I’m sure your child has been eagerly awaiting the Nintendo 3DS, but with a $250 price tag, does it have enough new features to justify an upgrading from an older model? If you are a first-time DS buyer, should you get an older, cheaper system or wait until the winter holidays to buy this shiny, new model?
I struggled with these questions all this month as my 8-year-old son obsessed about the new 3DS. This is what I discovered.
Unique features of the 3DS
As it says in the name of the device, a stereoscopic screen creates 3D images without the need for special glasses. The Nintendo corporation doesn’t recommend that children 6 or under use this mode. The 3DS can be set to 2D mode if the 3D aspect is a problem, and it can be locked into 2D mode with a parental PIN number.
New games are being released that take advantage of this 3D technology. The 3DS will play older 2D Nintendo DS games, but 3D games will not work on older Nintendo DS devices. A special design in the game cartridge of 3D titles prevents them from being inserted into older DS machines. But since the 3DS can play older games, you won’t have to replace the library of Nintendo cartridges your kids may already have.
The 3DS also comes with an activity log that records what games are played and for how long, letting you keep track of how long your child has been playing. This is good for enforcing limits on game time when the kids know you can check on it.
Just as your smartphone pulls extra duty as a Web browser, email client, and text program, the 3DS has many uses as well. It will be able to purchase and display popular 3D films directly on the screen, as well as showing Netflix.
A new messaging system allows players to message each other through the 3DS once they've exchanged an identification code. The code exchange is designed to ensure that messaging only happens between people who know each other, but the method isn’t foolproof. If you purchase a 3DS for your child, make sure to disable or monitor this function.
How does the 3DS compare to earlier DS models?
Compared to the DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL, the 3DS has a much shorter battery life: 3 to 5 hours, compared to the 9 to 15 hours for the older models. This could be good for helping keep play time from being excessive in one day, but bad on car trips or other places where recharging isn’t easy. You can prolong the battery life by turning down the brightness and switching to 2D mode.
The 3DS screen is bigger than the DS Lite and DSi, but not quite as large as the DSi XL. The colors are better (24-bit color vs. 16-bit color in the display of the older models), and the back side of the 3DS has two cameras that are able to take 3D pictures.
Is the 3DS worth the price?
Like any new device, the question boils down to whether it serves your needs in an affordable fashion. If your child already has an older model, there isn’t really a must-have feature on the 3DS. Until a new game comes out only in 3D that your child really wants, an older model will serve you just as well.
In fact, if your child doesn’t have any of the Nintendo DS products, this would be a great time to pick up an older model. New units run from $130-$190, and used models are going to be flooding the market as people upgrade to the 3DS. If you buy used, be sure to use a service like eBay that offers protection from scammers (and will help you get your money back if you get cheated).
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How to find the best deal on a 3DS
If you do decide to purchase a 3DS system, this can be a great time to do it. Kmart, ToysRUs, and Target are offering discounts on the 3DS for trading in older DS models. GameStop and Amazon also have trade-in deals on their sites at the time of this writing.
If you decide to wait on purchasing the 3DS, you’ll probably be able to find similar deals closer to the holidays, though the amount offered for trade-ins may be lower as older models become less desirable. On the upside, more games will be available in 3D, and you see more “buy one, get a second for 50% off” kind of deals.
Now that your child has a 3DS
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you monitor your child’s daily usage of the video game system. Try tying play time to a reward system. In my house on school days, my son knows he needs to do all of his homework first, and then he can have 30 minutes of play time. Once we instituted that rule, we no longer had to fight with him about doing his school work.
You can extend this idea further by making your child earn the 3DS through chores or achievements. Make it a reward instead of a gift, and your young gamer will appreciate it more. Alternately, have him save up for it himself if he has an allowance or gift cards from the holidays and birthdays. Then take a special trip to the store, and have your child hand over the payment to the cashier himself. You can apply the same idea to the $40-$50 game cartridges for the system.
More stories from Tecca:
- Nintendo 3DS launch preview
- Nintendo warns against 3DS gaming for kids under 6
- A first look at Nintendo's 3DS game lineup