The New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL were iterations of the Nintendo 3DS handheld game console that offered several enhancements over the original Nintendo 3DS models. Most notably, the New 3DS models included upgraded processors that improved performance, additional shoulder buttons, a C-stick for better camera control, built-in NFC support for Amiibo figures, and face tracking 3D to allow for improved 3D visuals. The New 3DS models were released in 2014 and 2015 and represented Nintendo’s mid-lifecycle hardware refresh for the Nintendo 3DS platform.
However, in 2020 Nintendo officially discontinued production on the New 3DS models worldwide, marking the end of the New 3DS product line just 5-6 years after its initial release. This has left many fans wondering why Nintendo would abandon the New 3DS so soon and what led to its premature end of life. There are a few key factors that contributed to Nintendo’s decision to discontinue the New 3DS models relatively quickly.
Release of the Nintendo Switch
The most significant reason behind the discontinuation of the New 3DS is the release and success of the Nintendo Switch in 2017. Nintendo positioned the Switch as the successor to both the home console Wii U and the 3DS portable device. As the Switch took off in popularity and sales, it inevitably cannibalized a portion of the market share for the aging 3DS platform.
While the 3DS still targeted a more budget-friendly, handheld-focused demographic after the Switch launch, the writing was on the wall that Nintendo was shifting their development resources and priorities towards supporting their new hybrid console going forward. As sales momentum for the 3DS declined year-over-year, continuing to manufacture and support the newer New 3DS models no longer made good business sense.
Limited Adoption and Sales
Despite the improvements offered by the New 3DS models, they did not sell quite as well as Nintendo originally anticipated. Overall, the New 3DS and New 3DS XL models only managed to sell around 10 million units globally during their lifespan.
While these sales numbers sound reasonably strong on paper, they pale in comparison to the nearly 76 million units sold for the original Nintendo 3DS models. The New 3DS was intended to spur renewed interest in the aging Nintendo 3DS platform, but the incremental upgrades clearly did not resonate with consumers enough to drive massive additional adoption.
Without the sales numbers to justify continued manufacturing and distribution, discontinuing the New 3DS models became an easy decision for Nintendo from a financial perspective. The company had clearly hit the point of diminishing returns with the 3DS platform in general.
Lack of Exclusive Games
In order for a mid-lifecycle console refresh like the New 3DS to be successful, it needs to have compelling exclusive games that only run on the newer model. This incentivizes existing console owners to upgrade to the newer model. Unfortunately, Nintendo never really delivered those exclusive must-have experiences focused around the capabilities of the New 3DS.
There were only a handful of games released, like Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, that were New 3DS exclusives. The majority of games continued to be compatible with the original 3DS and 2DS models. Without a solid library of exclusive titles, most 3DS owners did not feel compelled to upgrade just for the relatively minor enhancements the New models offered.
The lack of games that spotlighted the strengths of the New 3DS hardware was likely another contributor to the underwhelming sales and adoption. And without those robust software sales bringing in revenue, Nintendo could not justify keeping New 3DS production going.
The Rise of Mobile Gaming
The increasing popularity of mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets also played a role in the declining relevance of dedicated handheld game systems like the 3DS. As more powerful phones and tablets became commonplace, mobile gaming exploded into the mainstream.
Casual gamers in particular could get their gaming fix for very little money compared to purchasing a dedicated portable console. While the 3DS maintained an audience of more hardcore Nintendo fans, average consumers turned more and more to the convenience and value of mobile gaming. This macro shift made it even harder for Nintendo to maintain strong 3DS hardware sales in the latter years.
Increased Production Costs
Some reports indicated the production costs for the New 3DS models were higher than the original 3DS and 2DS variants. The New 3DS included components like a faster CPU, more RAM, and extra buttons and controls that likely increased manufacturing costs.
Nintendo typically sells their hardware at profit or very close to manufacturing costs. If the profit margins were slimmer on the New 3DS models, that also likely factored into the decision to terminate production after a relatively short lifespan cycle. Nintendo has traditionally kept their portable consoles and games at value price points, so maintaining that profitability framework tends to drive their hardware decisions.
The New 3DS models represented an attempt by Nintendo to reinvigorate their handheld ecosystem and prolong the lifespan of the 3DS platform. However, a combination of factors like the Nintendo Switch cannibalizing 3DS sales, limited New 3DS exclusives, the growth of mobile gaming, and potentially higher production costs all contributed to underwhelming adoption and sales.
With momentum declining across their entire handheld business in the wake of the Switch, Nintendo clearly made the prudent financial decision to end production on the New 3DS models relatively quickly. While disappointing for 3DS loyalists, discontinuing the New 3DS allowed Nintendo to focus their resources fully on supporting their new flagship Switch console. Given the massive success of the Switch, Nintendo’s bet to move on from the 3DS has certainly been a wise one so far.
Here are some references used in researching this article:
- “New Nintendo 3DS Production Has Officially Ended in Japan”. IGN. January 7, 2020.
- “IR Information : Sales Data – Top Selling Software Sales Units”. Nintendo. Archived from the original on September 13, 2019.
- Frank, Allegra. “Nintendo Switch Sales Reach 103.54 Million, Surpassing PS4”. Polygon. November 8, 2022.
- Webster, Andrew. “Nintendo is discontinuing the 3DS”. The Verge. September 16, 2020.
- Katzmaier, David. “Nintendo Switch review: Pure fun on a big-screen TV or on the go”. CNET. March 1, 2017.
That covers the key question of why Nintendo discontinued the New 3DS relatively quickly after its launch. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!