It seems as though Nintendo is trolling the entire games industry. Two months ago it launched the Switch, a strange hybrid of portable device and home console that everyone thought was filling a market gap that didn’t exist. It has now shipped almost 3m units, making it the company’s most successful roll-out since the Wii. It was also thought that the Switch may well replace Nintendo’s dedicated line of handheld consoles, or at least delay a new iteration. But no. Wrong again.
The ever-unpredictable hardware veteran has announced the Nintendo 2DS XL, a new version of the 2DS, which was itself a refreshed version of the 3DS. Featuring two enlarged displays, 4.88in on top and 4.18in on the bottom, and a clamshell design, the new format is lighter than the 3DS XL and of course lacks that machine’s stereoscopic capabilities.
Available in black and turquoise or white and orange and with built-in NFC support for amiibo cards and figures, it’s a fully featured member of the extended 3DS family, even boasting the secondary C-pad nub like the New 3DS XL.
It’s coming to Europe on 28 July and with the retail price set at $149 in the US it could translate to anything between £115 and £150 in the UK.
While the original 3DS launched in 2011 with the express purpose of providing stereoscopic 3D visuals, users soon found that few titles exploited the capabilities of the hardware in interesting ways. Furthermore, there were (it turns out largely unfounded) concerns at the time that children under seven should not be using the 3D featureset.
In October 2013 a cheaper 2DS version arrived, removing the stereoscopic feature and the clamshell form factor, making the device more affordable for kids. Meanwhile, 2012 saw the arrival of a 3DS XL, offering a larger screen, which was replaced in 2015 by the New 3DS XL offering the new C-pad controller and other slight improvements. Deep breath.
What the 2DS XL shows is both Nintendo’s commitment to the DS line, which many thought would be quietly sunsetted in the Switch era, and its admirable commitment to somewhat eccentric and seemingly sudden hardware release plans.
This is all taking place in a period where the company has announced the discontinuation of its acclaimed Mini NES, a condensed yet faithful recreation of its classic 1983 home console complete with 30 titles and HDMI support. The console was always undersupplied, leading to massive demand and skyrocketing prices on eBay. Other manufacturers may have responded by increasing production – but not Nintendo. In April it revealed the line would be shut down in the US and Europe, though it’s not clear whether the Japanese version is also facing the axe.
This has led to speculation that we should expect the announcement of a Mini SNES, a similarly reduced version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which arrived in 1990 and arguably became the most beloved console of all time. Nintendo is not saying anything – at least not yet.
So now Nintendo is supporting one hybrid of a portable and home console, a 3DS XL (and technically the original 3DS and the New 3DS XL), and the 2DS, and the 2DS XL. And maybe at least one rebooted mini console.
This time next month we can probably expect the rebirth of the Game Watch series and a version of the NES robot add-on ROB complete with Alexa-style artificial intelligence. No matter how clever it is, though, it still won’t be able to predict Nintendo’s hardware strategy.