By Harold Goldberg
A few moments ago, Nintendo officially released some heretofore unannounced plans for this holiday season, a new handheld device called the 2ds.
As part of this announcement, Nintendo had me over to their offices to see the 2DS in action. With a release date of October 12 and a price of $130, the 2DS sports some of the features of the 3DS in a kind of micro-tablet format.
The device I saw kind of looks like a slice of red/black cake, millimeters thin on one end and a bit thicker on the other. It was so new when I saw it that the FCC hadn’t yet given it a go ahead.
With two screens that are smaller than those on the 3DS, it plays 3DS games in 2D. And, like the 3DS, it offers up WiFi access to the Nintendo shop. The single speaker sound isn’t quite as good as the 3DS’s stereo. But it’s clear and generally fine.
Why would Nintendo announce this particular little machine for the holidays? Says Nintendo’s Cindy Gordon, “We wanted everyone to have access to Nintendo games. Some people might not have the income to buy a 3DS, and the 2DS is $40 less. We feel it’s the perfect entry point, and then consumers can move up the (hardware) line.” I then asked when the machine began its development cycle, but was not given a direct answer: Nintendo wanted to stay precisely on message.
So I asked, If parents who are a bit cash poor want a handheld gaming device for their kids, wouldn’t they go to eBay for a used 3DS? (Later, a quick search showed a used 3DS could be had for $120 and up.)
Gordon countered, saying that, Yes, people might do that, but wouldn’t they want a brand new device as an entry point instead?
Nintendo says the 2DS might be right as a child’s first machine (“for young, budding gamers,” says Gordon), and I do agree with that assumption. It’s less complicated that the 3DS with fewer buttons to deal with. For instance, there’s no slider button for the WiFi access.
I believe there’s another reason for Nintendo’s release of the 2DS. Sony and Microsoft are releasing their new systems in November, and there’s a lot of buzz around them. Nintendo wants to have at least one tangible thing that’s new, something related to hardware that they can tout for the holidays.
Really, it has to do with the console wars. Executives may say publicly that there are no such battles. But that’s a matter of semantics. These companies are very, very competitive. Hence, the thinking would go, a new machine by Nintendo for the holiday season is a salvo that might help the company. So will lowering the price of the Wii U by $50.
While the 2DS is a decent machine, the devil’s advocate in me thinks it might be the next Game Boy Micro, popularity-wise. Yet it also could take off. To help that process, wouldn’t it be a prudent and wise move if the 2DS came with a game made exclusively for it, a mini Zelda game perhaps? That would sell the device, perhaps even to those who have a 3DS.
After all, everything ultimately is about the games themselves.
Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.