In an article last month, I suggested that news of the PS Vita not hitting shelves until 2012 would have left Nintendo executives feeling as if they'd dodged a bullet - I was clearly mistaken. On August 12, Nintendo dropped the price of the 3DS to US$170, leading to a 260% jump in sales. A month later, just when you thought it was safe to buy a 3DS, Nintendo officially introduces the 3DS Slide Pad - which adds a second analog joystick to the 3DS.
It won't fit in the case you carry your 3DS in, it requires an AAA battery to function, and if you want to continue using the 3D capabilities of the 3DS, you'll need to hold the resulting franken-device off to the right of you.
This isn't the first time we've seen an awkward looking add-on released to extend the capabilities of a games console (remember Sega's CD-ROM and 32-bit cartridge add-ons for the Genesis/Megadrive?) but it's certainly the first that I can remember that was announced within six months of the console itself.
If the uncharacteristically poor battery life and the agonisingly long wait for original first-party games had you suspicious that the 3DS was rushed to retail long before it was ready, I'd consider this Nintendo's red-faced admission.
The "dual analogs" setup first debuted in 1997 on Sony's DualShock controller for the original PlayStation, and remains the standard for console gaming. Ironically, the absense of a second analog stick on Sony's PlayStation Portable (released some eight years later) became the system's achilles heel - a mistake Sony could not fix during the many iterations of the hardware without alienating the existing userbase, and did not make again with the upcoming PS Vita.
It is categorically impossible that the issue of a second joystick did not come up internally during the design phase, or externally from developer feedback.
When the news first broke online via an article scanned from Japanese magazine Famitsu, the Slide Pad was supposedly created solely for one game, Monster Hunter Tri G. We now know that several upcoming titles including Biohazard (that's what they call Resident Evil in Japan) and Metal Gear Solid will support it.
Nintendo has left it up to you to ponder whether the second joystick will be incorporated into the inevitable future revisions of the 3DS. Nintendo stock has unsurprisingly dropped since the announcement.
I'm keen to hear what the 3DS owners in the audience think of this.
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