It may feel a bit premature to be thinking about the ninth generation of video game hardware with the PS4 and XB1 release coming just last year. We seem to forget, though, that the eighth generation started in early 2011 with the release of the 3DS. That was more than 3 years ago at this point, and we're definitely at least half way to the inevitable release of its successor. Since I enjoy both writing and speculating, I figured I'd do a post on what we might see from the next DS. Let's start with a hypothetical spec rundown.
This thing had a rough start. Let's see if the next DS can get out the gate better. 3DS Successor:
Fall 2016 - $200
-Top Display: 4.7" 800x480 autostereoscopic IPS
-Bottom Display: 4.0" 600x480 capacitive IPS
-CPU/GPU: Quad ARMv7 & PowerVR GX6000
--Dual core ARM11 CPU from 3DS for BC
-Memory: 2GB LPDDR3, 8GB flash + SDXC
-3D 720p cameras (front & back)
-802.11n, BT 4.0, IR, NFC, Micro USB 2.0
-Stereo speakers + front & rear mics
-Dual vibrate motors for rumble
-Game carts 2-16GB in size
-Circle pad (2x)
-Plus d-pad (8-way)
-Face buttons (4x)
-Shoulder buttons (2x)
-Rear buttons (2x)
-Function buttons (3x)
-Accelerometer, gyro, compass
I figure the next DS will likely keep the clamshell design of its predecessors, along with a glasses free 3D display on the top (with a slider and the option to disable it in the system UI) and a touch screen with a stylus on the bottom. The key difference being a much needed upgrade to a capacitive panel for the bottom screen, thus allowing for multi-touch. I also see them keeping the 5:3 and 4:3 ratios for the top and bottom displays, hopefully with size increases from the 3.5" and 3.0" screens on the 3DS (but below the 4.9" and 4.2" screens of the XL). And given how ubiquitous they will likely be for mobile displays by 2016, IPS panels for better viewing angles would be much appreciated as well.
Keeping the clamshell, I see the next DS being between these two in size.
As for the internal specs, this would more or less keep up with the hardware curves. A quad core ARMv7 CPU (likely either a Cortex-A7 or A12), and a quad core PowerVR GPU (probably something from the circa 2012 Series 6 line) would likely make it more powerful than a Vita, and able to roughly keep up with the WiiU on visual quality if not resolution. For reference, the 3DS outclasses the PSP and is somewhere in the Wii ballpark. On the memory side, 2GB is what the WiiU has (the 3DS and Wii have 128MB and 88MB, respectively), so I figure this will probably be what this unit ends up with. Given where even budget smartphones are in 2014, what I'm proposing for a 2016 device being sold without a profit margin at launch would be perfectly doable for $200.
Everything else is pretty run of the mill stuff, ie: better cameras and newer wireless radios. I figure tilt as a gaming input will return from the 3DS, and I think it'd be pretty cool to add built in rumble, a second circle pad, and rear buttons below the shoulders as well. And since 3DS and Vita game carts currently max at 4-8GB, I figure we'll see 16GB carts to hold larger titles given that we'll have had a decade of 25GB+ gaming media at that point. Most titles probably won't use them, but I'm sure a couple of higher end ones will.
Please, just don't make this mistake twice. Put a second pad on the unit.
Nintendo's approach to the 3DS needs to differ from the DS in two major ways. The first is on price. For a device that targets the mid to low end in terms of technical power and is designed to have mass appeal, it needs to have a lower barrier to entry. The 3DS didn't sell at $250, and I don't think the next model will either. $200 is the cut off, in my opinion. I also figure Nintendo won't go down the proprietary memory route, so that cost won't be an issue for consumers either. I guess we'll see how the next couple years go for the 3DS. If another R4 cart style device pops up, they may feel the need to ditch SD cards.
More importantly than the price, it needs to have games. Along with the $80 price cut the 3DS had early on, it also got its first two exclusives worth buying that holiday with Mario Kart 7 and 3D Land. The next DS needs system sellers out of the gate. A Mario platformer is guaranteed to move hardware, a new Donkey Kong or Metroid would be cool to go along with it, and a new IP or a sequel in something we don't see often would be a nice way to round out a kick ass launch. Just keep 4-5 retail exclusives coming each year from there. As far as external development is concerned, allow for self-publishing and optional cross buy, and create a set of tools and APIs to cheaply and easily bring both mobile games and PC games to the eShop. That's really all Nintendo can do on that front.
Let's be honest: a 2D New Super Mario World would be an awesome system seller.
The last point I'll touch on is Virtual Console. First and foremost, the WiiU and 3DS need to use the same unified account system that keeps track of all your game purchases. When it comes to VC, those purchases need to track across platforms. No more upgrade fees, and no more double dipping on consoles and handhelds. It's anti-consumer and it discourages people from buying something that has an expiration date. There also needs to be a way to move your purchases over from your 3DS, and everything already on NES, SNES, and Game Boy VC needs to be available on day one (with the other platforms to come soon after).
The dedicated handheld has a place in this market. It's not going anywhere anytime soon. Whether it's kids, commuters, city dwellers, or the "core" demographic, there will always be people who want to game on the go and prefer quality titles and physical controls over touch screen time killers. If Nintendo plays its cards right from the onset, its next DS could be an immediate repeat success for them. And with my next blog post on how I think it should function with the new Wii, I think it could do even better than that.
This gave me a good laugh and I needed one more picture, so here you go.
That's all I got for now. Feel free to put your thoughts and comments below, and please upvote if you like what you saw. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you in a few days on my next post =)
LOOK WHO CAME: