Admitting failure is usually not an option for Nintendo. Now that the 3DS has had well over a year to settle in, Nintendo's president Satoru Iwata finally admits that 3D might not have been the most compelling feature to push onto consumers.
Nintendo tried to usher in 3D back in 1995 with the Virtual Boy, a virtual reality headset and controller combo that was capable of displaying 3D graphics. Its major flaws were that the system could only display games in shades of red and people complained about headache symptoms.
The Virtual Boy was a huge flop. Then last year, Nintendo thought it would be a good idea to revisit 3D, this time with a parallax barrier screen that allows for glasses-free 3D. Needless to say, consumers responded by shrugging the 3D effects off as a gimmick, and not a necessity.
Realizing that 3D was not selling, Nintendo started to downplay 3D in its marketing campaigns for the 3DS and refocus the handheld on having exciting games.
Now, for the first time, Iwata acknowledges that although he thinks 3D makes games more immersive, it's not necessarily the future it previously thought it would be:
So, now we've created the 3DS and 3DS XL and also have some games out there that are really using that 3D effect that we can see, from my point of view, that it's an important element. But as human beings are this kind of surprise effect wears off quickly, and just have this 3D stereoscopic effect isn't going to keep people excited.
But I think it's an important element, it makes graphics more impactful, it proves a sense of immersion that 2D doesn't have, so I would say generally that 3D is better than 2D. It's nice to have good graphics but not necessarily on their own, so I don't think we'll present [3D graphics] as one of the key features of our consoles but will probably stick with 3D as one of the minor elements of our consoles in the future.
Iwata isn't condemning 3D forever (never say never!), he's just saying that entertainment is perhaps better left in 2D (at least for now or until our eyeballs become impervious to 3D strain).
That said, we can likely deduce that the 3DS's successor will not have any glasses-free 3D in it. Phew, we're seriously sick of this 3D stuff.
Iwata dropped a whole list full of interesting nuggets on the state of the 3DS, 3DS XL and Wii U. If you've got a few minutes to spare, the Independent's full interview is well worth the time.