Just one day before Nintendo reveals its next console, the company will update its recently launched 3DS handheld with its first major system update, which adds the much desired and podcasted eShop. Nintendo walked through us (and by us, I mean yours truly and the mysterious operator of the Nintendownload-Xpress) through a finalized version of the eShop here in San Francisco.
Nintendo of America director of eShop operations David Wharton, a position only a few months old, was there to show off the revamped digital marketplace. It only took a few moments for the eShop to prove itself far superior to the current experience on DSi, but that's not really saying much, seeing as how Nintendo's marketplaces are currently a total nightmare to navigate and buy anything.
It's a little more than just a ROM with some 3D gimmickry, too. In 2D mode, Excitebike looks exactly like Excitebike, albeit better controlling thanks to the circle pad. Move the slider into 3D, however, and the perspective tilts back to reveal more of the environment, including the sky.
It's a remarkably cool effect to manipulate, and shows a little more thought was put into the 3D than layered sprites. Nintendo's even included much needed save slots for the track editor.
Wharton said there would be a "steady stream" of additions to the "3D Classics" line, but didn't reveal anything more. I do remember a 3D version of Punch-Out!! looking great at last year's E3.== TEASER ==
Virtual Console launches on June 6, as well, but only with Game Boy games. The promised Game Gear and TurboGrafx-16 titles are coming eventually but not at launch. Super Mario Land will be available and priced at $3.99, with backup from Alleyway and Radar Mission at $2.99 each.
You might notice the complete lack of references to "points." That's intentional; points are gone in the eShop, replaced entirely by regular ol' dollars and cents. Warton said game releases on the eShop start at $1.99 and move up in dollar increments. As of right now, there's no way for companies to create promotional codes as on other services, so don't go wait around for giveaways yet. There will also not be any demos at launch, but Warton said it's not something that won't appear eventually on the eShop.
Purchasing through the eShop is roughly the same experience as the rest of Nintendo's digital storefronts. The eShop accepts Visa and Mastercard, in addition to retail cards, but it will not save your information. There's hope, though, as Wharton said it's only this way "for now." One addition Nintendo's made is the "Wish List," which does exactly what it says. You can add unreleased games to the list, but you can't digitally pre-order those games ahead of time.
All of this information is tied into your Club Nintendo account, though you can't view the "Wish List" outside of the eShop. You do, however, earn redeemable coins from purchasing games--no never-ending surveys yet! Wharton didn't rule out the ability to access things like the "Wish List" on Nintendo.com, but it definitely sounds like Nintendo is laying down some long-needed infrastructure to create portability of accounts, friends and software from platform-to-platform.
There are some much needed interface tweaks, too, such as the ability to start a search through the eShop from the main menu. The search will prove useful at launch, too, as the eShop will have most of the content from the DSiWare store, resulting in over 350 pieces of content all on June 6.
"Most" content being the key word, unfortunately. Here's what won't transfer at launch:
- Art Academy First Semester
- Art Academy Second Semester
- Asphalt IV
- Crash-Course Domo
- Earthworm Jim
- Flipnote Studio
- Hard-Hat Domo
- Let's Golf
- Nintendo DSi Browser
- Oregon Trail
- Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon
- Pro-Putt Domo
- Real Soccer 2009
- Real Soccer 2010
- Rock-n-Roll Domo
- SUDOKU MASTER
- SUDOKU SENSEI
- Sudoku Student
- White-Water Domo
Wharton said Nintendo was working to have the entire library become transferrable eventually. The old content's also been beefed up with more information, with Nintendo adding screen shot galleries and videos for much of the content in the store, including all of the old games, too.
In general, there's just more ways to browse content from the user's perspective and more options for Nintendo to categorize it. Some of the launch categories include simple stuff like two-player and four-player software and a listing of everything Mario-related. Nintendo even has the option to promote existing and upcoming retail releases on 3DS and didn't rule out the possibility for Wii games, either. There's also a news feed and charts tracking the most purchased games.
For all ya'll Pokemaniacs, Nintendo's also launching the ridiculous PokeDex 3D. If you've wanted an obsessively detailed encyclopedia of Pokemon rendered in 3D, with listings of each individual Pokemon's powers, form changes and basically anything else, PokeDex 3D seems neat. It doesn't feature every Pokemon ever, though, only the ones from the recent Pokemon Black/White. You don't have access to all of them from the start, either. Instead, you receive 16 random Pokemon. You'll collect the rest through direct exchanges with friends and Spot Pass.
PokeDex 3D's available at launch, too, and in addition to being free when the firmware goes live, it'll always be free.
Nintendo's online services have been the butt of jokes, to the detriment of some of the great games featured on both the console and handheld services. The eShop seems to represent a good step in the right direction, but what's more important is what Nintendo does after the launch to support the evolution of the eShop and the changing nature of what consumers want. The formation of the division Wharton is part of seems to imply Nintendo's getting ready to listen. Here's hoping that's true.
And, yes, we've heard the music. But that, dear reader, is for another day.