote it and make people aware of it, an area where I still think it can do a better job.
Thomas Whitehead: Following on from that point, do you think the typical 3DS is online? Wii consoles are notorious for owners not connecting them.
James Newton: It's got the highest connection rate of all Nintendo consoles, so I understand.
Mike Mason: I can't remember the statistics, but what James said.
James Newton: Words to live by.
Mike Mason: And I think it's a major focal point in Nintendo's strategy.
Mark Reece: That’s not saying much though, is it Mike/James?
Mike Mason: It's better than it being the least connected, right?
Desiree Turner: Everything is relative.
Mark Reece: I suspect that in the grand scheme of things there aren't that many 3DS’ connected. A lot of the market Nintendo gained with DS, DSi, etc aren't that tech-savvy, I imagine.
Dave Frear: I was always baffled by people who didn't know their Wii could connect online. What did they think that Shop channel was? Did they not get curious and click it, just once?
Thomas Whitehead: Nintendo seem to be putting in plenty of effort, with the eShop even mentioned in TV ads: are they doing enough?
Corbie Dillard: As I mentioned above, I still think Nintendo needs to do more to make consumers aware of just how many great things getting online with the system has to offer. It never ceases to amaze me how many people I run into who own 3DS systems still don't know about the eShop games. And these are tech-savvy people who all own smartphones and iPads, so the fact that they don't know what they're missing from not taking their 3DS systems online is rather telling for me.
Mark Reece: Nintendo has never done enough when it comes to online integration. There are still parts of the 3DS online functionality that are clunky and have been done better elsewhere for years now.
Mike Mason: There's always time for change, and the buzz seems to be that it wants to do far more in that area.
Mark Reece: Talk is cheap though, Mike. Actions speak louder than words, and all that.
Mike Mason: The eShop is a good example of its improvements, though. It's still a bit clunky — needing to search for specific titles, etc. — but it's far ahead of anything else they've done online. Nintendo is moving in the right direction.
Dave Frear: The eShop is an improvement. I do wish it was more like the iOS app store though.
Thomas Whitehead: Bearing all of this in mind, after a year with the 3DS, are you happy with it in its current state, and is it a big part of your gaming life?
Dave Frear: I don't play as much as I'd like but it's probably the system I play the most at the moment. There's some decent games available and I'm glad there are demos on the eShop. Hopefully they'll keep them coming.
James Newton: I am a big 3DS convert now: I'm on StreetPass, Letter Box and/or Super Mario 3D Land every day.
Mike Mason: I'm reasonably satisfied, but I wouldn't exactly say it's my most played system. I do like taking it out for a spot of StreetPass still, now we've got new additions on that front.
Desiree Turner: I think I peaked with MK7, and now that I'm kind of over it I'm just waiting for the next big game that I want. I love that it’s doing demos straight to the system now, though — quite the improvement over the DS having to access them through the Wii Shop.
Mark Reece: I've not used mine in a while actually. I used to take my 3DS out with me a lot for StreetPass hits, but lately I've not bothered. It all depends on whether or not I've got a game I'm currently addicted to. Whenever that isn't the case, save for the odd go on MK7, the 3DS isn't in my hands all that often these days.
Thomas Whitehead: I play it daily, to varying degrees. Maybe it’s because I haven't invested in the obvious competitor, but I'm loving it at the moment.
Desiree Turner: I might play mine more if the DS resolution wasn't so blurry/odd. I play my DSi quite a bit still thanks to that.
Mark Reece: I'm a system jumper. If I'm playing a game, I'm on that system. Until then, everything else gets put on the backburner.
Mike Mason: I tend to go through binges with consoles, playing them solidly and ignoring everything else. 3DS isn't that system at this minute. But its time will come around again soon I'm sure.
Corbie Dillard: It was a big part of my gaming life until I got my Vita. I'm kidding! I've loved the 3DS since that first moment I tried it at E3 and I still love it. And when I think about some of the amazing games that are coming out later this year for it, I fall in love with it all over again. Now if Paper Mario would just hurry up and get here…
Dave Frear: I've not played old DS games on it much. I tried Mario 64 then got scared when I remembered there was no thumb strap.
Thomas Whitehead: Is the current software line-up and schedule doing enough to retain interest?
