The Curious Existence of the Nintendo 2DS

Tom Mc Shea proposes answers to the myriad questions that are swirling around Nintendo's latest handheld announcement.

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Nintendo does not take revisions lightly. The Game Boy Advance SP and Nintendo DS Lite offered such marked improvements over their progenitors that they instantly became the de facto standards by which those portables were experienced. And the XL versions of the DS and 3DS caused similar waves, though not as severe. Bigger screens have a tangible benefit to a sizable segment of the gaming populace, ensuring these revisions justified their existence in a crowded handheld market. The news today that Nintendo is releasing a substantial redesign for the 3DS is much more of a head scratcher than a game changer. Questions arise--replacing the excitement that usually encompasses such announcements--as we wonder what the Nintendo 2DS says about the underlying motivations of the Kyoto giant.

The difference is apparent even at a cursory glance. Gone is the clamshell design that has defined Nintendo's portables for the last decade. Tablets have infiltrated the technological sector, and that trend has finally seeped into one of Nintendo's devices. Just don't expect the streamlined design that has become prevalent among the ubiquitous tablets that have flooded the market. Black plastic covers most of the system, and though there is just one screen, it has been separated into two nonsymmetrical sections so as to match the original specifications of the 3DS. Resembling a tombstone more than a gaming platform, the 2DS represents a puzzling step for Nintendo.

We wonder what the Nintendo 2DS says about the underlying motivations of the Kyoto giant.

However, the biggest change isn't to the aesthetics. As the name so cleverly suggests, the 2DS does away with the 3D technology that was paramount in distinguishing Nintendo's latest handheld from anything else out there. And it's this decision that's so baffling. The ability to see games in 3D without having to slap on a pair of unwieldy glasses differentiated the 3DS in ways more fundamental than its burgeoning software library ever could. Such a hook gave rise to clever rooms in Super Mario 3D Land and tricky puzzles in Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask that would have been annoying and tedious without the benefit of additional depth of sight. Nintendo had harnessed the 3D trend and contained it on a fast-selling portable for a reasonable price.

So why would Nintendo turn its back on its handheld's most noteworthy feature? The most obvious reason is price. By scrapping the 3D screen and clamshell design, Nintendo has been able to shave $40 from the retail price of the 3DS. Just nine days after Sony trimmed the Vita's price to $200, Nintendo has countered by offering a system that's a whopping $70 cheaper than its competitor. Not too shabby. And the 2DS hits at an opportune time. Pokemon X and Y will flood retail shelves the very same day as Nintendo's latest hardware revision, so for fiscally conscious parents, the 2DS is an affordable way to feed a child's unquenchable desire to capture, train, and fight wild animals. Kudos to Nintendo's attempt to expand the user base of the 3DS even further than it currently is.

Still, it's not like Nintendo to subvert the identity of one of its systems. The Wii Remote and Wii U GamePad were always packed in with Nintendo's last two consoles, and neither the DS nor the 3DS scrapped its second screen to halve its price. Nintendo has never been scared to stand by its decisions, even if certain people refused to embrace them. There are many out there who found the revolutionary Nintendo 64 controller clumsy, and the incredibly comfortable (though admittedly quirky) GameCube controller was sometimes considered too different for its own good, but Nintendo never relented by offering a DualShock equivalent. No, Nintendo spends years designing the core elements of every one of its systems, so it came as a major surprise when it shunned the feature most integral to the 3DS's design.

It came as a major surprise when it shunned the feature most integral to the 3DS's design.

The 2DS may be a tacit admission from Nintendo that the 3D aspect of its popular handheld was superfluous. Although both 3D Land and Layton contained elements that took advantage of such technology, they represent two tiny specks across a bountiful oasis of games that did little of note with the multidimensional canvas. Regardless of which developers helmed projects, 3D effects were relegated to inconsequential visual flourishes that could be safely ignored if you so desired. When even Nintendo itself has refused to create compelling arguments for why the 3D should be a core component of games on that platform, you know you're dealing with a technological gamble that was considered a mere gimmick by the powers that be.

And there are issues (both concrete and debatable) that go alongside 3D technology. Although optometrists have stated that 3D does not have a negative impact on developing eyesight, there are many who are still wary of introducing such displays to younger children. Not to mention that some people either cannot see 3D imagery at all or suffer headaches from prolonged viewings. Nintendo has addressed these concerns with the 2DS, even though it won't admit to doing so. Granted, the option to disable 3D either by flipping a switch or tinkering in the options menu always existed, but now there is a choice for those who have no interest in ever using this latest technology. In this way, the 2DS is a wise move that capitalizes on the market that always viewed 3D with either ambivalence or disdain.

