Nintendo's commitment to 3DS may turn sales drop into price drop

The 3DS has had an interesting eight-year life cycle thus far. Sales of the handheld started out weak, prompting Nintendo to drop its price not long after launch. That price cut seemed to spark something in consumers, as the 3DS went on to be one of Nintendo's most successful pieces of hardware. Then the Switch launched in 2017, and though it fills mostly the same purpose as the 3DS, Nintendo has stated many times that it will continue to offer the 3DS as something of an entry-level console for those who may be new to gaming.

Still, even with Nintendo's commitment to continue offering the platform, sales have naturally been falling since the Switch launched. Here in 2019, the 3DS – which released way back in 2011 – is beginning to feel somewhat dated, especially when placed alongside the Switch, a more powerful platform that can be played on a TV but also serves the handheld gaming niche that the 3DS has dominated for years.

In a recent Q&A session with investors (as discovered by Ars Technica), Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa admitted that sales of the 3DS have "contracted" faster than Nintendo anticipated they would. Only 2.85 million 3DS units were sold throughout all of 2018, which represents more than a 50% decline in sales year-over-year.

As a gaming platform, it's clear that the 3DS is beginning to wind down. That isn't just from a hardware perspective, but from a software perspective too. The 3DS is often nowhere to be seen in Nintendo's roundups of weekly eShop releases, to the point where when a new 3DS game is released, it's something worth talking about. In terms of Nintendo's own software development, the 3DS has clearly taken a backseat to the Switch, and though Nintendo isn't ready to say that the 3DS has reached end-of-life, its release schedule certainly suggests that supporting the platform is no longer a priority.

Despite slowing sales and a rather barren release schedule, Furukawa insists that the 3DS is still appealing as a portable system or as a first console, so Nintendo will continue to offer the Switch and 3DS alongside one another for the foreseeable future. With that said, it sounds like 2019 might be the last year that Nintendo takes this stance, as we imagine sales will only continue to dwindle. The good news, on the other hand, is that we might see a 3DS price cut at some point this year as Nintendo tries to woo the few holdouts that remain before calling it quits on the 3DS entirely. Stay tuned.