A Brief History of Nintendo’s Handheld Packaging

Interchangeable Cover Plates!

Never before has such a cosmetic feature been advertised so heavily by Nintendo in their handheld line since the GameBoy Color.  Of course the New 3DS is a bigger jump from the 3DS than the DSi was from the original DS.  It not only has swappable cover plates but now also a second analog stick/C-Stick, ZR and ZL shoulder buttons, a Micro SD Card, a juiced up processor and 3D feature, and also NFC technology.  In other words, the concept of changeable face plates is justified; the 3DS just got some major plastic surgery done!  Let’s take a quick look at the packaging of her older brothers and sisters.


The Original GameBoy/Color (1989 – 2004)


The original GameBoy packaging may very well be the most “in-your-face” packaging.  It rings similar to the boisterousness of the classic N64 “GET N OR GET OUT.”  It showcases the electric juice that will coarse throughout your veins by merely making contact with the device.  It’s not as nearly colorful as her future brother, but you can’t blame them given that the original was released in 1989 and the the sequel in 1998, almost ten years later!  That’s right, a 9 year cycle!  Anything that old surely is in need of a color infusion.


GameBoy Advance/SP/Micro (2001 – 2004)


A new generation of handhelds, but you wouldn’t think so by the packaging.  Gone is the feeling of power from the original and gone is the vibrancy of new life from the Color series.  This era may have been merely reflective of gaming starting to become more niche and so the focus on pure hardware is all that resonates with the ideal consumer.  Perhaps in the Micro we begin to see signs of the symbolic purity, simplicity, and flexibility that is echoed by the later DS series; something that is meant to be supplemental to your lifestyle and not the center of it.  The purple runs parallel to the Super Nintendo home console, while the silver and grey reek of pure technological debris…but again, there’s something about that uncluttered box on the Micro that echoes a return to form.


Nintendo DS/Lite/ “i” (2004 – 2011)


The old grey and silver aluminum is still in tact, but the clunk and “don’t overlook me!” attitude of the original GameBoy makes a return.  The two-screen design allowed for a more portable system, a more interactive system, and is in fact a call back to the original Game and Watch series that predated the GameBoy.  The clunk was deemed cosmetically inappropriate by the higher ups at Nintendo considering the distinctively new user base that it was attracting and so the DS Lite was born!  And along with it came the Apple-esque white and minimalist design from the previous Micro installment.   The return to form was now complete!  The DSi was merely was an extra nail in the coffin to help modernize the system among it’s smartphone counterparts who also sported cameras and nifty apps.


The 3DS and “New” 3DS (2011 – Present)

3DS.1 N3DS.1

Lastly, we arrive at the Nintendo 3DS.  Futuristic would be an understatement when chronicling the latest era of Nintendo’s handhelds.  But 3D really was the future for so many companies during it’s launch period.  Movie theaters and Sony televisions were pushing this feature so hard and still it just didn’t catch on.  Considering that Nintendo was essentially willing bludgeon its prior DS consumer base by carrying over the same branding but with a totally different product is evidence enough that they were also just as eager to drink the industry cool-aide.  And so they marketed the 3DS with a shimmering space/electric blue.  The 3DS has managed to survive a painful introduction but clearly Nintendo is not okay with moderate success given the pride and glory of their handheld line.  The “New” 3DS, though an ultra-conglomerate of carbon-copy branding, attempts to separate itself from it’s original form.  Hence, the focus on changeable plate-covers to parallel the drastic changes in hardware.

More importantly, this “New” 3DS is waaay less serious than the futuristic theme of the original.  It doesn’t beg for attention from the consumer and in fact asks the consumer to make it a supplementary part of it’s life.  It’s colorful and expressive, but easy on the eyes, and is ready to mold to your entertainment needs.  Do you think the New 3DS packaging accurately symbolizes the direction Nintendo wants to take?  Let us know in the comments!

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About The Author

News Reporter

I'm an EarthBound kinda guy but I love everything Mario and certainly anything Nintendo related. I was born in North America and live there presently.