Dave Frear: I've got quite a backlog of games so I've not really noticed.
Mike Mason: I think the line-up is decent now, yeah. I'm not massively fussed about Kid Icarus, though, so I think I'll be more excited as we start to creep closer to Luigi's Mansion 2, Animal Crossing... there's plenty of stuff lurking on the horizon that I want.
Mark Reece: Mario Tennis Open!
Mike Mason: That too.
I'm sure there will inevitably be those who complain, but you can't have one amazing game right after another coming out on a constant basis. That's just not realistic.
Corbie Dillard: I think the software line-up is doing fairly well. I'm sure there will inevitably be those who complain, but you can't have one amazing game right after another coming out on a constant basis. That's just not realistic. I think we'll see some ups and downs, but I'd be willing to bet that Nintendo will have another killer 3DS holiday season lineup again this year, and that's the best way they can keep their sales momentum going.
James Newton: Interesting we're not mentioning third party though. Interesting, but not surprising.
Mike Mason: Rhythm Thief and The Emperor's Treasure?
Desiree Turner: The third party games really haven't interested me yet — not the ones that are out, anyway.
James Newton: Heroes of Ruin, Rhythm Thief, er...
Mark Reece: Exactly.
Mike Mason: The 999 sequel.
Mark Reece: They're not exactly coming en masse, are they? Not hotly anticipated, big name titles anyway.
Mike Mason: Monster Hunter.
Desiree Turner: It's a bit frustrating, but I'm doing my best to be patient.
Mike Mason: I think E3 will be interesting when it comes to that, now the system has started to fulfil its sales potential. I hope, anyway.
Mark Reece: That depends on Vita as well though.
Thomas Whitehead: Third-party support is maybe one example, but what are the console's weaknesses at this moment in time?
Corbie Dillard: Third-party support has traditionally been a bit of a weak point for Nintendo game systems in recent years, so it's not terribly surprising that 3DS third-party support has been hit or miss. I do think the resurgence of 3DS sales will help down the line as more and more third-party developers and publishers jump on board, but it might take time for it to really kick in.
I think the Wii U will hurt the 3DS a little bit as it's likely going to take centre stage at E3 and will likely be the hot gaming item during the holiday season this year. That might steal some of the 3DS system's thunder, but I'd have to believe that Nintendo would be aware of that and will probably have some really big titles flowing out at a steady pace during the fall and early winter months.
Mark Reece: Vita.
Mike Mason: I disagree with that. I don't think 3DS will have any trouble with Vita — they'll coexist and carve out their own markets just fine I reckon. They're both great systems.
Desiree Turner: I think Nintendo's decision to continue focusing development on the DS is a definite hindrance. What's up with Pokémon White/Black 2 being for the DS/i? That'd be a system-seller if it were on the 3DS.
Dave Frear: Yeah that was a bit strange.
Mark Reece: Vita's going after the home console crowd, providing experiences on a par with their home console counterparts. The 3DS just can't deliver in that regard, and needs to stop trying. It needs more games that are unique to the system. Stop trying to shoehorn Splinter Cell, Rayman, Metal Gear etc onto 3DS, because Vita can do it ten times better. When the DS first released, there was so much on it that was unique and couldn't be played anywhere else. 3DS has too many home console-esque games that it simply struggles with because of its limitations.
Desiree Turner: No offense, but I don't think that just because something else 'does it better' doesn't mean Nintendo shouldn't try anyway — if they can bring something new to the table with it, more power to them: and I don't just mean 3D.
Mark Reece: 3D is the one thing 3DS has over Vita. In my opinion, not enough's being done with it.
How many games have been released that used 3D to create original, innovative experiences.
Desiree Turner: It's in its first year, though. Early DS games were often average as well, and many didn't take enough advantage of the touchscreen.
James Newton: Or used it for a map!
Dave Frear: Or were GBA games with tacked-on touch controls.
Desiree Turner: Exactly. I'm willing to wait to see what comes later down the line.
Mark Reece: But the clue's in the name. 3DS. What's the point in 3D, if no one's going to do anything worthwhile with it? Star Fox benefited from extra depth, but it did perfectly fine without it. Mario did fine without it.
Desiree Turner: What was the point in having a touchscreen and two screens if no one really did anything with it at first? Nintendo’s still kind of coming off the last system in the line. Give them time is what I'm saying.
