The eShop is Nintendo's best ever digital store
Nintendo's previous forays into digital distribution have yielded mixed results, often more negative than not. Both the Wii Shop Channel and DSi Shop started promisingly enough (especially the former due to the presence of the Virtual Console service), but ultimately became a dumping ground for countless low-quality games designed to prey on unsuspecting 'casual' gamers.
While each service undoubtedly had its gems - WiiWare had the Bit.Trip series, a selection of great Telltale adventures and Mega Man 9 and 10, while DSiWare had ArtStyle PiCOPiCT, Cave Story and Dark Void Zero - they're both ultimately remembered more for their detritus than their delights.
This is probably why the 3DS eShop is mainly ignored by gamers, but there are already some excellent games available on it. Pullblox and its sequel Fallblox are quirky and addictive puzzle games, as are Picross e and Picross e2. Meanwhile, the likes of Crimson Shroud, VVVVVV, Hydroventure Spin Cycle, Liberation Maiden, Mighty Switch Force and the upcoming Harmoknight are also high-quality titles well worth getting.
The 3DS eShop may have a higher ratio of quality titles than its predecessors, but it's still not without flaws. The Virtual Console service on the 3DS eShop is building its own sizeable collection of titles (at the time of publication, there are currently 71 Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear and NES games available to buy), but many of them are still on the expensive side.
It's hard to justify paying £4.50 for the NES version of Donkey Kong Jr when Vita owners can buy the likes of Motorstorm RC for a similar price.
There's also a serious lack of non-gaming apps on there. The aforementioned lack of Netflix on the European eShop is frustrating, and it would be nice to have some dedicated Twitter or Facebook apps on there, if only to make life a little more convenient. A YouTube app is also a no-brainer - especially since YouTube supports 3D video - but there's nothing like that to be found. As it is, the only free app of any worth is Nintendo Letter Box, a charming message-sending service.
Nintendo needs to get into the habit of regularly allowing discounts for many of its eShop games. Many of its 'card downloads' (digital versions of full-price 3DS games) are £39.99, a price even more expensive than you'd expect to see in most shops. While on rare occasions this may pay dividends for Nintendo - hundreds of thousands of copies of the digital version of Animal Crossing were sold in Japan when the retail version sold out everywhere - for the most part there's no real reason to buy a digital version of a game when it's up to £10 more than the physical version.
That said, we've already seen numerous discounts on the Wii U eShop so hopefully that bodes well for the future of its handheld digital store too.
There's no real online multiplayer community
Other than the odd exception (Mario Kart 7, for example) the 3DS has yet to find many games with a solid and online multiplayer community. Those games that do have online multiplayer features are generally busy for the first couple of days then quickly become a bit of an online wasteland.
In fairness, this is partly down to the nature of the 3DS itself. As a handheld system designed to be played while out and about, Wi-Fi signals aren't always widespread or reliable, and there's no 3G version of the system. As a result, most 3DS users get the most optimal online settings when they're at home, but in that situation there are usually consoles sitting there with a much larger online community to interact with.
That said, the system doesn't do itself any favours with its bothersome friend request system. There has been some progress made but it's not ideal: whereas on the DS you had to swap friend codes for every single new game you bought, on the 3DS you have a unique friend code that, once swapped, adds players to a universal list.
The friends list shows which players are online and what game they're currently playing but there's no messaging system, making it difficult to get their attention and arrange match-ups. A scant few games (such as Mario Kart 7) let you join their game in progress, but for the most part your only options are to contact them some other way (be it using your mobile phone or email) or send them a message in the Letter Box app, which while delightful doesn't send messages in real-time, meaning your friend may not get it until long after they've stopped playing.
Hopefully, the future integration of the Wii U's Nintendo Network and Miiverse services will improve this system, not only making it easier to contact friends but also to meet and add new ones through the Miiverse's many different forums. The upcoming Pokémon X and Y will also no doubt cultivate a constantly bustling online community, as has always been the case with Pokémon games. For now, though, playing on the 3DS is very much a solo experience.