Financial troubles also swirl around the 3DS's high-tech display. Ex-Sony employee Seijiro Tomita was recently awarded $15.1 million in damages from a case in which he accused Nintendo of borrowing heavily from his technology. It would not be surprising if Nintendo was attempting to distance itself from 3D to avoid being susceptible to further payouts. Such a decision would also be a smart move for a company that has found a way to ride the peaks and valleys inherent to the video game industry. After all, even though $15.1 million is but a drop in Nintendo's massive bank vault, it's much more profitable to wholly own your technology than to have an outside party stake a claim in it.

The 2DS is a wise move that capitalizes on the market that always viewed 3D with either ambivalence or disdain.

There are reasons that Nintendo may not publicly comment on that could have fueled its latest redesign, but there are still questions that linger. Why, for instance, would America and Europe receive the 2DS while Nintendo's Japanese office currently has no plans to bring it to its home country? Does price not matter as much overseas? Are parents not as worried about their children's eyesight? Or is the 2DS simply too large and unsightly? Such motivations remain unclear, so we must wait until Nintendo speaks directly on this matter. Furthermore, although there are reasons (both stated and unstated) Nintendo has traveled once more down the two-dimensional road, the way in which it has done so is questionable at best. Nintendo gave us an early hands-on with a 2DS prototype, and it's not particularly impressive. With the triggers situated high atop the system, our fingers had to strain to tap them, and the dated screens look ancient compared to modern handheld devices.

The Nintendo 2DS marks a strange experiment in the handheld space for Japan's venerable developer. Although it functions as an adequate entry point for younger, less-discerning players, the hardware itself is neither as comfortable nor as functional as other models. Because of the 2DS' slapdash nature, it feels as though Nintendo was eager to remove 3D technology for a variety of reasons and felt compelled to make the system appear aesthetically different to separate it from its counterparts that still contain that extra dimension. Whether the market embraces the lower-priced, awkwardly constructed handheld is anyone's guess, but what's really interesting is where Nintendo goes from here. Will we see other 2D-only models in the future? Will Nintendo embrace 3D technology when its next system hits? From the non-statements Nintendo made today, it seems as though the days of extra depth are slowly coming to an end.

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Discussion

230 comments
SS4kronos33
SS4kronos33

i will only get 1 just to have in my collection.2 if they make a special edition zelda 2ds handheld.other than that i am not that impressed with it

Makc2
Makc2

I'm getting one.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

That has got to be the most revolting piece of shit I have ever seen in my life. What the fuck is wrong with you Nintendo? What can possibly be going through your mind for you to think that this was a good idea?

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

It looks awful. Is this really the best design they could come up with? Out of all the designs they must have had, this is the one they went with?

"That's the look we are looking for... The cheapest handheld available look." Except it still isn't cheap and looks far worse than their legendary Game & Watch handheld from the 80's.

I'm stunned! ;)

getsmelifted
getsmelifted

jesus christ this guy is really over thinking this. its obvious. remove 3D function (which no one gives a fuck about), lower production costs further by simplifing design and sell to people who couldnt previously afford one. release on same day as pokemon so low income familys can finally get there brats to shut the fuck up and bobs your uncle.

personally, i dont think nintendo has been a single wrong move here. Im still not getting one though... dont like handheld gaming

shadowysea07
shadowysea07

Its shaped kinda like a sliver of cake. I wonder if you had enough you could make the shape of a whole cake?

vujacicdoinw0rk
vujacicdoinw0rk

I can't wait for them to come out with the Black and Green version of the 2ds, so I can play the original Tetris.

grbolivar
grbolivar

This is just another weird nobody-will-buy-that craziness by Nintendo just like the GB Micro or the Mini Wii.

kohle36
kohle36

Way to overthink the issue Tom. Nintendo already said they want an entry level kid-friendly version (5 and 6 year olds) that's less susceptible to breaking at the hinges and cheaper. Mystery solved. As for everyone else on here complaining - I know it's hard to accept, but not every product is custom designed for you specifically. Yes, it's ugly as sin, but functional for its purposes. Don't like it, go buy an XL, it's not like they're being discontinued.

hydrobeast
hydrobeast

dumb going the way of the GBA micro or the Wii mini since. You know nintendo redigning one of their existing systems have works so well for them in the past. 

lorider25
lorider25

Best part of my day?  Coming to Gamespot to read news about Nintendo.

