Place Your Bets: Will Nintendo 3DS Dual Thumbsticks Take Off?

By  |  Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

One thumbstick is rarely enough when you’re playing modern video games, so Nintendo’s 3DS is giving gamers a second stick via a $20 peripheral.

The Circle Pad Pro, which launched in Japan this month, is coming to the United States on February 7. The attachment snaps in around the base of the Nintendo 3DS, and includes an extra shoulder button as well. It requires a AAA battery to operate.

Here’s the issue: Existing games won’t work with the Circle Pad Pro, and developers will have to design future games to support dual sticks. So far, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D and Resident Evil: Revelations are on the roster of supported games.

In general, adding a non-essential peripheral to a gaming device is a risky move. Games designed exclusively for a peripheral have a smaller potential audience, but game developers who try to accommodate both control schemes can end up with watered-down designs. For instance, Playstation 3 games that are retrofitted to support the Playstation Move feel less accurate without a traditional controller, and gimmicky compared to games that are designed with motion controls in mind.

Fortunately for Nintendo, the 3DS is less than a year old, so its user base is still pretty small, and I have a feeling early adopters will want to pick up the extra thumbstick. Also, dual sticks will make cross-platform development easier between the Nintendo 3DS and the Playstation Vita, because both devices will have similar control schemes. As a result, we may see more 3DS games prioritizing or even requiring the stick, which in turn will increase user adoption. And there’s always a chance that Nintendo will launch a new 3DS model with the second stick built-in, cementing it as the standard.

I’ll be rooting for the Circle Pad Pro. As MSNBC’s Kyle Orland points out, buttons and sticks are the main advantage that dedicated gaming devices hold over smartphones and tablets. A second stick would serve gamers, and Nintendo, well in these trying times.

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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Aaron Martin-Colby Says:

    Not a chance. Nintendo has a history of these silly additions, and none of them have worked.

  2. Sir Fatty Says:

    Nintendo has kind of missed the boat here. Both of my kids have since abandoned their DSs and are strictly iPod Touch users.

    But the Vita is problematic as well, so it’s not just Nintendo.

    Apple is slowly taking over the world, unfortunately.

  3. @Jasoco Says:

    The requirement of a AAA battery is enough to keep me away. I only use AA batteries. And the fact that it's not powered by the 3DS itself is bullcrap. I won't buy a 3DS until they release a version with both sticks built-in. Mario and Zelda will still be around when they do so I can wait. And I'd only buy it because I can't play Mario and Zelda on my iPad.

  4. Dried Fruit Says:

    Once something seems inadequate or broken I will change my tune in a heartbeat, but so far, it ain't broke, so I'm in no rush to fix it.

    The whole fragmentation issue is meaningless to me. It might be a greater concern if I were an Android developer, but I'm not and fragmentation isn't harming me in any way that I notice.