Interview with Nintendo3DSBlog Owner, David Turnbull

Many, many years ago, in 2010, the Nintendo 3DS was announced at E3 2010. I was only 12 back then, and as soon as news broke, I quickly had to learn everything I could about the device. I soon stumbled across a trio of websites that became my first series of gaming news sources: Nintendo 3DS Blog, Nintendo World Report, and 3DSBuzz. Only one of them is still standing today (NWR), but the former was by far the biggest inspiration to me, and became my go to news source for many years, spawning lots of memories for the 3DS launch for me.

In preparation for an Eternal Memories trilogy on the 3DS system I plan to start this year, over on the Seafoam Gaming Youtube Channel, I figured I’d start by interviewing the man who basically kickstarted my interest in video game journalism, David Turnbull. Thankfully, he was more than happy to get back to me and answer questions about the 3DS Launch, the aftermath, and his eventual career change. Light Blue will be me. Red will be David.

Question 1: So, what inspired you to create the 3DS Blog back in the day? It seemed like it was a thing around when the 3DS was revealed atE3, but what made that system the one to create a news site over, compared to something else from that year like the NGP (proto-vita), or the Kinect?

As a teenager, I’d started a bunch of websites about video games — in fact, the first website I ever made money from was about the Nintendo DS — so starting another was a fairly inevitable process.

The reason for making a website about the 3DS was just pure luck. I saw the first press release about the 3DS within a couple of hours of it going live, which gave me the chance to grab some good domain names and setup the blog. I always find it motivating to be the first person to do something, and I think the first mover’s advantage played a big role in the success of the blog.

It also helps that I’d mostly played Nintendo games growing up, so I felt comfortable writing and talking about the company and its products.

Question 2: Did you ever expect the 3DS Blog to take off as much as it did? What exactly did you think helped propel it to be a widely viewed source of information?

I’d been working for myself for a few years at this point, so I felt like it could do well, but it did much better than I’d expected. I think there’s a few reasons it was successful:

I was blogging about the 3DS since the day it was announced, meaning I was the first source of 3DS information that most people encountered.

I produced a lot of content. I remember someone complaining that my face would pop-up whenever they searched for 3DS information on YouTube, which was both funny and true.

People felt like they knew me. This kept people coming back and engaged with whatever I put out. It also made it more fun for me, and I think that enthusiasm came through.

Question 3: Likewise, did you think when making the Nintendo3DSBlog Youtube Channel that it would lead to a bunch of cool things to happen, such as your current job, other devs reaching out to you, and even the trip to Japan that you had with a friend for the 3DS Launch? What exactly led to that taking off, you think?

The YouTube channel was the biggest wild-card. It was a completely new experience for me and I didn’t have any idea of where it would lead. All I knew it was that it was scary putting videos of myself on the internet, and that felt like a good enough reason to do it. (I got a lot more comfortable over time.) Then it became a significant source of income, traffic, and opportunities.

Part of the reason it took off, I think, was because it was so focused. This helped me rank well for lots of 3DS-related search terms, and lots of people ended up knowing me as “the 3DS guy”. That did eventually prove limiting — people didn’t like when I branched out to the Wii U, etc – but it made me stand out in the early days of the channel.

Question 4: Speaking of that Japan trip, I vividly remember you having an awesome livestream on the 3DS’s launch where you and your friend tried out the 3DS Japanese lineup, had some pizza and showed off the features of the system. I don’t think this has ever been archived so it may have been a one in a lifetime event for viewers at home like me to remember, but what was your favorite part of that trip, even excluding 3DS related things? Did you enjoy touring the cities and arcades, and what was it like attending a Japanese System Launch?

My friend and I had never been overseas before, so the entire trip was a blast, but some particular highlights include:

Sleeping in an internet cafe overnight

Getting bitten by a deer

Drinking “Pancake Juice” (it was gross)

The system launch was exciting, in that I’d been working toward this moment for the previous 10-11 months. We didn’t go to one of the major launch events though, so the event itself wasn’t that spectacular.

Question 5: Unfortunately, one thing that I also remember was that mere weeks after your trip, the Tohoku Earthquake of 2011 took place and devastated a good amount of Japan and also screwed up some upcoming game launches: Dead or Alive Dimensions and a One Piece game were the biggest games impacted by this, and it also caused thecompany Irem to stop game development and shelve one of their major projects. (Which has only just now gotten revived as Disaster Project
4 for PS4 and Switch) Did you ever reach out to anyone you visited in Japan to make sure they were OK? In fact, were you at all close to being impacted?

Fortunately, all of the people we met in Japan — which, to be fair, wasn’t that many people — were okay. The earthquakes happened a week after we left, but while it’s a little scarry to think about the possibiltity of the trip lasting longer than it did, I don’t think we were necessarily close to being impacted as I can’t imagine a reason we would have extended the trip.

Question 6: So after all that, the US and PAL launch would take place a month later. Despite the popularity of the blog, did you think that it was expected for the 3DS to start as poorly as it did, with that launch lineup and pricetag? Or did it come as a shock to you?

It wasn’t that surprising. The price was definitely higher than a lot of people expected. The launch lineup also didn’t have any must-have games.

