The 3DS' analogue slider add-on: Pros, cons, and potential screaming disasters
So that crazy-sounding gaffer-taped solution to the 3DS' non-problem of a not-actually-missing-because-it-doesn't-really-need-it second analogue stick actually appears to be real. Real and ugly. Coming in the form of a cradle attachment that the 3DS sits in, it adds a right analogue, a couple of extra triggers, a whole lot of extra bulk, and a torrent of aesthetic mockery potential for future PlayStation Vita owners sick of fielding digs at the GameGear-like countenance of Sony's new machine. Truly, it is a multi-faceted wonder.
But having looks that would make a baby cry isn't the device's only problem. Oh no, I see a whole bunch of potential mess-ups in its future, which I would now like to recount to you. Fear not though, there are good bits as well. Albeit, you know, way less of them.
Revealed by a feature in Famitsu regarding the upcoming 3DS Monster Hunter game (which will apparently make use of, and probably come bundled with, the gadget), the device has now been acknowledged by Nintendo UK, in one of those gloriously impotent PR statements that admit that a thing is happening but won't admit that the thing we've all seen that's forced them to admit that the thing is happening is actually the thing that is happening:
"We can confirm that Nintendo does plan to release the attachment but that any further announcements on the attachment will be made at some later time by Nintendo."
Nice. So then, pros and cons? Why, I have a bunch of those stacked up right here. Won't you take a moment to look at them? They're lovely, and fashioned from only the finest materials.
This thing will open up a whole load of new control options for the 3DS. With two sticks and potentially four triggers, it will have the same set-up as a Vita, or an Xbox 360 or PS3 for that matter, meaning that devs will have no reason not to make any sort of game for Nintendo's system. And let's face it, fully-featured 3D FPS with full, home-console controller options is a pretty nice idea.
This thing will split the market, and any hardware add-on that does so has historically done two things: confuse people and fail. With this thing remaining an optional extra for all four million early adopters, it will always be an optional extra for developers as well. With no guarantee that everyone has the add-on, games will need to be designed with two sets of controls available, or otherwise forgo support for the extra stick and buttons completely. Which makes fully optimised, dual analogue, four-trigger-specific games a bit of an unlikely prospect.
Above: At this rate, the new 3DS hardware revision will look like this
This thing will lead to a complete hardware revision, possibly to be announced at or around the Tokyo Game Show this month. And that will make things even messier. A twin-stick, four-trigger 3DS out of the box will further conflict devs, creating the impression that the fully-featured model is the de facto one to develop for, while still leaving the possibility of alienating four million customers if they do develop with its capabilities in mind. You either make your games unplayable by a potentially huge number of people, or you make Nintendo's up-specced revision a total waste of time and money.
This will cost Nintendo a stack of money. And at the moment it's money that Nintendo can't really afford to be losing. And for the reasons stated above, all the extra expenditure could end up being for nothing anyway.
It's going to piss early adopters off. If they have to pay for it, there will be a bloodbath, not to mention probably very low adoption rates, exacerbating all of the issues above. Even if Nintendo makes this thing free, convincing the masses that they actually need it is going to be an uphill struggle. Hell, Nintendo hasn't been great about convincing people that they even need the 3DS itself so far.
This add-on isn't necessary. The DS was fine without dual analogues. The 3DS is. The reason? That touch-screen covers all bases. Combine it with a d-pad or a left analogue and you've got a perfect approximation of keyboard-and-mouse control. The only real advantage here is the extra buttons, but as I said, they'll probably cause more trouble than benefits long-term.
Above: I can only imagine that Japanese text says "Holy shit, your 3DS is now the size of an N64!"
Look at it! Just look at it! It' s going to make the 3DS about as portable as a mountain. Though on the upside, it will stick out of your back pocket far enough to protect at least one of your kidneys from a gunshot, like some nouveaux World War II cigarette case.
It implies a worrying style of knee-jerking panic-management in Nintendo. For a company always so assured in its innovations to be freaking out and making such a severe step so quickly after a stumbling hardware launch is frankly disturbing. The PS3 had a bloody awful start, but Sony realised that all it had to do was take time solidifying the console's software line-up and (eventually) drop the price. Nintendo has done half of that already, but possibly due to the Wii's effortless success, it also seems to have gone nuts and forgotten how to properly manage and strengthen a gaming format in the case that it isn't a freakish over-night fad. And this point, way beyond all others, is the most worrying of the lot.