Dawn Of The 2DS: Why Nintendo’s Newest “Misstep” Is Their Smartest Move Of The Year

2DS1 670x310 Dawn Of The 2DS: Why Nintendos Newest Misstep Is Their Smartest Move Of The Year

When The Big N announced the Nintendo 2DS, gamers ‘round the globe froze like so many deer in headlights. Is this thing real? Is today April 1st? Has Nintendo finally gone full-on crazy? And as is usually the case with aberrant Nintendo news, the editorials started flooding in. “Out of touch! Leaving the console race!” And of course, the ever popular “Doomed!”

While the boisterous dogpiling on Nintendo that occurs at times like these often has at least some foundation in logic and reality, I can’t help but feel like people are really missing the mark trying to understand what the 2DS is really about.

I’ve outlined below why the 2DS is the smartest thing Nintendo has done in a while, how the uncertainty surrounding it is nothing but good news for the company, and most importantly for a business (which Nintendo is, lets not forget), how it’s going to soak up absolutely foul amounts of profit this holiday.

In other words, 2DS detractors, the joke’s on you.

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All About the Margins, Baby

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It doesn’t take long just looking at the 2DS to realize its fit and finish isn’t exactly as luxurious as the 3DS XL, and even less so when compared to the original. That said, each 3DS rendition has gotten cheaper for Nintendo to make relative to its MSRP, and the 2DS takes that phenomenon to the polar extreme. The fit and finish is just one example, but this thing is absolutely doused in cost-cutting, profit-boosting design and manufacturing adjustments.

The most obvious place to start is found right in the system’s name; the 2DS does not support 3D. Now, let’s think about this for a moment. Nintendo consoles have been graphically a bit behind the competition since the Wii in 2006, and its handhelds have been following this practice for even longer. Though the Gameboy was always seen as a relatively powerful device, unlike the Wii and now Wii U, fallen competitors like the N-Gage easily trumped what Nintendo had to offer graphically. Of course, graphics on handhelds have come so far since then that its difficult to find much to complain about in terms of how games look on tiny screens. I replayed the first Super Mario Galaxy recently and was shocked to realize that between the 3D effect and the small screen, Super Mario 3D Land actually trumps it quite handily in the visuals department. Sure, Uncharted looks amazing on the Vita, but Fire Emblem looks glorious on the 3DS too. Though Vita wins out it the end, it’s almost apples to oranges territory.

Though lengthy, the above digression is an important one. It reminds us that the 3DS, despite looking lovely due to the device’s small screen, is not a graphical powerhouse. Its GPU is not what’s breaking Nintendo’s bank. What is breaking the bank is the system’s parallax barrier 3D display. The 2DS eliminates what is likely the biggest expense of the 3DS, leaving nothing more than a souped-up DS Lite in terms of visual presentation. Somehow I can’t imagine that costing a whole lot.

Additionally, it’s worth considering the fact that in order for the 3DS to display its pop-up visuals properly, everything must be rendered twice over – once for each eye. Ever wonder why Fire Emblem: Awakening has noticeable slowdown with 3D all the way on, but runs like a dream with it off? There’s your answer. We’ll never know one way or the other, but it’s entirely possible that Nintendo is actually using lesser components under the hood of the 2DS. Why wouldn’t they? Without the graphically taxing 3D effect to bog things down, cheap parts seem like a logical move.

Even if that’s not true and most of 2DS’s internals are identical, the cost-cutting adjustments against 3DS are still numerous. The system has no hinge, and is instead cased in a unibody plastic enclosure. It’s chunky and resembles a Fisher Price toy. The speakers on the device are mono-only, and to top it all off, there are rumors that the two screens are actually one massive panel underneath all the plastic. One massive, cheap, non-3D panel.

When you consider all of these possibilities, the 2DS may be the highest profit margin Nintendo’s ever had on a handheld device. Even if it’s not, the extremely appealing $130 price tag is the only reason for that.

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Don’t Underestimate the Power of Cheap

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Though $99 is widely regarded as a magic number for selling gobs of product, when it comes to videogame hardware there’s very little that can be had for that amount. Consoles drop to $99 on their deathbeds occasionally. The Nintendo DSi, a five-year-old handheld, can be had for $99. The Wii Mini, a revamp of a seven-year-old console, can also be had for $99. In other words, you don’t get modern gaming tech for $99, you get the old stuff. There is no price-dropped HP TouchPad of gaming.

