The Nintendo 3DS digital marketplace, otherwise known as the eShop, is now over one year old. Now is a good time to look back on its early life and see how the Nintendo 3DS eShop has fared and where it is likely going. It’s no secret that the eShop fumbled out of the gate, but how is it doing now? Is it still having issues or is it starting to become a hit? I’ll first talk about the game releases and then the eShop system itself over the course of the past year.
Looking back to the North American launch of the Nintendo 3DS, the eShop was nowhere to be found. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be until early June, over three months since launch, that the new digital marketplace would finally launch. The launch itself was actually strong with releases of the classic Super Mario Land and Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX for GameBoy Color. Not to mention, a free Pokedex 3D app and a free limited download of the 3D Classics: Excitebike. Those that never had the DSi before were also now able to download any of the many great DSiWare games that instantly became available to them.
At the time things were looking up, or so it seemed. The DSiWare section of games still had great games released every week with usually two or three per week. Some great games like Antipole and Go! Go! Kokopolo! were released over the summer. Even now there are still great DSiWare games being released, such as Amoebattle and future potential great games like Spirit Hunters Inc. The DSiWare section had it going for it in terms of content available and the potential was certainly there for Virtual Console and 3DSWare games as well. But unfortunately, in those early months, it never came to fruition.
Excluding DSiWare games, those early months saw barely any releases. At most we saw was a one VC game and at worst we saw only DSiWare games released. Some of those VC games were of quality like Super Mario Land 2 and Donkey Kong ’94. But mostly the VC greatness were few and far between. Where were the original 3DS apps and games? Shouldn’t we have had some at or at least near launch? Weren’t their talk of demos at E3? These are some of the questions Nintendo faced from its consumers early on as week after week of sparely releases.
While slowly, some original and 3DS only apps did start to make its way to the eShop. Nintendo Video was an original idea from Nintendo. Music videos, trailers, and short skits were created in 3D for the app. The app was limited to four spots, so anything to got auto downloaded was usually gone in a week. Nintendo Video had its own rocky start with it trying to find its footing in the community. Eventually the series Dinosaur Office helped the service become enjoyable. Netflix was promised and was then released in mid August. Having Netflix on the 3DS was a big plus for anyone that wanted to watch TV shows and movies around the house and on the go. Being a flip design system also helped to make Netflix more enjoyable and easily place-able anywhere as long as you had internet. Another entertainment service, known as Hulu Plus, was also mentioned as of coming to the Nintendo Wii and 3DS systems. And while it did eventually get released on the Wii, it has been noticeably absent these last 7 months past its original launch date estimate.
So those were some of the entertainment services, what about the actual 3DS eShop games? Where were those? Well, we did start to receive some, but usually one or two a month. During the 2nd half of the year, we ended up seeing some great 3D Classics games like Xevious and Kirby’s Adventure and one dud known as Urban Champion. But as far as 3DSWare specific games? We barely saw any during the 2nd half of 2011. In fact the only two 3DSWare games we saw before November were Let’s Golf 3D and Pyramids. Both of which were released three months apart from each other. While decent and fun games, both were not exactly known for being killer apps.
So as you can see, up just until November the eShop was mostly in a sorry state with basically the only thing really keeping it alive were sparse VC games and weekly DSiWare games. Things looked bleak at this point. Why was there no Nintendo produced 3DSWare games outside the 3D Classics family? Luckily Nintendo had something up its sleeve with its first Nintendo Direct event. November was the introduction of Freakyforms from Nintendo and the much celebrated and killer puzzle game, Pushmo in December. December was also the beginning of major 3rd party 3DSWare games such as Mighty Switch Force, VVVVVV and Zen Pinball 3D.
The early parts of 2012 while slightly light did have several big hits on it’s hand such as the beloved Mutant Mudds, Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword and Dillon’s Rolling Western. March just so happened to see three releases to the GameGear VC lineup. While the much creative and addicting app Colors! 3D and 3D pretty Ketzal’s Corridors say it’s releases in April.
Unfortunately while things were starting to look up, the month of May saw not many releases. Luckily though this was not a repeat of last year with June firing up with great games such as Art of Balance TOUCH!, Order Up!!, Marvel Pinball 3D and Bomb Monkey at the end of the month. All four were welcome additions to the eShop.
So 3DSWare games and apps have started to really come in and flourished, but what about those VC games? Sadly, in the last six months, we have only saw less than ten VC games get released. What also made this annoying was the fact that Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land, which was released for several months in both Japan and Europe, have yet to see the light of day. So things have been pretty bad for VC this year so far. But hope is not lost yet, as Nintendo will be releasing two VC games for the eShop per week for eight total this month.
So that brings us up to speed on the games to come out of the eShop since launch, but what about the service itself? How has it fared? One thing that was a big welcome was a major overhaul of their marketplace. The Wii Shop service was only a big category list with no way to really recommend games and DSi Shop was even worse with no categories and only showing 2 results per page. This made finding excellent games in either challenging. So what would the eShop do different? Well, it ended up being used to show interesting and exciting games and showcasing them to you. This made finding quality games a lot easier. Though with no official categories, finding specific type of games would become hard. To help correct this, Nintendo had updated the eShop’s look with a second row to be filled with category like features. For example, the VC and Retail lists are now found down here. There is still an issue with no official category system on the eShop, but this does help the system out.
Another issue happened to be that you could only add specific amounts to the eShop wallet instead of the required amount if you were low. This would later to upgraded near the end of 2011. Now a days, if you don’t have the correct amount, you can directly add the left over required amount to your wallet.
A big issue that plagued the eShop for months was the download system itself. Like the Wii and DSi Shops before it, you could only download one game at a time and you had to stay on that screen for it to download. Even for fast small games, this became an issue when you needed to download five games at once. Like the eShop wallet issue, this of course was also fixed. Now it is possible to add up to ten games to your pending download list to be downloaded automatically while your system is in sleep mode. This basically means that your pending downloaded games will start to download anytime you close the system but keep its power on.
So as you can now see, the eShop swindled for a long while for its time in 2011 but finally started to really bloom during 2012. So where does that leave things for the future? Right now, things are promising. While the lack of VC games is still an important issue, we will be receiving two VC games per week for this month. That makes eight total. This also happens to include Kirby’s Pinball Land and Super Mario Land 3: Wario’s Land. Where does it leave the VC service after July though? This is an uncertain however.
While the VC service might end up being slow after July, we can rest knowing that original games for the 3DSWare service is going strong so far and looking to continue on strongly for the rest of the year. We have much to look forward to, such as escapeVektor 3D, Cave Story+, ATV Wild Ride 3D, NightySky, Pinball Arcade and much more on the way. Not to mention both Zen Pinball games should start receiving DLC soon in form of new tables. This of course doesn’t even cover the release of retail games on the eShop naxt month. Perhaps I will have to do another article next year to look back and see how that is handled. If we’re lucky, we will see older retail games from last year for a discounted price and perhaps some DS titles added to the eShop.
So in the end, things are looking up for the Nintendo DS eShop service. The service might of had a late start and a rocky one at that, but it has now found its footing with a much improved environment and great games out now or soon coming. It is clear that Nintendo themselves have heard the complaints about the service and have done their best to fix and improve things. Let’s hope that Nintendo continues this but improving on the eShop even more as more great games continue to appear on the service.