When Nintendo announced the 2DS a short time ago, the internet was almost united in its level of befuddlement. Why remove the one thing the original system was sold on: its ability to display 3D images without the need for special glasses? It seemed like a backwards step for Nintendo and an admission that the 3D bubble had officially burst.
However, following from our hands-on impressions of the North American hardware we've been able to spend some quality time with the European variant — which is of course very much the same. To say it confounded our expectations is an understatement; far from being a device to poke fun at, the 2DS feels like a refinement of the original console and could put Nintendo's tech into the hands of more people than ever before. We've outlined the reasons for our positive outlook below.
It's, You Know, For Kids
Nintendo has always gunned for younger players and both the 3DS and 3DS XL continue this trend — but the 2DS takes this to the next level. The hinged screen of the 3DS may protect the displays during transit, but it's also a massive point of weakness — especially if the owner is an especially heavy-handed preschooler. By opting for a slate-like design and fashioning the system out of chunky plastic, Nintendo has made the 2DS as kiddie-friendly as possible. It may not have the expensive brushed metal casing of the iPod Touch or iPad, but the 2DS is robustly built and feels reassuringly sturdy.
The 2DS also deals with the white elephant which has been in the room since the 3DS launched a few years back: how can you sell a games console to kids when its key selling point — glasses-free 3D — isn't recommended for younger players due to the damage it can supposedly do to their eyes? Granted, you can turn the 3D effect off on the 3DS, but we imagine that many concerned parents forced their offspring to stick with the ageing DS instead of picking up the newer model, largely out of fear that it would render them blind and, in truth, lack of tech-savvy in realising parental settings will do the job. With the 2DS, that is no longer an issue — provided Nintendo can communicate effectively the differences (not to mention similarities) of the various models.
The 3DS isn't as expensive as it once was, but the importance of getting below that $130 / £110 barrier cannot be understated. It pushes the 2DS into impulse purchase territory for adult players, and makes the system an incredibly attractive proposition for parents looking for a Christmas present for their unruly offspring. Consider the comparative prices of the PS Vita and Apple iPod Touch — arguably the 2DS' biggest rivals on store shelves — and you'll see what we mean. This holiday season is going to be a pivotal one for handheld gaming, and by launching a slate-like system for such a low price, Nintendo has given itself an excellent chance of entering 2014 with impressive hardware sales under its belt. We'd have liked to have seen a sub-£100 price point here in the UK — though various regions may see competitive pricing from keen retailers — but you can't have everything.
It's Smaller Than You Think
When many gazed upon the first shots of the 2DS, they assumed it was using screens roughly the same size as those seen on the 3DS XL. In fact, they're much smaller — and as a consequence, the system itself has a smaller footprint. OK, so it's not going to fit into everybody's trouser pocket, but it won't take up as much room in your bag as you might expect.
Abandoning the clamshell form factor has its own benefits, too. Games can be started without having to open the machine up, and the way in which you hold the 2DS removes the hand cramp issue that impacted some 3DS and 3DS XL owners. Although it's obviously wider and more stubby, the 2DS reminds us of the Game Boy line of consoles — and that's no bad thing.
More Choice Means More Sales
The arrival of the 2DS means there are now three variants of the 3DS hardware on the market. You might assume that each system will cannibalize the sales of its siblings, but as Apple has proven with its iPad and iPad Mini, giving consumers more options means you actually gain additional sales instead of losing them.
The 2DS opens up the market for different gamers — and we're not just talking about youngsters, either. The low price and appealing, uncomplicated design will convince older players — such as those who were swept away by the hype for Brain Training on the DS but haven't dabbled in handhelds since — to recommit themselves to the realm of interactive entertainment. Just as the DS was able to turn a generation of grey-haired grandparents into button-mashing experts, the 2DS could achieve the same objective.
One Word: Pokémon
Never underestimate the power of Pokémon. It's no mistake that the 2DS will be hitting store shelves on the same day as Pokémon X & Y, and the arrival of the latest instalment in the evergreen franchise will ensure a steady stream of new buyers. With its attractive price point there's an excellent chance that the 2DS will be the model which benefits most. Don't be shocked to see Nintendo bundling the game with 2DS systems — perhaps as a pre-installed download — as Christmas approaches. Such a move would surely lock down the festive season of 2013 in emphatic fashion.
Now you've had time to read and digest our thoughts, how do you feel the 2DS will fare at retail? Will it be a smash hit, or is its fate to be cruelly ignored like the Game Boy Micro? Perhaps you've already pre-ordered the system and will be using it as your main handheld? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.