Always a good laugh!

freedomspopular
freedomspopular

This is one of the craziest things I've seen in a while. That being said, it really looks like it MIGHT be a lot more comfortable to hold. I'll definitely be interested to see what it feels like. I don't know about everyone else, but I find that the 3DS XL gets REALLY uncomfortable after a while.

slyfoxmccloud
slyfoxmccloud

look at that home button and the design set up.....looks like they are getting ready for cross platform play

gouldjw
gouldjw

With Pokémon coming out at the same time, the reason for this system is obvious - it's for kids!  They can't see the 3D images anyway and the 3DS system is heavier and more clumsy for small hands.  So what's the point in paying $40 more for a feature that kids have to turn off anyway?  This seems like the perfect compromise - get rid of the feature that small kids can't use anyway and give it the ability to play all the newest 3DS games as well as the huge back library of DS games.  I know I'll be getting it for my kids since they love playing the 3DS but can't really enjoy its primary feature.  Yeah, SM3DL doesn't really work in 2D, but the vast majority of 3DS games play just fine in 2D.

mr_england
mr_england

Loads of people are saying this is designed like a tablet. In my mind it looks like it has some throwbacks to the old Gameboy. They should have used the Gameboy name for this, that would have been a great retro throwback for a modern machine, a bit like the Fiat 500.

patrickpetro
patrickpetro

This is genius!!  They made this crap to make them realize that it's worth buying 3DS for only 40 bucks more.  :) 

Xyekenvort
Xyekenvort

When I first saw the design, I thought it was some group of chinese fucks making a device to make fun of the 3DS xD

braqoon
braqoon

For me this can be perfect as a gift to kids. No worries about 3D and not a  massive loss if it brakes. It's an odd shape I admit  but IMO this is a wise choice for Nintendo. They stated clearly what is a target for this device.

amaneuvering
amaneuvering

• Too big to comfortably put in your pocket, so it kinda undermines the idea of a portable.

• The screen is unprotected which now means you are pretty much forced into buying an additional cover at extra cost.
• Lower battery life than current 3DS XL.
• Smaller screen than 3DS XL.
• Removal of 3D display capability which up until now was supposedly one of 3DS' main unique selling points and gimmicks.
• Awkward fugly asymmetric design with mono speaker off to one side, cartridge slot off center, fat top and thick bottom, bigger curves on top corners than bottom corners, and other little bits and bobs unevenly positioned all over the place.
• We're told it's aimed at children under 7 yet on the box it say 6+, so it's target demographic is the tiny range between 6-7 year olds. WTF!

This thing isn't an actual joke but it is an actual joke.


JudgeSim
JudgeSim

soo it's a reskinned orignal nintendo ds..

soulless4now
soulless4now

Hopefully it'll be a hot christmas item, but brats these days expect iPads and smartphones. :/

JOTLD
JOTLD

I think that the explanation is simple, some people will not use 3D (although I firmly believe and know that it makes most games better), and so they won't even buy it because it's a mere "gimmick" which it's not, it's innovation at it's best. But that being said, there are those who can't play in 3D, and so that hurts the 3ds market. Also the 3ds is pretty expansive, and I have a family member in mind that can't afford a 3ds, but doesn't care about the 3d, he just wants to play the games, and he can't be the only 1 out there. They've made this "change" although I call it more of a "move", I don't think that Nintendo would be stupid and ditch a system design(including 3D) that is now dominating the marketplace, due to it's uniqueness and great games, they are simply pulling in those other fans who are still holding onto their DSIs, because they aren't making ds games anymore, and that's quite a big group of people to lose. They changed the shape only to make it more kid friendly, and to save money, think about it, the 3D screen isn't the only thing they cut out. I feel that I'm right, because, and I have very good reasons,  it gets released the same day as pokemon does, pokemon is perhaps the largest selling handheld game ever, it appeals to old and young players, what better way to drag them in but with a cheaper device?

rarson
rarson

There's another problem with the design: some games use the touchscreen for extra buttons. So now, not only are the triggers tough to reach, but so is the lower screen. This seems like a really poor design overall. I understand, and maybe even like, the idea of a 2DS, but not THIS 2DS.


I don't think the price difference warrants a purchase, either. I think right now, Nintendo's hardware overall is a bit overpriced. The 3DS should be $150 and a 2DS should be $99. The Wii U should be $249 by the time the other new consoles arrive. The current prices don't seem to reflect a good value (maybe thanks to dollar-to-yen?).

lingo56
lingo56

Umm seems interesting, not sure if the measly $40 price drop is really enough for me consider it over the 3ds with a clampshell (which in my opinion seems like the more convenient option), but I guess the option is there for those who don't mind the redesign and who never used the 3D in the first place.

Nintendo_Man
Nintendo_Man moderator moderator

The reason why it is not being released in Japan is because the 3DS is selling very well there while sales have dropped elsewhere.

Nintendo_Man
Nintendo_Man moderator moderator

I've been saying Nintendo's next handheld will be like a tablet after the 3DS.

Commander_Snowy
Commander_Snowy

I just noticed that Nintendo made the 2DS so that little kids can't snap it in half like the foldable DS's. 

This is genius.

theR34p3R
theR34p3R

Nintendo should lay off the booze... the are clearly walking the wrong path. 3rd party support? Work on that instead :/

voljin1987
voljin1987

I might have gotten this if I didnt already have a 3ds.. I never use the 3d.. so this makes sense..

