Not one to be outdone by the reality show of Sony and Microsoft pre-launch antics, Nintendo proved they know how to make heads turn back in their direction. On a day where the headline should have been the price drop of the Nintendo Wii U to $299, Nintendo surprised everybody by unveiling the handheld that nobody wanted: the 2DS.
Launching October 12, the 2DS will be able to play all 3DS software (and subsequently DS software) but with the 3D features permanently disabled. But the sheer terror of the handheld comes from the its hideous uni-body design. Rather than sticking with the clamshell aesthetic that Nintendo has rolled with since the Game Boy Advance SP, the 2DS will be a large chunk of plastic with the the two screens bolted on. The 2DS body is also not merely a rectangular block but has an wedged back that gives the system an appearance similar to a doorstop or an axe head. As a result of the new uni-body design, the analog and digital buttons have moved a few inches higher, so that they are positioned closer to the physical middle of the system. It’s an awkward looking item at a glance, but for the most part appears functional.
In statements released by Nintendo, they have claimed the 2DS will be marketed towards younger children. With its simplistic design and lack of 3D features I can see this as a sensible draw especially if the 2DS proves to be a rugged system. Also, at the price point of $129 the 2DS is significantly cheaper than the smaller screened 3DS ($169) and the popular 3DS XL.
The 2DS does fit into the history of Nintendo’s handheld division. The original Game Boy evolved from a hefty greyscale battery devourer to the svelte Game Boy Color to ultimately the Game Boy Advance family. The DS is in the midst of a growth period as well from its bulky inception to the pocket versions of the DS Lite to the easier to view DSi XL. The 3DS (considered part of the DS family) uses similar dimensions for both the 3DS and the 3DS XL. But will the 2DS fit into the evolution of the product line, or will it be another blip on the radar like the Game Boy Advance Micro?
Early reactions from gamers have indicated that while they are receptive of Nintendo’s goals to gear the 2DS towards younger kids (and parents who are wary of the effects of 3D on growing children), the system itself is just too odd looking and too unnecessary. The 3DS is a fantastic design already with a perfectly sized clamshell to carry in pockets or pouches (that also puts the console to sleep) and gamers not interested in 3D could already turn the feature off at will.
I can see the attractive proposition of adding an entry level system like the 2DS into a handheld system as dominant as the 3DS but it really hurts the brand as a whole. Nintendo is already suffering significant brand confusion between the Wii U and the original Wii. The 3DS also had a tough time out of the gates when compared to its DS predecessor. I just see an uphill battle for the 2DS to even gain consumers who are familiar with the product, let alone denizens of families who will line up to purchase one.
For as brilliant as they are, sometimes Nintendo just doesn’t get branding.