Nintendo Unclear on 3DS' Future In Light of Switch Success

Aiming for a longer lifespan for Switch as well

Nintendo isn't quite clear on what the future holds for the company's beloved handheld systems like the 3DS.

During an analyst Q&A this week, someone asked the company what exactly will be going on with the 3DS and Nintendo's long history with handheld gaming systems, in light of the Nintendo Switch, which can also be considered a portable system. "Nintendo Switch (a console-type game system that can be carried around) is very similar to a handheld game system, so do you intend to not release a successor to Nintendo 3DS, or do you plan to treat the handheld game system as a kid-friendly product coexisting with Nintendo Switch?"

Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said that the Nintendo 3DS is still selling so the company hopes "consumers will embrace it together with Nintendo Switch. But as for what transpires in the future, that is uncharted territory."

Nintendo director Jo Shiota followed up by pointing out that while the Switch may seem to be similar to a handheld game system, the technology that powers it is very different. A key element of that difference is what the creators what to focus on with the system: power consumption, performance or a balance of the two.

"Regarding development, we have not yet decided which direction to steer towards, but we have a variety of possibilities under consideration," he said. "The technologies that would be required (for platform development) include some that could take an extremely long time to develop and are ever-evolving, so instead of narrowing down the technologies we are widening the search. Once we have decided on the direction for (future) platforms inside the company, we will quickly begin preparations to track the (key) technologies."

Nintendo reports it has sold 71.99 million handhelds in the 3DS "family of systems, which also includes the 2DS, as of the end of last year.

Analysts also asked the company execs what sort of lifespan they think they can eek out of the Nintendo Switch, noting that while the Wii was incredibly popular, its lifespan was relatively short.

Kimishima said after a successful first year, the company is now focusing on developing content that will highlight Switch's major differentiator: that it can be played anytime, anywhere with anyone.

Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto added that the Switch has features "not available on any other hardware to date" and that he thinks the new sort of gaming coming to the system will prolong its life.

"Up until now, the hardware lifecycle has trended at around five or six years," he said, "but it would be very interesting if we could prolong that life cycle, and I think you should be looking forward to that."