James Newton: I think if anyone's going to create a 3DS game that absolutely, positively requires the 3D effect it would be online but not retail. Video games have been displayed in 2D for decades; we're not going to get a sea change in under 12 months.
Mark Reece: Plus however long developers had with it before launch, though.
James Newton: Yeah but you're basing it on 12 months of released software.
Mike Mason: I'm sure there are plenty of cool uses of 3D in R&D. But even though it's the system's headline feature, developers and publishers have to think about sales as well, and it's been seen that 3D isn't a universal thing that everybody can use.
I'm sure they'll come as the market increases. It's still a young system, and companies are still working out how to exploit it best.
Thomas Whitehead: I thought that Super Mario 3D Land was pretty innovative with 3D, in small doses.
Desiree Turner: SM3DL was a decent start. If there were more games where enabling the 3D was necessary to get through the game in places, I'm sure I'd actually use it more.
Mark Reece: And yet, I still managed to get to the end without using 3D.
Mike Mason: I wish CiNG were still about. It'd show everybody else up as it loved messing with every bit of a system.
Dave Frear: Not sure if it will use it well, or benefit in any way from the 3D, but Luigi's Mansion 2 is the one that jumps out when I look at the upcoming game list. I'm definitely looking forward to that.
Thomas Whitehead: What would you like to see the most in the console’s second year?
Corbie Dillard: Games, games, and more games. Paper Mario, Luigi's Mansion 2, and a 3D update of Link to the Past would be a nice start. And I wouldn't complain if we saw a 3DS Wario Land game either. And Donkey Kong Country. And Metroid. Okay, I'll stop now, but you get the idea.
Dave Frear: Going back to what I said earlier, it'd be great to get 3D films on the system and not just the trailers.
Mike Mason: I want Nintendo to really exploit the eShop, use it to put out unique titles that they couldn't justify as full retail titles.
James Newton: In the next 12 months it needs another major system update, perhaps with instant messaging and... stuff.
Mike Mason: Second year, I'd like to see even more StreetPass functionality. It needs to be a regular thing to keep people hooked. New games, new puzzles, new modes.
Mark Reece: Apart from games that use 3D to its full potential, I demand a fourth entry in the Mario & Luigi RPG series.
Dave Frear: Something else that interests me is Colors! 3D. I liked mucking about on the old homebrew release so I'm looking forward to trying it out when it turns up on the eShop.
James Newton: There is some cool stuff on the way to the eShop, and we now have Game Gear games!
Mike Mason: I agree with Dave's earlier comment about 3D films, too. There's a big advantage there — use it! The video apps are a good start, but more please!
Mark Reece: Triple Trouble is the only GG game I've got my eye on. Love that game. I'm wary of everything else. I fear they won't have aged as well as I'd like. Like Sonic Drift. After MK7, playing Sonic Drift on 3DS might tarnish my memories of that game forever.
Dave Frear: Give it a few laps and you'll be fine.
James Newton: 3DS is cool but it needs more SEGA games.
Thomas Whitehead: Here we go again: SEGA SEGA SEGA.
James Newton: That should be the title of this feature.
Mark Reece: I wonder how soon we'll see the inevitable hardware revision? There's only so long the 3DS can survive with the circle pad pro add-on, in my opinion.
Mike Mason: We're forgetting cool things here — SEGA X Capcom X Namco Bandai. What will that be?
James Newton: Keeping that off my radar until I know more.
Dave Frear: I think if retail downloads were available from the eShop that would also make a lot of people happy. Maybe one day Nintendo will release a ‘3DS Go’ that's download only - as well as having that second stick.
Desiree Turner: Lord I hope they don't! It's too early for that.
Thomas Whitehead: 3DS GO = NO
Desiree Turner: The digital-only day is coming, but John Q. Public isn't ready to take that step yet.
Mike Mason: Which is why PSP Go didn't do very well, to say the least.
Desiree Turner: Perhaps with the next generation we'll see it, but then with Nintendo, you never know.
At this point the team argues about the merits of download retail games for a long time, which is for another day. It’s been an interesting year for 3DS, a system that has brought Nintendo portable gaming to another level. We’d love to read your opinions about any of the topics raised in the comments below.
(1) Thanks for use of this image by Jerry Wong