Nintendo 3DS XL is out now, but will a larger screen be enough to capture the minds and wallets of the gaming public in these cash-strapped times? We asked Nintendo UK's Ben Taylor.
"We did review the possibility of the second [thumbstick], but we felt that increased battery life was really important to players, and this would have been affected if we had introduced one. It would also have made the console a lot bigger and bulkier."
Take what's been before, make it bigger, make it smaller or redesign it completely - it's a formula Nintendo has stuck to rigidly when it comes to squeezing lifespan from its handheld consoles.
In 3DS XL - the first major 3DS revision, which released in Europe this weekend - Nintendo is looking to repeat the trick. But are we in danger of becoming tired of the method, or is the company confident that we, the gamers, will still buy into the trend? Is XL a stunt, or are there real benefits?
To answer this and more, we caught up with Nintendo UK marketing manager Ben Taylor to see what comes next for the firm's latest handheld.
VG247: The Nintendo 3DS XL just launched here in the UK. Can you give us an insight into how you ended up at this final design?
Ben Taylor: We're always looking to improve and develop our products and research showed that a bigger screen was a very important feature to include to continue the momentum of the 3DS.
We have been able to answer this request via the 3DS XL - the screen is 90% bigger which means that your gaming experience is even richer and games like Kid Icarus and Super Mario 3D Land look better than ever.
VG247: There is, however, no second thumbstick. Many are calling this an oversight on Nintendo's part. Is it something you might consider in future revisions?
We did review the possibility of the second controller, but we felt that increased battery life was really important to players, and this would have been affected if we had introduced one. It would also have made the console a lot bigger and bulkier.
Importantly, the majority of games, for instance the likes of Mario Kart 7 or Super Mario 3D land, don't benefit from the second controller. A second circle pad peripheral is in development for the 3DS XL which can be used for titles such as Resident Evil Revelations.
VG247: To what extent does the software produced by third-party developers dictate the features of your hardware? Say, if enough developers make games that support the second thumbstick, would you reconsider your stance on it?
Hypothetical questions are always slightly difficult to answer! Battery life and the size of the screen have very much been our priority based on our research.
VG247: Over in Japan we've learned that the PS Vita is yet to sell over a million hardware units. 3DS - on the other hand - is selling strongly. What does this tell you about the handheld's position in the market?
The 3DS continues to perform really well in Japan which is great to see. In terms of software we've not only had some really strong first party titles such as The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and Kid Icarus.
But we've also got really strong third party support party support so can offer something for everyone. This is a positive sign and we are confident that as we saw with the original DS, we will see growth in the UK.
VG247: Back in June, The 3DS was edged out of Nintendo's E3 conference almost entirely by the Wii U. Is It fair to say that this undermines the quality of the console?
We had an awful lot to fit into this years E3 conference. We knew that the Wii U was going to be in the spotlight and we wanted to share as much information as we could during a short space of time.
However, the 3DS is still a very strong focus for our business. We announced a number of 3DS titles during our presentation - New Super Mario Bros. 2, Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Luigi's: Dark Moon and we then we held a separate event solely for 3DS news which went into more depth and which we streamed online on the Wednesday night.
Furthermore the 3DS was the sole content of our Nintendo Direct announcement on June 22.
VG247: Nintendo cut the price of the original 3DS shortly after it launched. Is this indicative of a market that's becoming increasingly difficult to predict?
We have publically acknowledged that we got the pricing of 3DS wrong at launch and took steps to address it. 3DS now benefits from an increasingly strong software line-up, so it’s an exciting time for us.
VG247: We constantly hear gamers bemoaning the 'casual' software catalogue on 3DS, and the lack of gritty mature content. How would you respond to claims that the 3DS XL is a one sided console in this respect?
I think this is a common misconception, we've got a number of really strong core titles available on the 3DS including the likes of Kid Icarus, Resident Evil Revelations, Kingdom Hearts, Legend of Zelda and Street Fighter. The Virtual Console and eShop means that gamers have access to their old favourites.
VG247: Nintendo has increased its support of digital downloads considerably in recent years. How important is it to maintain a strong digital store front on 3DS, and would you like to see more indie developers taking part?
This is definitely important to us. The 3DS provides a great platform for indie developers and we’d love to see more.
VG247: That said, if I was Nintendo and I wanted to make millions of dollars very quickly, I'd release Super Mario Bros. or Pokemon on iTunes. Why has Nintendo avoided this lucrative marketplace so far?
Nintendo is home to some of the most creative and innovative gameplay experiences and franchises in the industry. We spend years developing consoles that will allow us to support the kind of game functionality that our titles demand. You wouldn't be able to have the same immersive gameplay experience on other devices - Mario's home is on Nintendo consoles!
VG247: Nintendo suffered – as did almost every game company – financial losses last year. What is the key to overcoming the downturn, and how healthy would you say Nintendo's future is going into Wii U and 3DS XL?
The 3DS has really started to build momentum in 2012 and we're looking forward to continuing this with the launch of 3DS XL, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance and New Art Academy and a strong evergreen software of titles like Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D land, Kid Icarus and Mario Tennis.
Combined with the launch of Wii U we're looking forward to a busy year ahead. Watch this space!