Talking Point: DS Games Deserve Digital Distribution on 3DS

Too good to ignore

Not long ago, we brought you a feature on Bargain Bin DS Games, detailing some excellent games available for relatively little money. The response to the article highlighted how many little-known or under-appreciated gems the DS library has, as it seems to have been a platform that encouraged a lot of creativity from developers. The only downside — if you consider it a negative — is that a lot of excellent titles had limited runs or didn’t achieve wider success with gamers.

Perhaps a way for DS games to enjoy a second wind will be as digital downloads on 3DS. Nintendo’s latest handheld already has backwards compatibility, so why not go a step further and bring the best and the brightest, as well as the unappreciated, to the eShop?

It’ll be easy to do

From a practical perspective, we see no obvious reasons why DS titles couldn’t be available as downloads. In terms of file size (disregarding the compressed file sizes on illegal ROM sites) the maximum DS game size is around the 500MB mark, but most are far smaller. It’s not hard to see why, either, as the technology in the DS family of consoles was barely cutting edge in 2004, and storage has become more substantial and significantly cheaper since then. Although acquiring a number of full DS games through the eShop would probably necessitate multiple SD cards for your 3DS, these are relatively cheap to buy.

With that in mind, the prospect of hosting and distributing digital versions of the DS library shouldn’t be too difficult for Nintendo. The platform already hosts some fairly sizeable 3DS download titles and demos; let’s not forget that, starting with New Super Mario Bros. 2, full 3DS retail titles will also be available. For even more context on the fact that file sizes wouldn’t necessarily be an issue let’s also consider that, according to Nintendo Gamer, Super Mario 3D Land is only 0.31GB in size, less than one-sixth of the 2GB SD card packed in with 3DS systems. Some 3DS games are larger, such as Resident Evil Revelations at 3.17GB, but that's an exception among a majority of titles less than 1GB in size. Those who received ten Game Boy Advance games for free as part of the Ambassador scheme may have also noticed that the biggest of these was Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones at just 280 blocks of memory. Even going somewhere between these two extremes leaves an impression that a catalogue of digital DS games wouldn’t break the bank in multiple SD card purchases.

Why do it?

So why should Nintendo makes its most recent generation of handheld games available on 3DS when it’s still working through Game Boy, Game Boy Color and SEGA Game Gear titles on the Virtual Console? Simple: it gives owners another reason to appreciate their system — or want to buy one. Let's be clear though that Nintendo has already served us well by ensuring that 3DS is backwards compatible with DS game cards, a move the company also made with GBA compatibility in the original DS and DS Lite.

It’s an area where 3DS holds an advantage over PlayStation Vita, which can’t play the PSP's UMD media. On the flip-side, however, Sony’s system has a substantial catalogue of PSP games available for download. Much like the debate about digital downloads in general, there will always be gamers who prefer physical media, but the key word is choice. Vita owners may not have the choice of playing their old PSP discs, which is a problem in itself, but those who are inclined can buy these titles for download. For 3DS owners, of course, the reverse is true.

That’s exactly why Nintendo should consider bringing DS games to the eShop as downloads: it gives us the best of both worlds. For those that like to browse second-hand stores or online stores for DS titles, that’s an option. For others who simply want to try a DS game that they’ve heard all about and would rather it was only a few stylus taps away, digital downloads are the answer. 3DS evolved from DS in a very literal way, so giving us another way to experience hidden gems of the predecessor’s catalogue is perfectly apt.

If Nintendo is going to embrace digital platforms, while ensuring that new gamers experience the incredible legacy of DS, then we think it’s time for its library to go digital.

What do you think? Would a DS section in the eShop be worthwhile and inspire you to try more games, or do you want the system's library to stay on game cards for this generation of handhelds? Let us know in the comments below.