The Nintendo 3DS is now five years old

Tempus fugit

It’s difficult to believe the Nintendo 3DS is five years old. But apparently it is.

The venerable handheld debuted on North American shores five years ago today. Of course, it arrived in Europe literally dozens of hours sooner, and the portable was already old hat in Japan by that point, but I’m writing this from America, where we pride ourselves on our limited world view.

To say the thing had a bit of a rocky launch would be an understatement. Whether it was the price, a dearth of software, or a lack of interest in stereoscopy, the 3DS struggled to sell in its first year on the market. Things were so bad that by August, just five months after the machine’s western release, Nintendo swallowed its pride and slashed its asking price from $250 to $170. Early adopters were, of course, furious over this — and with good reason. So, to make amends, the company apologized by gifting twenty ‘free’ classic games to customers who picked up a 3DS prior to the price cut.

And then, seemingly overnight, with a lower price tag and an influx of quality software like Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Super Mario 3D LandAnimal Crossing: New Leaf, and Fire Emblem: Awakening, the 3DS started selling like hot cakes. It became massively popular in Japan, and that success began radiating out across the globe. As of December 31, 2015, the portable had sold more than 58 million units worldwide — which, while nowhere near as successful as the original DS (which totaled lifetime sales of 154 million), is nothing to sniff at in an age where everyone has a smartphone in their pocket.

Despite stumbling out of the gate, the 3DS has garnered a vast library of quality games, giving small teams and studios on a budget a bastion to reach a sizable audience without having to keep up with the rapidly accelerating development costs associated with the 3DS’s more powerful contemporaries.

It’s difficult to say when the party will end. There’s still plenty of good times to be had with the system in the twilight of its life cycle, but the spectre of the enigmatic “Nintendo NX” looms over the portable. The end may be rapidly approaching, but it’s been a hell of a ride so far — and it isn’t over just yet!

Kyle MacGregor Burleson