Last year during E3, when I asked Nintendo’s head of marketing Doug Bowser (no relation) about the future of StreetPass, he didn’t have much to tell me. The Nintendo 3DS feature, which allows users to sync up with others through a background passive connectivity, is mostly a handheld endeavor, meant for collecting puzzle pieces and playing mini-games in the Mii Plaza. It’s fun, but perhaps not a vital part of the system’s identity.
At the time, he also couldn’t reveal much about the next installment of Super Smash Bros., which of course, we all knew was inevitably on the way. But now the topic has come back up with the recent official announcement of the next installment of the all-star fighting series. What is the future of the Switch as a hybrid handheld/home console? Will StreetPass finally come to the Switch now that Nintendo has another choice opportunity to implement it?
StreetPass, as a feature, has always had its flaws. It’s exciting to use in a large public setting where there are plenty of other eager users to tag, but those occasions are few and far between, especially as the years have gone by. But when you do get those moments, they’re a lot of fun. The mini-games, while shallow, are a great icebreaker for engaging other 3DS players, and the blooms of Nintendo fans at each PAX West, for example, gathered on bean bag chairs around charging hubs, are among my favorite gaming community sights. StreetPass, at least for me, was effective in encouraging me to take my 3DS with me wherever I go.
As the popularity of the Switch holds steady and the 3DS grows older, I wonder what will become of StreetPass. When I spoke with Bowser at E3 2017, he made it sound as though Nintendo is not abandoning the 3DS anytime soon, noting that development for the handheld is going strong. With that in mind, Nintendo might not want to make their own hardware obsolete by blurring the line between the Switch and the 3DS any further.
It’s also possible Nintendo might not find the addition of StreetPass to the Switch compelling. On the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros., the feature unlocked a mini-game, StreetSmash, that was enjoyable, but not exactly groundbreaking. It hardly pushed the use of StreetPass past the point of novelty.
Nintendo may also intend to keep local wireless multiplayer on the Switch without ever adding StreetPass. After all, it’s not required for connectivity, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe did just fine without it. And as I pointed out, it’s not like StreetPass has offered a can’t-miss Nintendo experience before. With the discontinuation of the Miiverse (not to mention the short-lived Miitomo), maybe they’ll eventually scrap the community and personal avatar-like aspects of Nintendo consoles all together.
But if Nintendo were to bring to the Switch some of the same social aspects that made me slip it into my purse for portable playing in the first place, I’d probably retire my 3DS forever. The Switch works so well as a handheld that, outside of its slightly larger size, I have few reasons now to take out my 3DS. If Nintendo wished to eventually transition out of the pressure to keep two distinct console devices on the market and consolidate into one, while emphasizing the Switch’s portability, adding StreetPass to the Switch might be a good way to support that.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.