Where Are The 3DS Games?

If you go hunting for new 3DS games you don't have to worry about running out of bullets. This is one scarce safari.

A couple of weeks ago, after I noticed that the Nintendo 3DS had sold just 143,000 units in June, the month when its two big problems were fixed, my colleague in Japan noticed an even more alarming phenomenon: 3DS games disappearing before they were even born.

Portable games on Nintendo handhelds have never been as rare as jungle cats before. But before we condemn the 3DS for what might merely be a slow start an before we add it to the endangered species list, I decided to go on a search for 3DS games. I did it at a showcase in New York City for Electronic Arts, the mega-publisher that makes games for every electronic device I own other than my microwave. In that EA jungle of games, I believed, I'd have a chance to find some 3DS games.

The EA showcase was in a large ballroom room. We could call it a vast plain full of grazing water buffalo and antelope if we wanted me to painfully stretch my metaphor or vaguely offend the game developers and reporters in attendance. Let's not do that. But you should be picturing a big room with lots of game demos set up in it, some running on TVs on a stage, some on TVs near couches, some near rows of tables at the perimeter. Dozens of video games!

Looking around the room, I couldn't spot any 3DS games. I went sniffing at the Need for Speed area. They'll have a 3DS version, a developer playing the PS3 version of the game told me. It just wasn't there. It'll be structured as a 26-episode version of this fall's cross-America Need for Speed: The Run. It will even support AutoLog, the Facebook-style notifications system introduced in last year's console game, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, that pushed updates to players when their friends beat their scores in one of the game's races and let them challenge their friends back. The 3DS would also pull challenges from nearby 3DS owners using the systems' Street Pass function, I was told. But the game wasn't being shown in New York.

EA's biggest game of the fall doesn't seem to be coming to 3DS. Make of that what you will.

At least the Need for Speed people had a 3DS game to talk about (no DS or PSP versions, by the way). The NHL guy said there won't be a 3DS version of his game. The Battlefield 3 people had no 3DS game either, not to show or discuss. None was announced, they said which, well, EA's biggest game of the fall doesn't seem to be coming to 3DS. Make of that what you will.

The Madden folks said they were making a new PSP Madden for later this summer, but the launch-day Madden that was released last March was it for 3DS American football for the year. They were showing the next NBA Jam running on the Xbox 360. Again, no 3DS version to speak of.

The Sims Medieval guy said his series is spinning off onto the iPhone and iPad. Nada for 3DS.

(Now's as good a spot as anywhere to mention that, generally I believe the "no 3DS version" answers I was getting meant was being made; but video game people do get oddly cagey about what's announced vs. what isn't announced, often favouring promotional reality over reality reality. That's an ember of hope for you, 3DS fans.)

One of the Sims 3 Pets people I found was very proud of the console version of the game, itself a cousin of the PC game (i.e. the one with the franchise's most-demanded feature: horses). He did indeed have a 3DS version to discuss, though I mean "have" in the sense of there being one somewhere in a development studio that he was able to describe to me. In The Sims 3 Pets for 3DS, players will be able to puppeteer the lives of domesticated animals without having to worry, as you do in the console and PC versions, about also steering the lives of Sim people. You'll be able to buy items in the game through Nintendo Play Coins, which are racked up as you walk around with the 3DS; and you can Street Pass gifts with your friends.

This EA event was a lovefest — or a zoo, if you want to go back to the safari thing — of 3DS games compared to other gaming publishers' showcases lately. I went to a THQ event. They had at least a dozen games, not one of them there on the 3DS. I went to a Ubisoft showcase where they had Assassin's Creed, Rayman, some other games, free drinks and no 3DS games. Capcom had the already-released Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D at theirs. Nintendo, of course, had the new Super Mario, the new Mario Kart, the re-made Star Fox and Kid Icarus at theirs, as if the 3DS was gaming's main event. (Majesco will have a batch at theirs, including the new Cooking Mama and Jaws.)

Wait. I hadn't just found a 3DS game but a guy who was boastful about it?

I've been going to these big game publisher showcases in New York several times a year for a half-decade. It's not as if handheld gaming has ever gotten enough respect or support from the game companies to have a big presence at them. But if you're stepping into all of these Holidays-in-the-Summer press events in 2011 expecting to gauge the game publishers' enthusiasm for the 3DS you see about as many signs of it as you do their enthusiasm for broccoli (at least broccoli sometimes shows up in the free food spread!)

Amid the jungle of 3DS disappointment at EA, I did find one 3DS game, a quite stunning 3DS game, in fact. It's a soccer game. FIFA 12 for 3DS, to be specific. Not really my thing, but I am always up for a video game surprise, though, and let's say that FIFA 12 3DS is actually impressive. Can I judge a FIFA game well? No. But there I was looking at this game when the line producer on it told me that it is the biggest portable game EA Sports has ever made. Not their biggest 3DS game, but bigger than any DS, PSP or iOS game. More than 500 players, more than 50 leagues, and more than 50 tournaments.

"This is not some lightweight game," the producer, a guy named Matt Prior, told me. Wait. I hadn't just found a 3DS game but a guy who was boastful about it? He had me try the game's full 11v11 mode and let me admire the player animations and started rattling off details about the game's career mode, training mode, its 50-plus leagues including English Premier League and Major League Soccer (no Women's World Cup, though; no Hope Solo.) He was telling me about the club-owning mode that lets you control the team's finances and the Be a Pro mode too. He changed camera angles for me and let me see a down-the-field view that made the 3D graphics in the 3DS punch deeply through the screen.

