Maybe 3D Isn't Essential For The 3DS After All, Nintendo Hints

Nintendo has never required users of the Nintendo 3DS to play their games with the system's glasses-free 3D visuals activated. But 3D has been the machine's selling point, one baked into the machine's name.

There are signs, however, that game creators, Nintendo included, are discovering that the 3DS' 3D isn't always a useful technological perk and that it might even be a nuisance that some gamers are avoiding.

At a roundtable of developers at E3 in Los Angeles earlier this month, Nintendo's chief game maker, Shigeru Miyamoto, acknowledged that some gamers have been playing the 3DS with the system's 3D slider pushed to the off position, flattening the games graphics so they appear as they would on an conventional portable gaming screen.

"There are times when people are going to want to play in 2D anyway," Miyamoto said through a translator. "I think it's fair for people to say, 'Oh yeah, for this section of the game, I'm just going to turn the 3D depth slider off.' And, in other parts of the game, they may want to turn it on. I think that's a perfectly acceptable way to play the games."

Miyamoto's comments follow Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's April remarks that there is "no easy road to making people understand the attraction of glassless 3D images." While Iwata's comments seemed to involve the challenge of getting people who haven't seen glasses-free 3D to even imagine the experience and, consequentially, be excited about it, Miyamoto's comments involved the practical experience and struggles of 3DS owners who have actually tried to play games with the handheld's 3D settings activated.

Some 3DS gamers have had a tricky time finding a comfortable and visually-clear 3D setting on the 3DS that allows them to consistently appreciate the 3D effects without ruining their gaming experience. While the 3D effect can be impressive, it requires focus within a relatively narrow viewing angle. (A person sitting next to someone who is playing a 3DS game with the 3D cranked up, for example, can't see the 3D effect.) Jostling of the handheld system or changing the distance between a person's eyes and the 3DS can cause the 3D-enabled images on the system's upper screen to appear blurry or doubled. This issue has challenged developers and players for months, spurring our own complaints here at Kotaku, for example, that it was hard to maintain 3D focus while flying through rings in Pilotwings: Resort.

At E3, Miyamoto seemed concerned that 3DS games that have some tilt-based controls are even more likely to dissuade gamers from playing them fully and happily in 3D. He singled out The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D, which both have optional gyroscopic controls. "On the programming side with the gyro controls, we are providing some assistance to make sure that the 3D visuals stay in focus as much as possible," he said. It wasn't clear, though, how much Nintendo's programming can widen the 3DS' 3D viewing angle.

The 3DS only shows 3D graphics on its top screen. It only allows touch controls on its smaller lower screen. That means that games that primarily involve a touch interface and visuals on that same screen can't even do much with the bigger non-touch 3D screen. That's the case for the makers of Cooking Mama 4 from Majesco. A representative for that game briefly showed me a demo of the 3DS title at E3, noting that "99%" of the game involves the lower non-3D screen. It's not that Cooking Mama 4 doesn't use the 3DS' special capabilities. The game lets players use the 3DS' touch and tilt controls to cook 60 new recipes, chopping food with a stylus, sauteing a pan with butter by tilting the system, and so on. But with all that action required to be on the lower screen, all that top 3D screen can do is show the Cooking Mama herself, expressing encouragement or disappointment, as you play—in 3D if you've turned the 3D graphics on. In other words, Cooking Mama 4 is a 3DS title that doesn't emphasise the 3DS' 3D options simply because it can't.

At his developer roundtable, Miyamoto clearly wanted people to enjoy the 3DS' 3D when they can, while conceding that that's not going to be all of the time.

"There are some sections of some games where you might find it easier or more compelling to play it in 3D," he said. "For a game like Ocarina of Time, in particular, if you know a cinema scene is coming up, please, definitely pop that thumb up there and quickly slide that 3D depth slider to max. It will look great."

Nintendo and its partners are talking about the 3DS a little differently than they used to, transitioning from the broad enthusiasm for 3D to the realistic acknowledgement of the pros and cons of playing a given game with 3D turned on. The 3DS' predecessor, the DS, got its name from its dual screens. But almost from the start, Nintendo and its partners produced popular games that downplayed the system's two screens, putting them to limited use in some of the machine's best-selling games, including the nearly-all-single-screen New Super Mario Bros. Just a few months into the 3DS' existence we have Nintendo telling us it is OK to play the 3DS without 3D. We have them saying, hey, maybe you could at least turn it on for the cut-scenes?

The DS proved its greatness without a strict adherence to its technological DS-ness... its dual screens. The 3DS may be on its way to its own success, surprising as this may be, without 3D being as important to its fate than initially hyped by Nintendo or initially thought by all of us.


    Yeah i haven't used the 3D on it since i got myn, granted i haven't used it that much either after finishing GR,RR,SW:C.

    Take away the 3D from the 3DS and it's becomes a DS.

      becomes a more powerful DS and that aint a bad thing

      Wouldn't that just make it an S?

    The games are what attracts me to the system, not the 3D or the "POWER!".

      But it's over 9000!!!

        I lol'd.
        Seriously though, I always say it doesn't matter how powerful a console is or what it does if you don't have any games to play on it.
        The games are the most important thing. If there are 5 games I want then I consider getting the console. That's what I think is so stupid about the console wars.

      However, you'll still need POWER to make better games.

    I like the 3D, and it looks great for some games, but it's soooo bad in Pilotwings. It makes me think this viewing angle will only work in some games, which is disappointing.

    It's a shame the new mario will be a New Super Mario Bros esque game instead of galaxy due to the 3D limitations... And it's going to have so many depth problems. Anyone who played Super Paper Mario will agree with me that jumping into the background just doesn't work with that camera angle.

    I think I might trade in my 3DS for a Vita lol.

      If Nintendo can failed in their own flagship title, I wonder how many failed 3D games will be out there

    I wonder if they'll eventually cave in and produce a 3D-less 3DS, at a cheaper pricepoint.

    A 2DS? A DS2?

    "(A person sitting next to someone who is playing a 3DS game with the 3D cranked up, for example, can’t see the 3D effect.)"

    Um, yes they can. There's a secondary sweet spot on either side of the central one, and it's easy to find by peering over someone's shoulder while they're using it. There's also two anti sweet spots inbetween each of those, where the left eye sees the right image and vice versa so everything appears in inverted 3D.

    I do have some interest in the 3DS. I normally wouldn't but new Mario Kart is looking tempting.

    That said, the 3D both makes me want one and not want one. I had a quick 5-minute play in a shop and it's a bloody good effect. I'm actually surprised by how well it works.

    Having said that, it did feel a bit odd when I looked away. Would I be able to use it for long periods? Would it make me ill? And what about looking from the top screen to the bottom screen?

    Of course there's also two other large barriers in the way of me getting one (price and region-locking). But if I can't feel comfortable using the 3D, it's just a more powerful DS. Which isn't really a bad thing, except I've already got a DS and don't really need a more powerful one.

      I felt the same way after looking away as well. However, as a popular 3ds blogger said, this is because our eyes aren't used to the affect as yet. Overtime, our eyes become accustomed to the affect. And remember, you don't need to crank the 3d effect all the way up. My personal level was just below halfway up...

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