Nintendo is no stranger to hardware iterations. Its last portable, the Nintendo DS, saw several major revisions. The 3DS is a different story. It just came out a few months ago but is already seeing half-hearted hardware upgrades. (A snap-on second slide pad? Ugh.) And 3DS owners should be pissed.
The 3DS has been a cold, greasy buffet of Nintendo mistakes. Even for Nintendo, from whom we can expect multiple hardware iterations, everything was so sloppy, so unpolished, so expensive, and ultimately, so un-Nintendo.
What current 3DS owners should be ticked about is that Nintendo is releasing a second circular slide pad. It's a tack-on peripheral, and it's not free. Nintendo is releasing the AA battery-powered peripheral for ¥1500 ($19) this December in Japan. That's right, battery-powered, so the hidden costs don't stop at ¥1500.
A handful of big 3DS titles — titles I want to play on my 3DS — support the second control scheme. I imagine the game will support stand alone single circle pads controls, too.
If given the choice between have two slide pads or having one, I'd chose two. I think most people would. Nintendo isn't adding a second slide pad because it's a bad idea, but because it's a good one.
If big games support the "3DS Kakuchou Slide Pad" or "3DS Expansion Slide Pad", then that means more and more games will support it. Ultimately, I might be pressured into buying one, meaning that I will have to spend more money than the original ¥25,000. And then I must feed it batteries to keep it running.
There will inevitably be a new hardware iteration, because as former Halo developer Ryan Payton said on Twitter, no way is Nintendo going to have a celebrity spokesperson hold up that ugly 3DS Expansion Slide Pad.
The new 3DS will be remarkably different, far different than the thinner and brighter DS Lite. With dual thumb pads, the way players control games will change. It's essentially a different product and not simply a new feature. It changes gameplay to its core.
When I bought the 3DS back in February, customers didn't have a choice between one thumb pad or two. There was only one. While developing the 3DS — a handheld that Nintendo said would not be subjected to a new iteration anytime soon — Nintendo had that choice, but went with a single pad.
That choice was a mistake. If you bought a 3DS early, you helped Nintendo discover that. You paid Nintendo to beta test a product for them. And soon, you'll be footing another bill.
Nintendo doesn't just owe gamers twenty free digital games. It owes them a free second circle pad.