I tried some optional touch-screen activated shooting that Prior said let the designers achieve something never possible in the game's console versions — giving the player the feeling of actually trying to place their shot as they had their footballer kick it (player stats will affect if the spot you touch on a lower-screen three-dimensional rendering of the goal is where the ball actually goes). They won't support online gaming, but will support local wireless. Plus they'll do a day-one update of the game for updating roster transfers and kits (translation: trades and uniforms) when the game launches in the fall. Another update will be pushed through, via 3DS Spot Pass, in January.

Just when I was about to tell Prior he was woefully out of sync with the apparent 3DS disinterest around him, he pulled a Wait-There's-More and loaded the game's "street" mode, a 5v5 mode that had its own custom levels and a curvature to the terrain, Animal Crossing-style to further emphasise the system's 3D effects.

I do believe I had found my lion. My 3DS safari was a success.

What's with the lack of 3DS games at all these showcases? I think it's fair to say that the 3DS is not in the position the DS earned. It's not a phenomenon. It's, at best, a contender. Maybe it's similar to how the PlayStation 3 was after the white-hot PlayStation 2. Or maybe it's the DS pre-Nintendogs and Brain Age. All I know for sure is that new 3DS games, impressive ones or not, are hard to find these days. I also know there were many iOS games at that EA event. But as I search, maybe I'll find more FIFAs. I'll keep hunting.


Comments

    The 3DS lineup now is as barren as the wii lineup is now. A bit alarming as the wii had maddening levels of sucess and too many titles in its first year or two. It seems third party are well and truly spooked of ninty platforms these days.

    I'd like to think developers are starting to get the idea you can't just put poorly ported turds out on it, and do actually need to design from ground up for it to not flop. Unfortuanly, I think it far more likely they haven't, and are just seeing the gaping hole years of that form of dev has left. You know why I bought a 3ds? OoT. Know why I'm glad? 3d pokedex. I spend more time playing ds games than 3ds on it(5th pkmn gen, and fftactics A2 currently).

    We all know large game devs dislike trying new things, but generally the best sellers have always been the risk takers(and frankly, if your devs aren't good enough to break even on a risk, you need new devs). Who do take risks and make them work? Indies. Who does nintendo think will make less consoles sell? Indies.

    Get some decent homebrew middleware happening, watch the money rise quickly. Those are the guys who are going to come up with the insane, nintendo-esque ideas. Pokemon was risky. Gameboy was risky. Donkey kong, tetris and the original zelda were all risky. The last 4 consoles from nintendo have all been risky. Take the risk out for dinner, treat it like a lady, instead of shunning it for having a weird twitch. For nintendo, it's not a even a risk any more.

      "if your devs aren’t good enough to break even on a risk, you need new devs"

      The charts would suggest that it's the games that DON'T take risks that rake in the cash, while the risks tend to be the disappointments in terms of sales. Compare the sales of Call of Duty: Shootin' Guys 14 vs sales of games like Child of Eden, Ico, Rez etc.

      As a side note, while Nintendo have taken a lot of risks over the years, Tetris wasn't one of them. That was already a huge hit years before Nintendo got their hands on it.

        Bah what I said there before I edited my own comment to incoherent gibberish was that quality of your devs doesn't have much of an impact on sales. Good developers have made poor-selling games, and mediocre developers (hello, Treyarch) have made huge sellers. Your devs can take a huge risk and make a really great game out of it but it can still fail to sell. The developer's job is to make the best game they possibly can. Actually selling it is the job of the marketing people.

        Personally I blame the ridiculous allocation of marketing money by publishers for the fact that good games often perform poorly compared to generic sequels.

        Look at the marketing spend given to things like the latest Halo or COD game - they probably spend more on the marketing than they do on the actual development. And it's pointless - you could just release those games with a minimum of marketing and they wouldn't sell one single copy less because people are waiting for them, they already know they're coming and when they see it on the shelf they already know what they're getting when they buy it. But despite that, they go out and spend $50m or whatever marketing those games, then the game comes out and sells in huge numbers and the dickheads in the marketing department sit around slapping each other on the back over what a great job they did selling this thing when, in fact, it sold itself without any help from them.

        If the publisher had spent that $50m promoting several of their smaller, lower-profile games then they might have been able to turn one or two of those games into massive hits to complement their already-massive shooter.

    Just put the poor thing out of it's misery. Nobody likes to see a the drawn out death of a handheld.

    I've already traded my 3DS in. Got $280 back from that and SSFIV3D. I consider that a win. I'm not touching the thing until it has a decent lineup of games (not re-hashed N64 games that I've paid for and completed 3-4 times already) and has had its first redesign, fixing the glaring battery life issue.

    When will Nintendo learn? What Nintendo should of done with the wii u is integrate the DS and 3Ds instead of having that awkward looking tablet controller. I think if Nintendo did a bit of integrating with their handhelds and the wii people may be more willing to use them.

    No PSP games, no 3ds games... and then they tell you that 'ios has taken over teh portable industry'. no surprise since there are no other portables. Long live the PSV maybe?

    Just scrap the damn thing, it's got disappointment written all over it. What a joke.

    I never buy all that shovelware that thr third parties release. I'd prefer 3DS had fewer games of higher quality.

    The people who post here are Kotaku only readers, I can tell.
    All that Kotaku post about is disappointment with Nintendo, and constant doting over Sony.

      I honestly agree, the Australian Kotaku is a massive mess.
      2 sentence articles, biased commentary, and the American one is even worse.
      I think I need to pack my bag and find a new site.

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