The 3DS eShop: What You Need to Know
Nintendo dishes out details on its online store for the 3DS handheld and gives us an early look.
While it was conspicuously absent from the system's debut, the Nintendo 3DS eShop is finally scheduled to launch next Monday, June 6. Users will be able to access the eShop by downloading it over a Wi-Fi Internet connection. We've compiled a list of questions and answers to help 3DS owners get a better understanding of what the eShop service is all about and what they can expect in its early days.
Q: When will the eShop be available, and how long will it take me to download?
A: The eShop will be available late in the day on June 6. The size of the file to download is just about 50MB, so it shouldn't take more than a few minutes on a fairly decent Internet connection.
Q: Is Excitebike being given out as a free downloadable gift in North America, or is that a Japan-only thing?
A: The good news is yes, Nintendo is letting people download Excitebike for free after downloading the eShop software to the 3DS and accessing the store. Excitebike is the first in a series of games called 3D Classics where classic Nintendo games get a 3D update to take advantage of the system's 3D display capabilities. Additionally, while the game remains largely unchanged (aside from the 3D), some changes have been made to the track editor, and there will be opportunities to share tracks with other users. Otherwise, it's pretty much just Excitebike, but with a slight 3D effect.
Q: Will Excitebike always be free?
A: So here is the bad news: Excitebike is free for only 30 days from release. After that, the price shoots up to $5.99.
Q: What's the eShop going to look like, and how will it be different from similar things Nintendo has attempted?
A: Nintendo basically describes the eShop as one long shelf that goes side to side on the bottom screen of the 3DS (the top screen is used to display images in 3D where applicable). This shelf is stuffed with different categories that you can then tap on to reveal a sub-shelf of items within that category. For example, if Nintendo makes one of the items on the eShop shelf Mario-themed, you can click on the icon and presumably see every piece of Mario software available for download on the 3DS.
These customizable categories are important from Nintendo's standpoint because the company believes it will make it easier to show you the best content the 3DS has to offer and not just the most recent stuff. Future categories may display games based on holiday themes, or games that are easy to pick up and play for a few minutes before turning off the system. There's even a Staff Pick category that features a specific game--in this case, the first Staff Pick on the eShop will be Cave Story. Nintendo has made everything quite flexible, so at the very least, there should be plenty of variety for the categories.
Q: Will I be able to search for and keep track of certain games on the eShop?
A: Yes. The search functionality on the eShop is surprisingly robust. Not only will you be able to use standard searches, but you will also be able to search for games based on popular search phrases that other users have inputted into the system. Additionally, you can modify searches to retrieve more granular results by searching for game characters and genres, like puzzle games featuring Mario. As for keeping track of certain games, you can actually bookmark upcoming games by adding them to a wishlist. That makes it easier to jump right back to that spot in the store in case you aren't able to make a purchase right away.
Q: What about charts? Everyone loves charts.
A: Yes. Yes they do. The eShop will be able to display charts that highlight the most popular games, the most downloaded games, the most watched videos, and other similarly user-driven trends. Think of it as another easy way to discover content.
Q: Aside from Excitebike and Cave Story, what software is going to be available on launch day? How much will it cost?
A: Let's start with the Virtual Console. Much like the Wii, the 3DS eShop features a Virtual Console section where you can download classic games. The first three games available will be original Game Boy games, including Super Mario Land, Alleyway, and Radar Mission. Super Mario Land will cost $3.99, while Alley Way and Radar Mission are $2.99, so it appears that there will be a premium for high-profile games.
Outside of the Virtual Console stuff, nearly all of the DSiWare software should be available. Moreover, Nintendo will release a separate piece of software called Pokedex 3D--a comprehensive guide to the 150 or so new Pokemon introduced in Pokemon Black and Pokemon White. The Pokedex not only features individual stats like height and weight, but also displays more intricate information, such as what a Pokemon will evolve into and when, as well as when they receive certain abilities. Moreover, you can find out things like which Pokemon use a certain skill. There's a ton of information.
Q: How much is the Pokedex, and are all of the Pokemon included? Do you have to catch them all?
A: The Pokedex is completely free. You will have access to only 16 Pokemon initially, but you can retrieve more via the 3DS SpotPass service, which will generate three random Pokemon data sets to add to the collection. You can also trade data with other Pokedex users, or you can increase your chances of receiving a certain type of Pokemon by retrieving an AR card (augmented reality card), which--when viewed with the 3DS camera--displays the Pokemon on top of it.
Q: Cool story. How will I be able to pay for the stuff that isn't free?
A: Nintendo has switched its commerce model over to actual dollars, so there's no more weird guessing work involved in how points translate into actual money. You can either use prepaid cards that come in increments of $20 or use credit cards to add increments of $5, $10, $20, or $50. You will be able to have only $200 in the virtual wallet at any given time, and you will be able to spend only $1,000 per month. While that seems kind of odd, Nintendo reassures us that this amount is more than enough for the content that will be available. And sadly, game gifting is not yet an option.
Q: How often can we expect new content on the eShop?
A: Nintendo plans to roll out new eShop content every Thursday and will provide the appropriate messaging through the eShop and not through SpotPass, because it wants to avoid spamming people. However, it sounds like the company hasn't ruled out the possibility of tailoring its messaging based on individual activity logs and games played.
Q: Will we be able to download full retail games? What about demos?
A: No, at least not yet. Still, it's worth mentioning that the eShop features a retail channel where you can check out 3D screenshots and videos of upcoming games. This section is also where you can give games ratings as long as you've played the game in question for at least an hour.
Q: Isn't the 3DS's Web browser going to be available in this update?
A: Yes, you will be able to browse the Internet on your 3DS by downloading the Web browser. What makes the browser especially cool is that it can view designated images in 3D, making it easier to get an idea of what a 3DS game will look like on the system. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean it's compatible with all 3D display technology on the Web. It won't work with YouTube's 3D movies, for example.
Q: What about Netflix?
A: Netflix is still coming as a separate download later this summer.
Q: And we'll be able to transfer our DSiWare games to the 3DS with this update?
A: Indeed! By going to the DSiWare store with your DSi or DSi XL, you can download a tool that will let you transfer most (a small amount of software is non-transferable) DSiWare products to the 3DS, which has the transfer tool built-in. Once its transferred, the software will no longer be available on your DSi or DSi XL.