The 3DS update newly pushed out by Nintendo is a small one, but a good one. Nintendo 3DS system owners may have noticed the new update on March 26, but it came - as updates from Nintendo so often do - without explanation. In addition to general usability and stability improvements, the update adds two new features to the 3DS, which turns two this week.
First, the 3DS update adds the ability to transfer save files attached to a retail game to a downloadable version of the game. This new save transfer feature ties in closely with the increasing prominence of downloadable full retail titles on the 3DS, and it allows players who are truly committed to the digital world to dump saves from musty old Game Cards to their shiny, invisible, digital version. The process doesn't work in reverse. Why exactly a player would buy a downloadable game they already have a card for isn't exactly clear, but the option is there for those who are so inclined.
Second, the 3DS update adds another feature with somewhat more widespread utility - an improved 'Download Later' functionality. Previously, the function - which is available, along with the self-explanatory 'Download Now,' upon completing a transaction in the Nintendo eShop - required users to actually close the eShop. Now, simply closing the system begins the download. It's a moderate speed enhancement, and it makes it easy to continue shopping on the eShop before beginning downloads.
The 3DS update has caused problems for some users, although Nintendo was quick to offer a fix. Some 3DS owners reported that they received an error message during the update that it failed, and couldn't access the eShop or System Settings after that point. Nintendo acknowledged the problem immediately, and offered a solution: turn the system off, then turn it on again while holding down L, R, A, and Up on the d-pad. This forces the update to resume and correct itself.
All told, the 3DS update is a minor one. But the continuing and increasing prevalence of full downloadable titles and DLC - both of which started less than a year ago, with the release of "New Super Mario Bros. 2," but have quickly become ubiquitous for major releases - make the new changes welcome. Nintendo lagged in all of its online elements for years. Compare the Wii's online options to the Xbox 360's or PS3's. You would think it came from an earlier generation altogether; its only innovation was the Virtual Console (a big one, admittedly). With the Wii U and the 3DS, they're playing catch up.
But it seems like Nintendo is getting pretty good at catch-up.