A few days ago Nintendo surprised everyone and announced a brand new addition to the 3DS family of system – the New Nintendo 2DS XL and the reaction from gamers was a bit… mixed. Not because the system isn’t a solid improvement over the original 2DS model (it is) or because it loses one of the 3DS’ least used features (it does) but because the messaging behind the new handheld seems a bit all over the place. I mean who exactly is this ‘new’ 2DS for? That’s the question I want to attempt to answer in this latest editorial from Link-Cable.
The original Nintendo 2DS model had a clear target audience – children. The system’s slate design gave it a solid frame that could survive repeated drops and mistreatment and it’s budget-friendly price made it an easy-sell for parents looking to give their kids a gaming experience without breaking the bank. The New 2DS on the other hand, seemingly abandons all of these points. The system features the same clam-shell design as all 3D iterations but has a smaller hinge that sticks out more than usual, which from appearances might be more fragile than say the New 3DS XL. Secondly, the price. The base 2DS currently retails for $99.99 USD ($109.99 CAD) while the New 2DS XL will be selling for $149.99 USD ($199.99 CAD). Definitely not a ‘family friendly, entry-level price’. In fact at that price it’s only $40 less than a New Nintendo 3DS XL or about half the price of a Nintendo Switch game console – a console that you can take on the go mind you.
So if the New Nintendo 2DS XL isn’t for children, then who is it for? Adults? Probably not. As it currently stands the 3DS family of systems has sold over 64 million devices, a respectable number for any system but it built this install base not on ‘hardcore’ mature titles (though a few third-party titles have slipped in) but on the family friendly titles that have helped make Nintendo a household name. A quick search of the best-selling Nintendo 3DS games of all time yield titles like Pokémon (X/Y Version), Super Mario 3D Land, Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Mario Kart 7. Fantastic titles in their own right but also a clear indication of who currently owns the most 3DS’s. And with the New Nintendo 2DS XL launching with games like Hey! Pikmin and Miitopia it’s unlikely that Nintendo will be re-branding the device to a whole new audience going forward.
But their is one group that I believe will best be served by the introduction of the New Nintendo 2DS XL – developers. As it stands, the 3DS market is split between the older models (3DS, 3DS XL and 2DS) and the ones sporting the ‘New’ branding (New 3DS, New 3DS XL and soon New 2DS XL). These ‘new’ systems obviously sport different features such as built-in amiibo support and more inputs like the C-stick but also feature a slightly more powerful processor, meaning that some games can only be played on a New Nintendo 3DS. So far Nintendo hasn’t split their games too much across these systems save for the SNES Virtual Console titles and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (as well as a few eShop games) but as we move forward it will be harder and harder for newer games to run on the older hardware – just look at the mess that was Hyrule Warriors: Legends and the very noticeable slowdown in the Pokémon games. Case in point – the older 3DS models simply can’t handle the new games coming out and in an effort to remove any possible confusion Nintendo needs to make all their 3DS systems standard and stop supporting two versions of the handheld.
That being said the New Nintendo 2DS XL is still, at its core the same system that released in 2011. It doesn’t reinvent the 3DS in a major way and if your already own a New Nintendo 3DS then you probably have no reason to switch over to a 2DS XL. The games will be the same, the system will have the same features and your experience will not change substantially whether you are playing in 2D or 3D. The 2DS XL will surely help extend the reach of the system, just like the other five models did but this one feels more like a play to standardize things on the back-end versus a must-own for consumers.
The New Nintendo 2DS XL is an odd system to peg. On one hand it takes the oft-maligned design of the original 2DS and modernizes it substantially and gives the system a slick, fresh look. On the other though, it’s hard to see exactly who Nintendo is marketing this system to and who they want to buy it. This may lead to an image problem for the device down the road as it attempts to justify its existence alongside not only the existing 3DS models but tablets, smartphones and Nintendo’s own Switch console but it is hard to resist the need for Nintendo to unify its 3DS market behind one consistent infrastructure, not only to help streamline development of new titles but to make it easier for consumers which 3DS (or 2DS) is right for them.