New 3DS Pokemon.jpg

Nintendo knows how to bury bad news. Not long before the Pokémon Direct and the reveal of Pokémon Sun and Moon, it announced cuts to its estimated profits and sales. Net sales could be the lowest in 15 years for the financial year and around a third was chopped off the estimated profits. Most notably some positive numbers for Wii U - with software estimated to beat the equivalent figures from last year - were brutally offset by grisly 3DS figures.

If you missed them, below are the revised 3DS estimates for the financial year, along with the figures for last year.

Estimated hardware sales for financial year (2015 / 2016) - 6.6 million (previously 7.6 million)
Hardware sales for previous financial year (2014 / 2015) - 8.73 million

Estimated software sales for financial year (2015 / 2016) - 47 million (previously 56 million)
Software sales for previous financial year (2014 / 2015) - 62.74 million

It's worth acknowledging that the previous predictions, and even the 2014 / 2015 figures, weren't exactly great numbers. They represented a rapid decline for the family of systems, but the updated figures are even more concerning. They're still comfortably above the Wii U figures we're touting as positive (3.4 million system sales for the financial year), but it's all relative - the 3DS has been Nintendo's banker, its key hardware that has helped keep the company on the level during the Wii U's struggles.

Nintendo still likes to cite the 3DS as a long-term system, and company President Tatsumi Kimishima has talked about the young and female demographics as being vital to its future. That may be, but big moves will be needed to prevent that from being little but corporate hot air. The New 3DS - with so little support so far to make it a must-have for buyers on the fence - will likely be integral to this. Well, and the 2DS...

Pokemon Sun and Moon.png

It's hardly soothsaying to say that Pokémon Sun and Moon will be massive for the portable this year. The moment those logos leaked a day before the Direct it was clear that Game Freak wasn't finished with the 3DS, eager to make use - perhaps for the final time - of that 3D engine that began life in Pokémon X & Y. Wording in press releases has been vague, with a sub-heading referencing a new generation and other press releases playing safe with references to a 'new adventure', but regardless of the intricacies of whether this is the start of Generation VII, it's a title that can still take the series on a big step forward. There'll no doubt be integral in-game advances to deliver the equivalent of the Mega Evolution (and more) additions in X & Y, but there are also money-spinning ways to take the series onto yet another level.

We mentioned it in our live blog while waiting for the Direct, and it's been on our mind for some time (even coming up in our E3 2015 video chat) - Pokémon amiibo cards. When the Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer range emerged it seemed a smart idea - which has proven particularly successful in Japan - but also a useful trial run. The production, marketing and distribution of the cards was an opportunity to test out the concept, to learn key lessons behind the scenes and to put processes in place.

If Pokémon amiibo cards happen the scale would be on another level, making the Animal Crossing range and its lessons invaluable. It seems like an absolute no-brainer - the Pokémon brand already has a long-established and popular base in the market with the Trading Card Game, so The Pokémon Company is more than experienced in the sector. Produce a card range integrated with the games, with the card's features encouraging trading and collecting, and you have an idea that could make the publishers richer and fans a little bit poorer (but perhaps happier).

Bandai Namco pushed ahead with Shadow Mewtwo and an amiibo card for Pokkén Tournament

What a Pokémon amiibo range, driven by cards, could also do is place the New 3DS front and centre. Of course, the NFC portal exists to use amiibo on older 3DS and 2DS models, but bundling Sun and Moon with the New models - promoting the integrated amiibo support in the process - could give the underutilised models a kickstart.

Of course, while Pokémon main series games practically sell themselves, hardware - especially iterations on existing systems - do not. With previous 3DS releases in the series there were bundles to promote models, in particular the budget 2DS. The New 3DS, however, quite rightly occupies the price points that were formally held by their clamshell predecessors. The sales haven't stacked up, though, and so it's only logical that a price cut will come later this year, possibly in the Fall or Holiday season. With the old models pushed to the background, it seems feasible that the New 3DS models and 2DS will be the poster-children of the portable family.

For North America, this will hopefully mean a full roll-out of the smaller models, perhaps timed with a lower price range for those and the New XL. The recent Virtual Console bundle in the region was the second special edition with the smaller iteration, but plentiful stock and standard non-bundle editions will surely roll out before the year is finished. Yes, bundles of the new Pokémon games with New XLs may also do the job, but the smaller systems could be ideal for targeting younger or less invested gamers that don't want a 2DS and separate amiibo scanner.

New 3DS amiibo.jpg

Of course, there'll be more to the 3DS than just Pokémon - who knows whether games like Metroid Prime: Federation Force will defy online fury to provide some success. Pokémon Sun and Moon, though, are the big ticket items on the horizon, and if the venerable Pocket Monster franchise is combined with money-spinning amiibo ideas, it could be an expensive year for fans.

The time of the 3DS as Nintendo's banker, its guaranteed success and source of 10 million hardware sales a year, is fading. It could have one last hurrah in 2016, though, before becoming a charming and inexpensive last-gen system.