UPDATE 10/21/16: Looks like we do know whether or not the Switch will play 3DS cartridges after all. Original article continues below.
Earlier today, Nintendo unveiled the long-awaited "NX" console, officially called the Nintendo Switch. And while the reveal trailer definitely set itself apart by eschewing some industry standards, it's still been met with a very positive response.
However, now that we know all those leaks about a console/handheld hybrid were true, Nintendo has left us with another very big question: What will happen to the 3DS? Is the Switch — which uses cartridges — going to be able to play 3DS games? Will they be two separate systems? What's the plan, Nintendo?
There are a number of different answers Nintendo may have for us. And while time will be the only true way of knowing, today we'll go over some of the scenarios and see what seems most likely.
The Simple Answer: They'll Coexist
Nintendo has always had separate console and handheld markets from the moment they first got into the handheld business. So it wouldn't exactly come as a change of pace to continue that trend with this generation of its consoles.
Not only that, but Nintendo has a solid hold on the handheld market with the 3DS right now. If they began developing 3DS games that they had to guarantee would function on the Switch, it could harm the 3DS sales.
Plus, transitioning from dual handheld and console markets to a single one is a pretty risky business move. If the Switch, for whatever reason, ends up not being a success, having the 3DS existing alongside the Switch (rather than being phased out by it) would give Nintendo something to fall back on.
The Exciting Answer: The Switch Will Play 3DS Games
Honestly, this is the one I'm hoping for — and likely the one most of us are hoping for. While it's financially smart to not put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, it's also not exactly smart to compete with yourself.
Think about the Wii U and the 3DS right now. More and more games are being made on one console and then having versions made for the other console later on. Variations of the Mario 3D World game, Mario Maker, Super Smash Bros., and others have all been made for both devices.
Based on current marketing alone, it seems as though these "work on both" titles have been a stepping stone to ultimately making one game that will work no matter which device you choose. Granted, that theory only applies to 3DS titles working on the Switch, not vise versa, but making the Switch compatible with 3DS titles definitely seems like the next logical step for Nintendo to make.
Another approach that could be taken here is Nintendo opting to make select titles work and having those titles be available via the eShop. Nintendo has been releasing select titles from their older systems on the Wii U and 3DS eShops and doing so here would allow them to create and modify 3DS titles to fit the Switch's particular design.
The Sad Answer: The 3DS Will Be Phased Out
This one, as the above indicates, would be sad — but it's not altogether unlikely. If Nintendo really wants to push forward with their new console, and since that console does work as a handheld, it wouldn't be the biggest surprise to see production of 3DS games halt sometime in the not-so-distant future.
Doing so would allow whichever team is currently focusing on 3DS titles to lend more support to Switch titles and make sure they function as fun, engaging handheld games on par with existing 3DS titles.
And again, competing with yourself in the handheld market probably isn't the best business move. Except in this scenario, Nintendo opts to go all-in on the Switch rather than work on increased functionality and cross-compatibility.
The Honest Answer: We Don't Know Enough (Yet)
There are a lot of things we still don't know about the Switch that, frankly, will have a big impact on whether or not 3DS titles on the system are even possible. To name a few:
- Does the Switch have a touchscreen? While no touchscreen doesn't 100% rule out some 3DS titles existing on the system, it would mean not every single title would would make the cut.
- How would the split screen work? This one isn't as big, but it's still something Nintendo will have considered. Aesthetically and mechanically, would it work if the Switch were held vertically (i.e., the most likely direction)? If so, how would the controllers be used?
- Does the system have gyroscopic capabilities? This is another feature of the 3DS that, while less emphasized in its games, still is utilized. We don't know if the Switch even has this sort of capability. It's been underused in the past, so it's very likely Nintendo cut the feature altogether.
These are not all the questions that will affect the answer to the 3DS's future, but they're definitely ones to keep an eye out for. It won't be too long before the Switch is on shelves, and the remaining months are likely to answer most of our questions.