Spartan-1657
Spartan-1657

I haven't played the 3DS, although I want to. But I own a normal DS. In the game "Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass", there is a part where you need to close the case for the two maps to touch each other to reveal a secret.

If the 3DS has any games that do that, these new handhelds would never be able to get past that point lol

ziqi92
ziqi92

The 2DS was meant for kids who had a tendency do break the hinge of the 3DS more frequently than other users would have. Furthermore, the 2DS allows kids to play 3DS games without parents needing to worry their eyesight and whatnot.

Retro_____Blast
Retro_____Blast

I believe it is quite obvious why Nintendo is making this system and why it is designed the way it is.  They wanted to make a hand held system for children under 7 years old.  The target market is 4 to 6 year olds.  Why do this?  Because as you know, Nintendo clearly states that the 3D effect should not be used by children 6 or under because their eyes are developing.  For this reason alone, many parents have held off on buying a 3DS.  Even if there is an option to shut it off on the 3DS, parents feel it is too easy for children to turn it on un-policed, and therefore, they just will not buy it.  But now they can get their child a 2DS which plays all the 3DS games without the option to turn on 3D.  In addition, because it is not a clam shell, it is not as easily breakable, and is a simpler device - perfect for a 4 year old.

Krahze
Krahze

Will it be region free?

AshTrai
AshTrai

What i dont get is why doesn't it fold like it's predecessor? Isn't half the point of the DS that u can fit it in your pocket? That 2ds looks frickin huge. 

bizuit
bizuit

I guess they can officially change the name of the 3DS to 3DS Virtual Boy.

hydrobeast
hydrobeast

I can see this going the way of the Nintende GameBoy Advance Micro

edbeam
edbeam

 @Dannystaples14 it is a good ideia

shadowysea07
shadowysea07

@grbolivar omg I just looked up the wii mini and its definitely a pos. at least the 2ds can still do some of the 3ds functions. why would anyone even want to buy that overpriced piece of crap when they could pick up new and used wiis for less? between that and the new super slim I have to wonder what the hell they are even thinking.

anzelm
anzelm

@kohle36 The ds  were released 2004. I took Nintendo nine years to figure out that they need a kid friendly device?

I don't buy it, there is something else behind but it's easier to say that it is for the kids. I have four kids and they 've been playing on our ds for six years now. They have played from the age of 4 years without any problems whatsoever. The statement from Nintendo is bs.

--Thomas--
--Thomas--

@freedomspopular Same here. I hate the DS formfactor. That fold-thingy is extremely uncomfortable to hold. Now you'll be able to play for longer periods of time without murdering your hands.

shadowysea07
shadowysea07

@rarson standard 3ds is 150 with bundles for 200 for both it and the xl at stores like best buy. I agree they'd be better off pricing it at 99 but even then with how unsightly and larger it is I don't see it doing very well. plus holiday seasons just around the corner and there will be tons of chances to find a deal at the same price or less

shadowysea07
shadowysea07

@lingo56 its not even 40 when you factor in stores like best buy amazon ebay ect sell standard aqua 3ds for 150.xx

Sidian1626
Sidian1626

@bizuit except that the 3DS is a raging success and the virtual boy is little more than an embarrassing footnote and a collectors item nowadays. its cute you tried though.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@edbeamSince writing that it has kind of grown on me actually. Looks a hell of a lot more comfortable than the 3DS, and I kind of thought 3D was cool until you had to do any reasonably involved playing. Like Zelda - Ocarina of Time, looks super sexy in 3D yet when you get to boss fights the "sweet spot" on the 3D constantly shifts as you hammer away at the buttons and most of the time I'd turn it off so I could actually see what I was doing.

For me though I'm not totally happy with the game line up on 3DS or otherwise at the moment so I won't be buying one any time soon.

kohle36
kohle36

@anzelm The DS is already a kid-friendly device, but their own health and safety guideline say it's only 'safe' for kids 7 and up (at least the 3-D component). Many parents don't bother with those warnings, but apparently there's sufficient research to suggest that it can lead to problems with vision (at least enough for Nintendo to legally exonerate themselves from 'misuse'). So they decided that they should make a version for 5 and 6 year olds (for those parents with concerns about the warning labels), and why not make it without breakable hinges while they're at it?

On a side note, did you disable the 3-D when your 4 year-olds were using the thing? Vision (like hearing) damage can take decades to manifest itself, just just because your kids aren't blind now doesn't mean it it wasn't harmful. I'm not going to tell you how to raise your kids, but I am curious - were you unaware of the warnings, or did you intentionally disregard them?

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

@ziqi92 @JazzFromHell the clamshell design is plenty durable.   It's more than sturdy enough for kids.