The Circle Pad Pro, which launched in Japan this month, is coming to the United States on February 7. The attachment snaps in around the base of the Nintendo 3DS, and includes an extra shoulder button as well. It requires a AAA battery to operate.
Here’s the issue: Existing games won’t work with the Circle Pad Pro, and developers will have to design future games to support dual sticks. So far, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D and Resident Evil: Revelations are on the roster of supported games.
In general, adding a non-essential peripheral to a gaming device is a risky move. Games designed exclusively for a peripheral have a smaller potential audience, but game developers who try to accommodate both control schemes can end up with watered-down designs. For instance, Playstation 3 games that are retrofitted to support the Playstation Move feel less accurate without a traditional controller, and gimmicky compared to games that are designed with motion controls in mind.
Fortunately for Nintendo, the 3DS is less than a year old, so its user base is still pretty small, and I have a feeling early adopters will want to pick up the extra thumbstick. Also, dual sticks will make cross-platform development easier between the Nintendo 3DS and the Playstation Vita, because both devices will have similar control schemes. As a result, we may see more 3DS games prioritizing or even requiring the stick, which in turn will increase user adoption. And there’s always a chance that Nintendo will launch a new 3DS model with the second stick built-in, cementing it as the standard.
I’ll be rooting for the Circle Pad Pro. As MSNBC’s Kyle Orland points out, buttons and sticks are the main advantage that dedicated gaming devices hold over smartphones and tablets. A second stick would serve gamers, and Nintendo, well in these trying times.