Who is the 2DS for? Is it for the budget conscious consumer? Is it for the mother worried that her young children’s eyes will melt if they see 3D images? I personally don’t know who it’s for, and I posit that it is for no one.
So today, Nintendo announced the 2DS. It’ll launch alongside Pokemon X and Pokemon Y on October 12, in your choice of red or blue. Obviously, it doesn’t have that clamshell design, so the screens don’t fold. You can put it to sleep by flicking a switch on the bottom right of the unit. Also, obvious by its name, the system only displays in 2D. The screens are the same size as the original 3DS, and there’s only one speaker on the system, which outputs monaural sound. You can still plug in headphones however, which will deliver stereo sound. Feature-wise, other than 3D, the 2DS has all the functionality of the 3DS and even comes with a 4 GB SD card. It’s going to retail for $129.99.
Yeah, this isn’t a practical joke… which was my first reaction when I opened my Twitter feed. This is Alex‘s reaction when I told him about this, straight from Google Hangouts:lol wait. serious?
Does the mere existence of the 2DS imply that Nintendo has seen that 3D display is a fad? Kind of. The 3DS isn’t going away, but the 2DS would not be allowed to exist if the importance of 3D had waned. Nintendo no longer makes repeated mention of its “beautiful, glasses-free 3D,” only mentioning it when they have no other talking points. If the removal of 3D technology was a way to cut down costs, Nintendo has decided to go down that path to create a lower-cost handheld.
But was it necessary? I can’t envision someone who was reluctant to spend $170 on a 3DS, but would spend $130 on a 2DS. I suppose that if you’re buying more than one, say, for your kids, that $40 savings starts to multiply. I don’t know how prevalent that scenario is going to be, however. The kind of person who would have multiple kids to buy 2DS’s for is likely the same person who lets his or her child borrow the iOS or Android device from time to time. And can you imagine the confusion this will cause at retail? I was just at Target listening to an employee explain that the Wii U was a new system, and Wii U games would not work on their Wii. This is STILL happening, and now you’re going to have to tell people that even though the system has “2D” in its name, it can totally play 3DS games?
It’s no coincidence that the 2DS is launching the same day as the new Pokemon title. They need those kind of exclusives to get kids away from the iOS and Android devices. But will the parents bite? That all depends on how hard Nintendo can market Pokemon at kids and whether or not there are underserved segments of the market that the 2DS will niche into. Other than Pokemon, I can’t really think of any other franchise that could get kids to want a Nintendo product if they didn’t already have one. Not Zelda, not Mario Kart, but Pokemon. If they fail, the 2DS will turn into a novelty product like the Game Boy Micro did, and I’d much rather prefer them to focus their resources on improving aspects of their business that need more tending. Like, say, the Wii U.