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Nintendo's 3DS add-on: Would you pay? Or should it go free?

Debate: Circle-pad expansion causes a controversy

Just over five months since Nintendo released the 3DS in Europe, rumours of a hardware revision began to be bandied around the streets.

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According to French website 01net - previously on the money when it came to the Wii U and PlayStation rumours - Nintendo's planning to introduce a new model featuring a second circle pad and a lessened emphasis on the handheld's headline 3D functionality.

Skip forward a few short weeks and Nintendo has confirmed those rumours. It will be introducing a peripheral that "attaches next to the system's face buttons" in order to provide a second thumb nub. The add-on is expected to be available in Japan by the end of the year to coincide with the release of a new Monster Hunter for the portable.

Gamers aren't strangers to hardware revisions, in fact given how prevalent the 'Slim' trend has been since the PSOne we've shown we're quite welcoming, but rarely has a hardware revision so drastic or been introduced so soon after release.

Technically the Expansion Slide Pad is a 'peripheral', and Nintendo will undoubtedly do everything within its power to present it as an 'optional' extra. However, there's no denying that it changes the hardware on a fundamental level - and more importantly - it splits the audience. For developers this means they're forced to design and create games for what are essentially two different devices.

Which raises a question: should Nintendo send the peripheral to everyone for free?

Though it might seem a bit unreasonable at first, this course of action isn't entirely unprecedented. Apple solved reception issues arising from an iPhone 4 design flaw by sending free bumpers to all iPhone 4 owners that expressed interest. Should Nintendo do the same in an effort to unify the 3DS audience again?

Admittedly in Apple's case it was a necessity to take responsibility and remedy a blunder. Nintendo's case is different. Or is it?

Gamers have made their needs for a second stick on portable consoles pretty clear, the house of Mario needed only to look at the PSP to see just how important it is.

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On top of that, a large majority of games being released these days actually require the functionality. Considering the success of Monster Hunter in Japan, its ability to make-or-break a platform - and potential to bring hardware back from the brink of failure - it would be pretty reckless to ignore it.

Having said that, PSP Monster Hunter players have endured without a second stick for years now and the popularity of the series hasn't suffered. It isn't a necessity for the game, perhaps, but it certainly would have made the 3DS even more appealing for both developers and consumers generally.

Nintendo hasn't mentioned whether it will be charging for the device but the timing of the announcement has led to speculation that it will be provided with Monster Hunter, and we're guessing any other games that use it will have it bundled in.

But should Nintendo do more to ensure everyone is on a level playing field? Is it in the platform holder's best interests to make sure every 3DS player has a second Expansion Slide Pad to avoid a fracture between developers and half of the handheld's audience in the future? If so, should we be forced to fork out the dosh?

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