[Update: Nintendo of Europe has confirmed to Gamestop that the New Nintendo 3DS is also being discontinued in that region. Meanwhile, a Nintendo of America representative told Polygon “this announcement does not affect Nintendo of America territories, as the model in question was only sold in limited quantities as special offerings.”]
Nintendo is discontinuing the last of its compact, flip-top, stereoscopic 3D portables in Japan. The New Nintendo 3DS — which includes extra RAM, more shoulder buttons and a second analog nub over the original system — is no longer being produced for the Japanese market, according to a post on Nintendo’s Japanese website. The original 3DS, which was replaced by the new 3DS, was discontinued in 2014, along with the original 3DS XL (referred to as “LL” in Japan).
The move leaves the Japanese market without any standard-sized 3DS hardware that supports the system’s ever-popular stereoscopic 3D feature. Japanese players who want a system with a smaller form factor and screens are now stuck with the Nintendo 2DS, which doesn’t have stereoscopic 3D. The larger, flip-top New Nintendo 3DS XL is still sold with a glasses-free stereoscopic display, but it appears to be being replaced by the recently launched New Nintendo 2DS XL, which omits the 3D feature. Nintendo has reduced its focus on the 3DS line’s stereoscopic 3D capabilities for years. Recent games like Super Mario Maker for 3DS go so far as to completely ignore the feature and say directly on the box that the game “plays only in 2D”.
Cutting off production from the smaller stereoscopic system could be seen as another nail in the coffin for the gimmicky (and expensive) 3D displays. But it can also be seen as an admission that the form factor of the smaller 3DS has become less and less popular over the years. In its most recent fiscal year, Nintendo sold 1.38 million units of the larger New Nintendo 3DS XL in Japan, compared to just 120,000 units of the smaller New Nintendo 3DS.
North America shows slightly more relative interest in smaller new 3DS hardware – 400,000 sales in the past fiscal year – but the larger XL still sold a much healthier 1.39 million North American units over the same period (there is anecdotal evidence that those numbers may also be limited due to limited stocks). The lower-cost Nintendo 2DS seems to be the most popular choice for small-screen handheld Nintendo computers, selling 490,000 units in Japan and 770,000 units in North America in the past fiscal year. It is not clear whether Nintendo will stop production of the standard format New 3DS in the rest of the world. Even if it does, it shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Nintendo is leaving the 3DS line in favor of the Nintendo Switch. The XL and 2DS editions of the portable line are still selling at a decent price, and the release of the New Nintendo 2DS XL confirms Nintendo’s commitment to continue supporting the 3DS in the future. That said, in the past we’ve seen sales of Nintendo’s older handheld systems drop rapidly after the introduction of a new handheld, so we’ll see what effect the Switch has on the market.
Either way, Nintendo’s latest portable hardware move is helping to further simplify a lineup of portable hardware that’s become impractical, with six different options released since the hardware first debuted in 2011. Selling just three of those. options in Japan (and four in North America) is probably enough for now.