The Nintendo 3DS is the console that refuses to die. Even with the release of the Nintendo Switch, the 3DS is still selling strongly and at times, better than previous times. Just this last December, the 3DS sold around 750,000 units, a 27% increase from the previous year. With the 3DS doing so well, it would be foolish for Nintendo to end the console prematurely while it is still selling at well above average numbers. If Nintendo 3D systems are selling, then that means there are going to be games that need to be made. To everyone’s surprise, in this past direct Nintendo provided information on just that, a slew of new games headed to the console. These new titles, however, have an unusual commonality that they all share, they are all already popular or easier to create—or to put it another way—Nintendo is just cashing out the 3DS, and it already started late last year.

Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey

Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey
Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey

While not the first announced 3DS title of the event, it was certainly the strangest. Mario & Luigi getting a 3DS port is not unprecedented, the first Mario & Luigi title, Super Star Saga, recently received a 3DS remake late last year. It provided updated graphics, controls, and a whole new side story to experience; overall it was a solid remake of one of the best Gameboy Advance games. The strange thing about creating a remake of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story isn’t that a remake of the series is being made, it’s that the third game of the series is being remade before the second. In terms of release, the Mario & Luigi series goes as follows:

It creates a strange gap in terms of releases. For those who started the series as part of the remakes, they will most likely completely miss the second entry of the series (for better or worse). If there was any desire or will in the future to bring Partners in Time back, it will be lost in the moment and will require a far greater effort to remake it in the future (if it will be at all). Rather than remaking a Mario & Luigi title that wasn’t as well received and didn’t sell as well, the more popular title was remade and given a whole new side story, skipping over the second in favor of getting more for doing less.

Luigi’s Mansion

Luigi's Mansion 3DS
Luigi’s Mansion 3DS

Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon was a fairly successful 3DS title when it released and would eventually find itself selling over 5 million copies. It took a one-off title and showed the potential of it becoming a series when moved to an environment that would take advantage of the smaller scale of the game.

Porting over the original Luigi’s Mansion makes perfect sense, but it is also an extremely easy move for Nintendo. Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon already exists, allowing many assets and designs to be easily retooled or reused. Nintendo also already knows that there is interest in the original game as the success of Dark Moon is evidence of that. Additionally, there is also the complete lack of a virtual console on the Nintendo Switch, so there is no competition or potential cannibalization that could exist by bringing it to the 3DS.

In short, it’s easy money while still putting out a new product.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker 3DS
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker 3DS

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker receiving a 3DS port was a complete surprise in the series of announcements, especially as the game has been out for nearly four years. Nintendo had played with the idea of porting Wii U titles to the 3DS before with Yoshi’s Wooly World and Hyrule Warriors, but outside of those two scenarios, didn’t port any other additional games over. With the fact that Captain Toad Treasure Tracker is coming to both Switch and 3DS shows that Nintendo isn’t concerned about any potential cannibalization of the game for Switch owners, but that the larger market of the Nintendo 3DS is more important. It also shows that Nintendo can save development effort when creating more 3DS titles, if they are being developed for one platform such as the Switch and have the potential for being on the 3DS, they can and will still take advantage of the larger market.

The Pattern

The three titles mentioned above are just the most recent example of Nintendo cashing out on the Nintendo 3DS. In the past few months, Nintendo has also launched such titles as:

  • Kirby Battle Royale
  • Mario Party: The Top 100
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions

With the exception of Pokémon Ultra Sun/Moon, all of these titles also share the similar patterns of the recent 3DS titles announced. They are either remakes, compilations of existing items, or a simple cash out of taking a popular figure and placing it in an underperforming game. Nintendo has always had a fluke or two as part of its 3DS lineup, but since the inception of the Nintendo Switch, those underperforming games have become all the more common. While the games that are not underperforming are simply remakes or ports of existing titles that have already found their success.

It is clear that at this point in the 3DS life, that it has reached a point where the quality of the titles has dropped, but the draw of these titles through other aspects such as franchise or concepts has not. It allows Nintendo to both appear that it is continuing to support the 3DS while it continues to sell, but in reality is cashing out on creating easier to produce content that can still achieve a large number of sales due to what it simply is. For example, consumers love Mario Party, but Mario Party: The Top 100 doesn’t have the same quality as other Mario Party titles that have released on the 3DS. On the outside, it appears that Nintendo is still supporting the 3DS with titles, but in reality, they are simply doing the least amount of effort to take advantage of the larger market and drive interest with titles lacking quality or simply ports being brought over to the system.

Essentially, Nintendo is just cashing out the 3DS, without explicitly stating it.