For those that follow the 3DS download scene closely, the recent announcement of upcoming Unity support for the New Nintendo 3DS was certainly welcome news. In the right hands the Unity engine can produce excellent, good-looking games, and is invaluable to small studios with limited funds. Unity support for the Wii U, and Nintendo's role in offering free licenses to those developing on the system, has opened the door to a number of publishers and developers that would perhaps struggle to bring their games to the system otherwise.
Once this support kicks in, then, it could lead to a range of new possibilities for games on the New Nintendo 3DS, though the wording of the announcement carefully excluded the older 3DS models. It's one of relatively few announcements that splits the 3DS userbase, and as we've argued perhaps points - once again - to a relatively unified future with Nintendo's systems.
Of course, this announcement is not only of interest to us all as gamers, but importantly those that actually make the experiences we enjoy so much. With that in mind we decided to catch up with a range of 'Nindies', both publishers and developers alike, to gauge their reactions to the news. Some use Unity for their games, some don't, but all had something to day.
KnapNok Games Creative Director - Lau Korsgaard:
This sounds extremely interesting. The Unity support for Wii U is fantastic because it opens the door for so many different creative projects. We wouldn't have been able to take the chance of making Affordable Space Adventures without access to tools like Unity.
Many people don't realize this, but the New 3DS has pretty much the same controls and features as the Wii U. You have the same buttons, two sticks, a touch-screen, a gyroscope, an NFC reader...
I hope the New 3DS support will result in a bloom of even more crazy creative titles for New 3DS, and that it inspires developers to make games that really, truly take advantage of its two screen interface. You know, wink, wink."
Bertil Hörberg - Gunman Clive 1 & 2
It doesn't affect me personally since I use my own engine and I have no interest in switching to Unity, but I expected this announcement much earlier, and started to think maybe it wasn't going to happen. For a while it didn't seem like Nintendo were going to utilise the enhanced hardware in the New 3DS much for gaming. With only one exclusive game announced at launch, no new outreach to developers, and no new devkits available until recently, I figured that the extra CPU power was probably mostly there for the Stable 3D face tracking, and that the potential for more demanding games were more of a side-effect. But I think we're now seeing some evidence that Nintendo is starting to treat it as a new-ish platform.
Renegade Kid co-Founder - Jools Watsham
I am very surprised by the news of Unity supporting the New 3DS. Not because I don't think they should support the 3DS - I love the 3DS - but because flexible engines, like Unity, typically come with a large overhead in terms of potentially using up more processing power, memory, and such than an engine that is specifically created for a certain platform. This is the cost of building a catch-all engine; the only true way to fully maximize the power of a machine is to develop a tailor-made engine for that device that crawls into the unique nooks and crannies of that device to harness its full potential.
I hope that my fears are wrong, though. I would love to utilize the power of Unity on New 3DS. I have used Unity, and I like it a lot. It is excellent for developing games. But, I am hesitant to believe that Unity games will run well on Nintendo's plucky handheld due to the overhead that flexible engines commonly carry - despite the extra horsepower offered by the New 3DS over the original 3DS.
Assuming that I am wrong, which I hope I am, seeing a wealth of new Unity games on New 3DS would be awesome for the market, and for the players. One reality I am sure of though is that any ports of existing Unity games, which were originally developed for consoles, to the New 3DS will require most - if not all - art assets to be redone to function effectively on the New 3DS, and that is not a small or cheap task for small indie teams.
Dakko Dakko Lead Designer - Rhodri Broadbent
The announcement definitely reinforces the attractiveness of n3DS as a target platform for developers, even those like Dakko Dakko who don't use Unity but instead like to 'roll their own' engines and libraries for their games.
Unity has a thriving community of developers, many of whom will now bring existing or new ideas that were previously off the table, to new 3DS. That bolsters the marketplace, helps to generate interest in the platform, and makes it more appealing place to sell games for everyone. We haven't decided on the target platform for our next game, but I'm happy to see such positive developments for new 3DS!
Over the lifetime of 3DS I've talked to some Unity developers who planned 3DS games which never got made, and of teams who really wanted to bring their game to 3DS but were unable to do so without Unity, so although it's supporting n3DS rather than the wider 'original' 3DS userbase, it's nice to think that no longer will good 3DS-centric ideas be lost only because the engine support isn't there. In fact, although one of Unity's most recognised strengths is in simplifying cross-platform development, I actually expect the bigger impact for me as a player to be that some interesting games specifically designed for 3DS will come from this announcement.
Ripstone Creative Director - Phil Gaskell:
It's always exciting to hear about middleware reaching new platforms as it immediately makes me think what games can Ripstone bring to those platforms, and how can the hardware compliment the game experience. In the case of Unity supporting the New Nintendo 3DS we have at least 5 games I would immediately want to start working on bringing to the platform. More broadly though, it demonstrates the ongoing commitment from both Unity Technologies and Nintendo to making developing and publishing games on their hardware easier, and I look forward to hearing a similar announcement for the NX one day soon!
Image & Form CEO - Brjann Sigurgeirsson
Fundamentally, I think it's great that Unity is now rolling out support for the New 3DS, because it means more games on the platform. And more games inevitably means many quality games. It will be very interesting to see what announcements we'll see in the near future for the New 3DS.
On the other hand, this becomes a distinct watershed between the "classic" 3DS and the New one - which isn't necessarily great: a lot of "classic" owners may feel left out. When the New 3DS was announced, I believe only one game was slated for "New 3DS only" release. With Unity support, the majority of new games coming to the platform may be exclusive for the New 3DS. I'm not sure they're all ready to trade in their units and buy New ones.
Furthermore I believe Unity has a few wrinkles to iron out before everybody's porting smoothly. The New 3DS is still a 3DS, and any general dev environment could prove a bit rigid in tackling the issues of specific platforms. With the 3DS you sometimes have to perform magic, and your environment might not let you step outside its capabilities to conjure up said magic.
But it's also going to put devs to the test. The 3DS is a platform like no other. I feel that the best games for it are the ones that were designed for the platform, that put the dual screens to good use, and so on. Unity is great if you want to output the same game to many platforms, and the Wii U and 3DS are a breed apart here: dual screens on the 3DS, and GamePad screen/TV on the Wii U. Games for the 3DS require thorough design, not just eye candy on the lower screen. I think Unity for the Wii U has shown that games don't have to be right for all platforms, just because you can tick also that check box.
We'd like to thank all of those that gave their time to contribute to this article. What do you think of these comments on Unity Technologies bringing its engine to the New Nintendo 3DS? Let us know in the comments.