In July 2011 I looked across at my desk and there was a 3DS. The first version. Not the 3DS XL that would be released in 2012, the old one. It was gathering dust. It had been sitting there for so long. It was part of the furniture. I wasn't even sure why I noticed it but there it was, forever alone.
It was such a tragic sight that I took a picture for posterity.
In 2012 moving into 2013 that image seemed like a laughable memory. Like a bad teenage beard. The 3DS was in the throes of life and — for a while — was legitimately the greatest console on the planet bar none. It had the best games. Super Mario 3D Land, Luigi's Mansion 2, Fire Emblem, A Link Between Worlds. There was a period of time there when the 3DS was my actual platform of choice — over the PC, Xbox 360, PS3, whatever you care to name.
Now we're in a strange place. Unlike in 2011, the 3DS is still a console I would recommend to anyone looking for a handheld. In 2011 there were — almost literally — no games to play on the console. Today there exists an incredible back catalogue of video games to discover. If you don't have a 3DS, you should totally get one.
But what about us poor fools who have been here from the start?
Because there's a strange little truth here, one that I wasn't even aware of until I sat down and thought about it for a second: the 3DS has been coasting on past glories for the better half of 2014. I haven't turned on my 3DS since I finished The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and that was December 2013. After an absolutely stellar 2013, there have been — for my tastes — precisely zero substantial releases on the 3DS.
And it's almost as though no-one has noticed. Almost as if we've just been happy to let things slide. Almost as if Nintendo and consumers alike have been content: 'there are lots of games on the 3DS,' we seem to say — that's the common knowledge — but there is nothing new and hasn't been for quite some time.
Why haven't we noticed?
I suspect it's because our interest in handheld consoles in themselves is generally passive. They are rarely our primary console devices, they tend to supplement our gaming. We snack on handheld consoles, we don't think of them as substantial life-sustaining meals. So when a handheld doesn't deliver in terms of new games, we don't openly complain in the way we might if, say, our PlayStation or Xbox went through a similar drought. In short: we talk up when handhelds when the going is good. "Don't forget about the 3DS/Vita," we say, but when the going gets tough? We actually do forget. They begin to gather dust.
Why is the 3DS going through such a drought? It's difficult to tell. Nintendo, clearly, has been so busy focusing its resources on facilitating a Wii U revival that its taken its eye off the ball — the ball in this case being the 3DS. Just like consumers, I suspect Nintendo has the feeling the 3DS will take care of itself now that it has a library of evergreen titles in the tank.
And it probably will.
But for us folks who've been there from the start and want new games to play? It's slow going. It's almost the kind of thing I don't want to be aware of. I want to forget that the 3DS exists, then be pleasantly surprised when the games start rolling in. But every once in a while it catches my eye. I open the drawer where my games are kept and it sits there, staring at me. Unmoved. Sometimes I remember about the 3DS for the wrong reasons. A console gathering dust is a sad sight indeed.