Yesterday, the interwebs exploded with people speculating wildly about the new right circle pad add-on for the 3DS and what it might mean for the future of the fledgling handheld. In the interest of quelling some of the freaking out, I contacted Nintendo for more information, but unfortunately couldn't get anything more out of them than the same PR release they sent to all the other outlets:
We can confirm that Nintendo plans to release the Circle Pad attachment, but Nintendo's regional subsidiaries will make further announcements about its availability at a later date.
That's not a whole lot to go on, so until we get more information at this upcoming 3DS press conference on the 13th, I wanted to offer up my opinion on the subject based on what we know so far.
Nintendo has a history of tweaking its portable hardware, but never in a way that changes the games that can be played on it. They'll make the systems larger or smaller or different colors, but the changes are cosmetic and doesn't affect gameplay. Which is why I am still skeptical that this attachment adding a second analog circle pad and two additional shoulder buttons will lead to a new hardware SKU that includes them built in.
The 3DS got off to a rough start with people complaining about its launch library (although technically, the DS launch library was less impressive in comparison), and the fact that many of its much-touted features (The eStore and web browser) weren't available at launch (and full-length 3D movies still have yet to materialize in any form). Then, to boost flagging numbers, Nintendo dropped the price, which spiked sales, but risked alienating early adopters who were placated with free NES and GBA games. So I feel like an entirely new hardware configuration would further erode confidence in the 3DS and create a PR nightmare that would be extremely difficult for Nintendo to give a positive spin.
I had originally thought that the add-on was simply something that Capcom had come up with to solve the problem of adapting the Monster Hunter controls to the 3DS, but Nintendo's statement would seem to indicate that it's a Nintendo accessory. This leads me to believe that other developers would be encouraged to create games that use the attachment, but it would be similar to Rock Band instruments or the Wii Motion Plus attachment, in that not many would.
So until Nintendo announces that they are creating a new 3DS SKU that incorporates the new controls, I'm not going to freak out. And as I said, I really can't see them doing it because of how gamers would react. If you thought the interwebs exploded just from rumors and speculation, imagine what would happen if there were actual facts to go on!