In the age of the Nintendo Switch, the company’s older 3DS handheld tends to get the short end of the stick in terms of press and player attention. But Nintendo has maintained that it’s not going to abandon the dedicated portable, which showed surprisingly resilient sales as recently as this January.
In a recent financial briefing, Nintendo recommitted to keep selling and supporting the 3DS, and the company explained why the eight-year-old system continues to have a place next to the Switch.
Nintendo 3DS is set apart from Nintendo Switch by its characteristics as a handheld game system that is lightweight, price-friendly, and highly portable. Affordability is the strong point that positions Nintendo 3DS in a niche clearly separate from Nintendo Switch. In the grand scheme of things, Nintendo 3DS has a prominent position as the product that can be served as the first contact between Nintendo and many of its consumers, and for this reason we will keep the business going.
Keeping the 3DS around as a form of “entry-level” Nintendo hardware makes a lot of sense. The New 2DS XL now retails for just $150—half the price of a new Switch—and that’s with a copy of Mario Kart 7 bundled. And until major Nintendo franchises like Pokemon and Metroid come to the Switch, the 3DS represents the best way to enjoy them in relatively modern forms.
While 3DS family hardware sales for the last six months are down 65.1 percent year over year, those reduced sales still represent one million new units shipped in a six-month period. The Switch itself only shipped 5.07 million units during the same period, suggesting that a good chunk of Nintendo’s consumers still look for an older, lower-cost option.
For context, the Game Boy Advance only shipped 420,000 units in its eighth full calendar year on store shelves. Even the best-selling original DS managed just 2.35 million full-year shipments at the same point in its life.
While the long-lived DS hardware line will eventually die out, the 3DS is showing a longer tail than many expected. Upcoming ports like Luigi’s Mansion and Bowser’s Inside Story could help stretch that out even further in the coming months.