Nintendo Seems Ready To Give Up On 3D, And That's A Good Thing

In March 2011, Nintendo threw a launch party for its then-brand-new 3DS. As midnight approached, a couple hundred loyal fans and less loyal reporters gathered outside the Best Buy in Manhattan's Union Square to watch Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime extol the virtues of his company's new system.

"The era of 3D glasses ends right here and right now," Fils-Aime said, tossing a pair of plastic spectacles in the air as the crowd followed suit. It was silly but effective: a symbolic statement that the 3DS's dimension-popping technology would render those annoying old glasses obsolete.

Today, Nintendo's message looks a little bit different. We still hate 3D glasses, but the 3DS isn't about 3D anymore. It's about video games. And that's undeniably a good thing.

Go ahead and rewatch last week's Nintendo Direct conference. It's a fun, albeit slightly awkward 22 minutes that consists mostly of non-stop footage from upcoming 3DS games. And they only mention 3D once: while talking about 3D movies.

When chatting about their games, Nintendo no longer seems interested in bragging about three-dimensional perspectives. This is a stark difference from last year, when the system's biggest title was Super Mario 3D Land, a game that sold itself as "the first-ever true 3D Mario platforming adventure." Today's Mario games are being marketed as... well... Mario games.

Even at E3, where Nintendo dedicated an entire hour to talking about the portable gaming system, 3D wasn't a talking point. Even while discussing Paper Mario, a series with a penchant for playing with dimensions, Nintendo's executives barely mentioned that hey, you can play it in actual 3D this time. (Super Paper Mario, the last game in the series, allowed you to flip the flat plumber between in-game dimensions to find secrets and solve puzzles.)

What makes people want to use a dedicated gaming handheld over their iPhones and Androids is remarkably simple. Video games.

This is wonderful. To me — and I imagine, to many people like me, based on the 3DS's sluggish start last year — 3D is absolutely useless. It might be fun for a few seconds, from an "oh, wow, lookit" point of view, but it's not the type of aesthetic enhancement that can actually improve the way you play video games. And it kind of hurts your eyes.

What makes people care about a video game system — and what makes people want to use a dedicated gaming handheld over their iPhones and Androids — is remarkably simple. Video games. People will buy the 3DS not because it will pop images into the backs of your retinas, but because of New Super Mario Bros. 2, Kingdom Hearts 3D, Luigi's Mansion, Professor Layton, Paper Mario, Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing, and all the other appealing games on the system's horizon.

And guess what? I'm playing them in 2D.

Just ask Mario creator and Nintendo creative force Shigeru Miyamoto. As early as last year's E3, he hinted that 3D might not be the most important part of his new system.

"There are times when people are going to want to play in 2D anyway," he 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."

Many of Nintendo's critics have labelled the company's quirky devices as "gimmicks," a way of derogatorily saying they add nothing to your gaming experience. In most cases, those critics are wrong. You may not have liked the Wii remote's motion-controlled waggling or the DS's dual-screen swiping, but it is impossible to deny that they changed the way we can play games.

3D, on the other hand, is utterly and entirely a gimmick. The depth slider is proof of that. The fact that you can play — and completely experience — any 3DS game with the 3D functionality turned completely off is proof that it's a vestigial, unnecessary part of the system. And it seems like Nintendo has realised that.

For a couple of years now, clueless analysts and investors have begged Nintendo to shift gears and start developing powerhouse games like Mario and Zelda for mobile devices. This is silly for a number of reasons (that Wired's Chris Kohler has articulated well), but it's also unnecessary. Nintendo doesn't need to make games for other systems; Nintendo needs to realise that its system's selling point is its games.

Hopefully they've come to their senses. Their two-dimensional senses.


    I like how it looks on 3D. In 2D, it looks like I am seeing all of the pixels being shot out of a gun and hitting the screen, being all collected in one frame and then shot at my eyes at the same time. But in 3D, it's like the glass is gone and I'm actually looking at the game itself. It doesn't really look any different, it just looks a bit more vibrant and I find the effect extremely pleasing. I also find the 2D effect pleasing too, but I find that most of the time I am playing it with the 3D turned all the way up.

      Pretty much this.

      I feel like I'm kind of getting "immune" to the 3D in a way, being unable to really feel like I see it at all any more. But to switch back and only play in 2D just feels wrong.

        The only time I switch 3d off is if I'm in a situation where I can't keep my hands still ie. on the train or playing something frantic/frustrating.
        Some games though need to be fine tuned - Cave Story just about made me cockeyed with the slider all the way up!

          I had to turn it off playing ResiEvil Revelations. Sniper scope + 3D = Bad move!

    I find that I am unable to look at the 3D for any longer than a couple of minutes before I start getting eye strain and headaches.

      I don't get vertigo but what I tend to find is that my hands cramp up due to playing while holding the 3DS in the 'correct' position at the same time. Using just my thumbs isn't so bad, but once I have to use L + R as well it's cramp city in 5 minutes

      yeah, I can play for 3 or 4 minutes before it becomes horrible.

      I'll buy a 3ds, just never use the 3d


    The entire reason for the new DS iteration was the 3D part. Throwing it away just makes it yet another expensive DS revision. Without 3D, what's the difference between a DSiXL and a 3DSXL?

      Probably the increased processing power and better graphics, which the 3DS still has even without the 3D.

      Hope that is trolling. 3D was one of its selling points, yes, but it's its increased processing power and graphics that makes the 3ds a worthy successor.