With that idea in mind, a $130 2DS is without a doubt firmly planted in impulse territory. A parent can grab the 2DS and one game for their kid for the price of the regular 3DS, and two games for just over the price of the XL. The device will be able to play all current games, so the child will be happy with it compared to what his or her friends have. Imagine the alternative for a budget-conscious parent up until now – buying little Johnny a DSi. It looks great on Christmas, but he won’t be able to play all the games his friends are playing. Good effort, Mom! But sadly, an instant letdown.

Kids aside, the price tag of the 2DS comes at just the right time. Nintendo has always been about stomping the competition in the handheld space, and though the Game Gears and N-Gages of the world can be swatted like so many mosquitos, Sony’s offerings need serious attention and planning to fend off. When the PSP was poised to knock Nintendo from its handheld throne, Nintendo pulled a complete 180 and released a dual screen, touch-based device that very few saw coming, and it succeeded where a beefed up, PSP-like Gameboy Advance sequel may not have. Though the 3DS would likely have done very well this holiday on its own, Sony recently cut the Vita to $200, an extremely compelling offer considering its capabilities and the fact that the 3DS XL also costs that much. With the reveal of a $130 2DS, the price gap between systems is again restored, and the Vita is once again — despite looking better than ever — a tough sell.

Of course, there’s more to the impulse buy than just grabbing a 2DS and going home, and Nintendo knows this. If a consumer (adult, child, or otherwise) does his or her research and decides on a 2DS for whatever reason, Nintendo wins. Say the decision was made because the 2DS is so cheap. Big victory there, as the system turns a hefty profit. But consider this. A consumer has decided Nintendo, and walks into Best Buy or Target. They head to the gaming section, and see the regular 3DS and the XL propped up nicely across the way from the 2DS. They try the 3D visuals and they see the more stylish design and clamshell portability. And just like grabbing something for $130 when you didn’t originally plan to is an impulse buy, adding just thirty more dollars to that to net yourself some nice form and function is without a doubt an impulse add-on. There’s something sophisticated about having an actual product line, and 3DS is the only gaming device offering such a thing.

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It’s Not Made For You

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It’s important to understand with the 2DS that the system may very well not be aimed at you in any way. Sure, some facets of the device may be entirely illogical for you, the seasoned gamer or tech-head, but that doesn’t mean that such reasoning applies to everybody. Nor does it mean Nintendo is out of touch. What would really be out of touch would be catering exclusively to savvy 2DS complainers in the first place, which Nintendo clearly isn’t.

Calling the 2DS stupid as a hardcore gamer or current 3DS owner is like calling Teletubbies stupid during the commercial breaks of Breaking Bad. Sure, it might make sense or be controversial to say “Hey, I think Breaking Bad is the best show on television. It’s way better than Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead combined.” Though highly opinionated, this is an opinion that one might feasibly hold. It’s like saying “You know, I really feel that the Vita is just superior to the 3DS.” This is a sound opinion – comparing two relatively like things and making a judgement based on one’s own preferences. You don’t hear people saying, “You know, Breaking Bad is so much better than Teletubbies. That show is god-awful, I don’t know what the writers were thinking last season.” It’s ludicrous. And so is bashing the 2DS with a similar style of reasoning. As a wise commenter on Destructoid so eloquently put it, “you whining about the 2DS is like adults complaining that Sesame Street doesn’t appeal to their demographic.”

With the exception of the budget conscious adult or entry level gamer mentioned previously, the 2DS isn’t for you – it’s for the 7 and under crowd. This isn’t just speculation, either – all 3DS consoles, games, and other materials come with the warning that 3D is not safe to use for those under the age of 7 years old. Though parents can tell their kids to abide by that guideline, there has never really been a way to enforce it up until now, and the 2DS solves that problem handily. As mentioned, it’s also tailor-made for that age bracket in other ways, as it appears downright indestructible, doesn’t have a breakable hinge, and is priced in toy-territory. Just like you wouldn’t buy an Easy-Bake oven for yourself just because it can cook real brownies, nobody’s making you buy a 2DS just because it plays real 3DS games. Just stick with what you have, and everything will be just fine.

