Image: Nintendo.

Anyone with an interest in the 3DS and an internet connection has surely already suffered through the news of an upcoming “control expansion pack” on its way to the 3DS. The device will add a second circle pad and an extra set of L and R triggers, not to mention one to two centimeters of thickness in all directions, to Nintendo’s handheld. 3DS enthusiasts the internet over have already contemplated it, raged about it, and gorged themselves on an endless stream of anger expressed in blog posts and forum comments.

The strange truth of this news is that there is very little of it. This is a story that has generated game-community meltdowns like few others in history, yet it is based entirely off of a single page piece in Famitsu magazine and a few tiny pictures. All Nintendo has done is confirmed that the peripheral exists and that it intends to sell it at some point.

The device lacks context. From the little that has been officially said, it is unclear whether the attachment is Monster Hunter 3G specific (a game that was announced along with it), whether it will be supported by Nintendo’s first party developers, and whether it will have to be purchased separately. The people at Nintendo need to get out ahead of this story and deal with it if only to stop the bleeding. Negativity, resentment, and product confusion are growing as this story spreads.

Nintendo has this aggravating policy of silence on rumours, no matter how absurd or image-damaging they may be. It needs to stop. The company also shies away from press access like few others, which leave obvious questions hanging over upcoming products, sometimes all the way until release. Again, it needs to stop.

Monster Hunter Tri

Image: Monster Hunter Tri. Capcom.

A massive range of peripherals have been released in the history of video games, yet very few have ever been burdened with the kind of world-ending predictions of this extra analog stick. Is this thing best likened to the many Wii add-ons made for specific games that were easily avoided (like the Wii Wheel and Wii Balance Board), or is it more like a semi-necessary Wii attachment like the Wii Motion Plus? Perhaps it could best be equated with utterly forgettable and unimportant gimmicks like the DS’s Rumble Pak? What if it’s far worse than that though? What if it’s like one of the many heinous Genesis add-ons that helped to bring Sega down? Its awkwardness and ungainly appearance, not to mention sense of rushed desperation, are certainly reminiscent of the kinds of hardware released by an incompetent Sega of the mid 90s.

Sadly, no one in the media can answer this stuff at the moment, as Nintendo has yet to explain the new attachment in any meaningful fashion. That’s left doom-sayers to interpret the news in the context of the 3DS’s already clouded environment, resulting in the widespread conclusion that this attachment represents an ugly course correction for a device not even six months old. A stop-gap created to keep third parties interested until a reworked “3DS Lite” can be released. It doesn’t help that 01net, the site which broke word of this attachment weeks ago (although no one believed it at the time), also reported that a massive 3DS revision, incorporating the advancements made by the add-on, would be released in 2012.

It’s entirely possible that the 3DS’s control expansion pack will turn out to be a meaningless peripheral that can go entirely ignored by the majority of 3DS owners. On the other hand, it could be an ugly near-requirement for all purchasers of the original 3DS, and a signal that Nintendo has fallen into reactionary panic mode. At this point, consumers have genuine reason to believe that Nintendo has lost confidence in its own products, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Nintendo needs to open up and tell us what is going on immediately. Some form of explanation is surely planned for the September 13th 3DS Conference, but that’s still nearly a week away. Every moment that the company waits damages its reputation further. Nintendo should explain to gamers and the gaming press what the control expansion pack is for, and whether we even need to worry about it. Communication needs to be done plainly, without dodging or PR speak. It shouldn’t be the last time, either. The internet’s panic over this add-on is only the latest in a series of troubling 3DS stories based on rumour brought about by lack of openness. Nintendo must begin to trust and respect its fans enough to give us that, or the company risks losing us.

The 3DS Control Expansion Pack: An Avoidable PR Nightmare