        Not compared to the competition though. 3DS is about as powerful as a PSP, but with less battery life.

          Definitely has more power than the PSP tho not as much as a vita.
          There is no good games except Resident evil rev even the programing on mgs3d is botched they need to lift there game.

            No good games? NO GOOD GAMES?! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!
            Both ResiEvil games, OoT, Mario 3D (a bit), Pokemon, Crush, Rhythm Thief and more!
            I'm done now. Too tired to think.

        Nope, not trolling.

        The 3DS doesn't run 3DS games - it runs DS games. If I can run Pokemon BW2 on my DSi and not really see much of a drop in quality - which I won't - then what's the difference other than a 3D slider that seems not to be used?

        What sort of games are being released that have the requirement of a 3DS or they won't run?

          um... every game labelled '3DS'...

      The main differences - analogue stick, higher polygon count, better lighting and shadows, better sound output, gyroscopic aiming (which frankly works well as a right stick substitute IMO). The DS had a graphics capacility on par with a PS1 whereas the 3DS appears to run better graphics than the Wii!

    I think nintendo know most of us are over 3D graphics, hence why they're cutting the 3DS life cycle short, will probably bring out a graphics focused portable sooner than we think.

    The 3D makes me light headed so I tend to only use it when I want to see if some scene looks cool in 3D, but it's mostly switched off for gameplay.

    I find the 3D quite immersive. Games like Starfox 64 3D benefit a lot from it. I'm one of those lucky people that can have 3D on full and play for more than an hour without feeling anything wrong. I can understand why some people might not like it though.

    I have no problem with the 3D whatsoever, and I was amazed about once every 10 minutes of playing Ocarina of Time just by the 3D. Same with Resident Evil.

    I think they probably didn't make a fuss about 3D because it's not necessary to. Everyone knows it's's in the name. They're not giving up on 3D at all, they're just rightly choosing to focus on the new. The games are new, 3D is just a given.

    3D is far from a gimmick, and just because Mr. Schreier thinks it's abhorrent does not mean he should assume on everyone's behalf that we're better off without it.

    I love 3d. Only reason to buy a nintendo game. For everything else, theres vita.

    The depth slider is the best feature of the 3DS. Not bashing it, but I can see most portable products adopting this approach with displays in the future.
    You say it is a gimmick now (Sony said the DS touch screen was a gimmick), but chances are the next Sony portable will have a 3D display.

    I dont have a 3DS but i have a 3D monitor for my PC and after figuring out how to get the 3D to work (I needed to download Tridef) after i worked everything out, when the 3D is done right it looks amazing. So good i went back and finished some games i have already finished in 2D and tried them on 3D, and i really like it, it seems like a new experience to me. I wish all my games can be in 3D.

    Side note not all games worked well in 3D some had alot of cross talk and it will strain your eyes after an hour but i just take a break look at something else for a few minutes then get back to playing.

    Games like CODMW3, BF3, Trine (this one in particular looks phenomenal in 3D) Batman Arkham City, and Spacemarine really showcase 3D IMO.

    To those that say 3D isnt worth it try some of these games in proper working 3D it might just change you mind.

      I agree, I played Metro 2033 in 3D at a mate's and spent three or four minutes examining a crate. When it works, when it's nicely tuned, and when the game benefits from it - it's awesome.

    I find that after playing my 3ds then going to, say, my iPhone the graphics just look really simplistic and dated, even though I can see that 'technically' they are 'better' graphics in some cases. It's just that the 3d really makes everything feel so much more real.

    They didn't talk about 3D because all games come in 3D. The editor seems like an alarmist hater which I believe has never held a 3DS or played with it.

    I find Kid Icarus Uprising better to play in 3D. Especially in together mode where there is a lot of action and where, without 3D, the game becomes an unrecognizable mix of things. With 3D, it's easier to tell where things are. When I tried playing in 2D, I played worse than with it on. Without the 3D the scenes in the game seem to come together and make things mixed up.

    Overall, the 3D lets you see where things are easier.

    "it’s not the type of aesthetic enhancement that can actually improve the way you play video games. And it kind of hurts your eyes."

    Actually, 3D HAS already improved the way I play video games and it DOESN'T hurt my eyes. Maybe it hurts your eyes, but you can't speak for everyone on Earth.

    Playing Xbox 360 hurts my eyes more than playing 3DS. Maybe write an article about how HDTVs are 'absolutely useless'?

    "The fact that you can play — and completely experience — any 3DS game with the 3D functionality turned completely off is proof that it’s a vestigial, unnecessary part of the system."

    Based on this argument, sound is also an unnecessary part of gaming, coz you can play any game with the sound turned completely off. Oh well, I guess all those great composers and voice actors will have to find a new career, because the work they do apparently adds nothing to gaming.

    "3D, on the other hand, is utterly and entirely a gimmick."

    Someone on the Internet posted a quote that perfectly sums up my response to this one... oh wait, here it is:

    "Many of Nintendo’s critics have labelled the company’s quirky devices as “gimmicks,” a way of derogatorily saying they add nothing to your gaming experience. In most cases, those critics are wrong."

    Yep, that sounds about right.

    To me 3D in the 3DS is somethin' that I love... that's one of the reason why I love 3DS..

    everytime I roll back the 3D Slider, it just looks bad.. and most of the time (95%) I always turn the 3D ON...

    & I don't have any problem with that, headache or somethin'..

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