Nintendo 3DS Celebrates 4 Years of North American Release Under Great Evolution

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It’s scary to think, but the Nintendo 3DS launched in North America on this day in 2011. While it rode a great deal of pre-release hype thanks to a stellar line-up of promised games coupled with the glasses-free 3D, things slowly unraveled at the launch. But thanks to some hard and necessary choices by Nintendo, the handheld made an incredible turnaround with redesigns, firmware updates, and incredible games.

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If there was ever an underdog in portable hardware, it would be the 3DS. While the DS had little to lose when it launched in 2004, the 3DS was released just as Nintendo’s skyrocketing profits began to slip post-2010. While the system was released with hefty promises, it came out of the gate overpriced at $250 with some underwhelming launch games, under-cooked firmware that didn’t include the eShop (it would launch three months later in June), and delays on anticipated software (especially Ocarina of Time 3D).


The sales on the 3DS were soft, much more than Nintendo had anticipated after the success of the DS family. Sales were so low that Nintendo pulled the ultimate trump card: an $80 price drop to $169.99. Nintendo even appeased the suckers people who bought the system early with 20 free games, an unusually generous move from Nintendo. With that price and some key releases to follow, the 3DS was on its path to recovery.


Since then, the system has not only leveraged an amazing library of games, but has evolved as a platform itself. We’ve seen an untold evolution of the 3DS’ internal software that the previous DSi never saw. Nintendo continually added features and tweaks to improve the experience, from streamlined eShop downloading, folders for organization, and even grafting in the social network Miiverse from the Wii U. Long-time users started to notice the 3DS slowing down over time under these changes.


Clearly, the original hardware shipped in 2011 wasn’t meant to keep up with themes and Miiverse and the like. To respond, Nintendo unveiled the New Nintendo 3DS and XL versions in 2014. Not only were they faster in processing power, but they basically perfected the hardware. Additional controls, NFC, and stable 3D made for the 3DS we should have gotten back at launch.

Irregardless, the 3DS has made for one of Nintendo’s best platforms ever. Its appeal is limitless, from stellar games like Super Mario 3D Land and Fire Emblem: Awakening to StreetPass and the unique value of glasses-free 3D. With the 3DS surviving past a shaky first year, and into our collective hearts, what are some of your favorite 3DS memories over the last four years?

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A man with a plan. My favorite video game franchise is Pokemon, but his favorite video game is Resident Evil 4. I can also tell you trivial cartoon factoids.