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Bad Publicity, What’s That?

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Another thing that doesn’t seem to be getting across to 2DS doomsday prophecizers is that in this case, any and all attention drawn to the 2DS is good attention. The parents buying this thing aren’t reading gaming blog criticism – they just need to see it on their local news in order to be sold on its kid-friendliness and competitive price tag. The local news, on the other hand, may in fact decide to run something on the 2DS precisely because of the controversy it’s caused amongst gaming inner circles. Just like the Wii before it (though clearly to a lesser degree), the 2DS is making enough ruckus for its name to be butchered on ABC news. For Nintendo, that simply draws more attention, and more awareness. It’s very Apple-like in that way.

Beyond that, the general flood of editorials and opinion articles, negative or positive, also drum up attention around 2DS. This article is a perfect example, though I feel like positive feedback tends to exists whether something is controversial or not. Pieces like this one from The Verge, on the other hand, are the ones that stir the pot. Though I personally think that this fellow’s opinion is severely off the mark, that is besides the point. Nintendo’s possession of the bald-faced audacity to release such seemingly wacky product designs gets people talking. If every company got as much written about them as Nintendo does when the chips are down, there would never be another bankruptcy again.

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Pokémon Has Never Been This Cheap

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All this talk, and I haven’t even mentioned games yet. It’s no accident that Nintendo is releasing the 2DS the very same day that Pokémon X and Y will be globally available, and– well, I don’t think that really needs much more explaining. Pokémon has never been this cheap, and the possibility of a kid getting through the Pokémon door for $170 all said and done is an incredible value proposition.

Kids are going to be starting with Pokémon cheaper, they’re going to be starting younger, and they’re going to be playing longer, since there will be more years before they grow out of it. More exposure to the games over more years and from a younger age may even prevent them growing out of it in the first place, bring them back sooner due to stronger nostalgia than ever before, or even cultivate a higher percentage of lifelong Nintendo fans due to, once again, exposure from an unprecedented young age.

I’m not saying the competition doesn’t have great brand recognition too. There’s no doubt that Sony has done a phenomenal job building up its IP and securing a competitive stable of mascots over the years, but getting a Vita and it’s most addicting game for $170 flat simply isn’t possible right now. Additionally, it’s unlikely that your parents will be letting you play Naughty Dog’s latest at the ripe age of six. M and T ratings may have infected ten to twelve year-olds where they previously hadn’t, but even the most irresponsible parents aren’t letting their five-year-olds shoot each other in the face online. Nintendo is planting the seeds of the future, and the land is looking mighty fertile.

What Does It All Mean?

So there you have it. I know the Nintendo 2DS is easy to dismiss at first, and there’s no doubt that I would feel quite stupid carrying one in public. Despite this, it has almost no impact on what Nintendo is trying to do here. This Fall is going to be an extremely testing time for Nintendo and the Wii U, and if that system continues to fail there’s no telling what might happen. That is, I did feel that way before the 2DS was announced. If all goes according to plan, the 2DS should spike sales and profits in the handheld realm to enough of a degree to act as a safety net for Wii U should it continue to flop as it has.

And if Wii U is able to make a miraculous recovery? Well, if that happens, Nintendo will be looking mighty fine going into 2014. Out of touch, indeed.

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  • lawliet

    I only want the latest nintendo handheld for pokemon. and probably no other games at leaat not yet. on top of that ive always thought (perhaps unfairly) that 3d is gimmicky and i could see myself getting a headache or 2 from that 3d screen. the 2DS makes really good sense to me for those reasons and i have already preordered one!

    • CitrusRain

      Especially since X and Y are going to be 2D games with 3D extras. – No 3D in the overworld.

      (I preordered one for the same reason.)

    • http://uki-sutori.com/ Griffin Vacheron

      Very nice! X and Y will no doubt be amazing. Be sure to play Virtue’s Last Reward and Fire Emblem too if you can, two of my favorite games this generation.

  • CitrusRain

    To fix the “It’s not made for you” part…
    3D on a regular 3DS can be turned off in parental settings so the kids can’t turn it on.
    Doesn’t mean a parent will know that when buying a 3DS, and might just not buy it because they don’t know that.