Earlier this week, a scanned page from the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu surfaced online showing a right thumbstick embedded into a cradle-like attachment for the Nintendo 3DS. It turns out this "Circle Pad" is an official Nintendo accessory that it will be introducing it "at a later date," as told to CNET by Nintendo via email.
Since the text accompanying these photos describes Capcom's Monster Hunter 3G, a 3DS expansion of the popular Wii and PlayStation title in Japan, the peripheral will probably be bundled with that game when it launches in Japan, rather than become an essential attachment that current owners must purchase separately.
There is speculation that the peripheral signals a 3DS redesign in the works just months after the handheld console was launched, and that early adopters should be given this updated cradle for free or will cost a nominal $10, but Nintendo has not confirmed anything else beyond acknowledging this attachment is legit and not just a Photoshop project. I can't speak to Nintendo's future plans but from the upcoming 3DS titles I got to preview for this holiday season, none of them require this Circle Pad so I find it hard to believe Nintendo would be further risking the ire of customers by making them buy a new accessory for their relatively new device. Besides, I don't know how practical this design is considering I have yet to break open the cradle that came bundled with my 3DS; after all, who wants to hold onto extra bulk when playing on a mobile device?