Question 7: One of the biggest 3DS moments in 2011 was the sad cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3. As probably the most upsetting cancellation of the 3DS’ lifecycle, were you at all disappointed by it in any way, shape or form? I think even as a non-mega man fan back then, hearing of a sequel to a cliffhanger ending getting cancelled was quite the sting, especially when the 3DS could have benefitted from an Action RPG like the Legends series.

I’ve never actively been a Mega Man fan, so it didn’t sting as much as it did for other people, but it was one of the more interesting looking games coming to the 3DS, so it was disappointing from that perspective.

Question 8: In July of 2011, Nintendo announced that the 3DS Pricetag would get slashed and early adopters would get 20 Virtual Console games as ambassadors. Was this announcement a shock to you, in any way? And what did you think of the Ambassador lineup, or how the GBA games are still ambassador exclusive?

I can’t recall if I was surprised or not. I think it’s a solid line-up though and am actually surprised the GBA games are still exclusive. I don’t think anyone would complain if Nintendo made them non-exclusive at this point.

Question 9: So in late 2011, when the 3DS was picking back up slowly but surely, and things sounded fine for the handheld, you ended up doing a great initiative on the blog to raise over $5000 for Charity: Water. What was that like, and since it was a success, did you ever get a followup on how that village is doing today?

The fact that we raised that much still blows my mind. It also made my grandma quite proud.

I haven’t specifically followed-up on the village, but Charity: Water did post a report about the well:

Question 10: 2012 came, and it seemed the blog was slowing down to prepare for more work on your Wii U Blog you had open at that same time. But even back then, I noticed the Wii U blog you made wasn’t nearly as popular as the 3DS content, even on your youtube channel… Did you worry about how that system would perform, and in the end, when it ended up not doing so hot and the 3DS kept rolling on, did you ever reconsider doing two blogs at once?

I was concerned about how the system would perform, but part of the issue was that there wasn’t enough 3DS content to sustain the blog and the channel, so even though the Wii U content turned out to be less popular, it still reached enough people to justify doing it. I should have delegated more of the work earlier on though, which would have made running two blogs more practical.

Question 11: Speaking of which, how was managing the blogs and youtube channel back then? You were doing it solo from what I recall, and that was probably very taxing. As a freelancer myself, just managing my one review site is stressful enough, but you were managing three content channels at one point!

It was hectic, but I did enlist some help from Franco — a member of the community who helped quite a bit with posting content on the blog in the latter couple of years. Fortunately, I’m a bit of a producitivity nerd, so I felt like I was producing a good amount of output for the amount of time I was working. That made it easier to justify the time and effort I invested. There were definitely periods of burnout though, so if I were to do it over I would make more of an effort to delegate and automate some of the work.

Question 12: Likewise, did you ever have any issues with the fact that your Youtube Channel was named “Nintendo3DS”, before Nintendo could use that youtube name? Did you ever have any copyright troubles at any point?

There were never any copyright issues. Nintendo did contact me at the end of 2010 though and asked if they could have the YouTube channel. They also offered me a Nintendo 3DS and some games if I gave it to them. By this point though, I had thousands of subscribers and had already booked my trip to Japan, so I said that I didn’t want to hand it over and they didn’t push me.

Question 13: When all was said and done, however, you eventually closed up shop on the 3DS, Wii U Blogs, and youtube channel in 2014. What was that like, moving on to new adventures? And how has life been the past five years, have you ever thought about those old days, and have other clients reached out to your about that site?

It was nerve-wracking. When I closed it all down, I didn’t actually have anything lined up to replace my income. Fortunately, by the end of the year I’d self-published a book about JavaScript and was making enough money to survive. Over the last few years, I’ve worked for a handful of different companies and the 3DS blog has played a role in getting each of those jobs.

I do still think about the blog from time to time — it was an important and exciting part of my life — and I do enjoy looking at the YouTube channel every now and then to see the occassional nostalgia comment that comes in.

Question 14: With the 3DS finally at the end of its life this year, it’s clear that the system has had a good eight year run. What was your favorite 3DS game throughout this entire period, whether it was due to covering it, or just finding a game and having a blast with it?

It’s a bit of a silly choice, but I bought some turn-based dinosaur-fighting game on the day of the 3DS launch in Japan, and it was by all means a terrible game, but my friend and I stayed up most of the night playing through it, making up dumb stories about the dinosaurs we encountered.

Question 15: Last but not least, do you have anything to share with our readers, such as where they could find you, or words of inspiration for other freelancers that started work in the field due to being inspired by your work?

These days, there’s not many places I can be found online. I’m on LinkedIn, but I only actively use it when I’m searching for a job (and I’m quite comfortable where I’m working at the moment).

As for words of inspiration, I’ve always found the most success when I focus on creating things that I want to exist. It’s a lot easier than building something just because you think it might be popular.

And there you have it. Fifteen questions from me, answered by David. He may not be active in the Nintendo scene anymore, but I’m very thankful that he was for a while, as it helped inspired me and a few others I know to produce Nintendo content. Before I became active on GoNintendo, 3DSBlog was my go-to source, even when I was on NintendoLife for a bit, so I’m very happy to have gotten this opportunity.

Unfortunately, the blog is long-gone, though you can find it by going to the Internet Archive and seeing what it used to be, via Nintendo3DSBlog (Dot) com. His youtube channel is still live though, and you can see it here. Named Nintendo3DS, as always.

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