Nintendo's New 3DS: a whole new gaming console or just a forced upgrade?

Credit: Source: Nintendo

Earlier this month Nintendo announced that they were launching a new handheld gaming system in Japan on October 11th, 2014. At the time, I took them to task for naming it the "New 3DS" since I think the name is going to cause a lot of confusion.

This week the Tokyo Game Show is happening and a few blogs have sent reporters to cover the event. I saw two 'hands-on' posts of the New 3DS, one at Engadget and the other at Polygon. Both are fairly positive but as you might guess Polygon, being a site dedicated to games, goes into a bit more detail.

But what I found most interesting is the comments in response to these posts, particularly on the Engadget piece. Nintendo has created an additional problem for itself by naming this device the New 3DS beyond the issue of confusing consumers; some people feel like they're being asked to purchase the same device a second time and they're angry about it.

Consider the differences between the old 3DS and New 3DS: they've added an analog nub and two more shoulder buttons, they've added NFC support for use with Amiibos (the Nintendo branded smart figures coming this fall; think Nintendo Skylanders), they've added a microSD slot, they've expanded the 3D 'sweet spot' on the screen, they've re-arranged some of the existing controls and they've upgraded the CPU.

I'd argue they could've called this the 3DS Plus or 3DS Two or just about anything other than "New 3DS" and marketed it as a new handheld that happened to have backwards compatibility and they wouldn't be raising eyebrows the way they are now. The 3DS first came out three years ago, and while three years is pretty short for a console generation, the affordability of handheld systems makes shorter generations seem more acceptable (in my opinion, obviously).

But people don't see it as new. They see it as a slightly refined 3DS and the fact that some games will only work on the New 3DS has folk up in arms. What isn't clear is whether these games won't work on the old 3DS strictly because of control schemes (they use the extra buttons) or if the 'enhanced CPU' is the reason. Enhanced is a pretty vague term and we don't know if it's a slight upgrade or a significant jump in processing power. If the latter then the CPU alone is reason to consider it as a new system rather than an upgrade.

Personally I'm going to treat the New 3DS the same way I treat any new system; I'll look at the games I can play exclusively on it and then decide if it's worth a purchase. Of course for now the whole argument is moot: Nintendo hasn't announced a launch date outside of Japan. Maybe they'll come up with a different name for the NA and European markets.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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