Nobody Is Quite Sure What to Make of Nintendo's New Handheld

On Wednesday, Nintendo — home of Mario and maker of the Wii — announced a slightly baffling addition to its hardware lineup. 

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On Wednesday, Nintendo — home of Mario and maker of the Wii — announced a slightly baffling addition to its hardware lineup. The Nintendo 2DS is the latest iteration of the Nintendo DS (which stands for "dual screen"), that was first released in 2004. Back in 2011, the company released a substantial update known as the 3DS that featured, by virtue of its name, a 3D screen. That 3D screen was the main feature that separated the handheld console from its predecessor. If you haven't already figured it out, the just-announced 2DS can only handle two dimensions.

It's a decision that has confused some who cover the gaming industry and made complete sense to others. Despite flagging sales of the Wii U — Nintendo's home console that was released last year and is technologically outgunned by upcoming Sony and Microsoft consoles — 3DS sales are doing well for the company. In that sense, adding variety to the handheld lineup makes sense.

But the physical construction of the system itself has surprised some. Foremost is the lack of 3D capability. While games on the 3DS can run in 2D, the visual trickery was the system's original selling point. To strip out the very feature that gave the system its name seems like an implicit acknowledgment of the feature's superfluousness. In addition, the DS systems since their inception have been defined by a clamshell design that the 2DS lacks, instead taking on a wedge shape with no moving parts and leaving its two screens more susceptible to damage. That's a curious design choice considering the product is aimed at children and aesthetic comparisons to Fisher-Price toys were floating around a lot online.

The 2DS's October 12th release date is also conveniently matched with the release date of a new Pokémon game, a franchise whose flagship entries still sell millions of copies.

Over at  Polygon, Samit Sarkar argues that the 2DS (now the cheapest Nintendo handheld by $40) is a clear attempt to bring down its hardware prices in order to battle smartphones and specifically Apple, whose iOS devices have massively shifted the handheld gaming landscape. Some, including writers such as Mike Wehner of TUAW and Daring Fireball's John Gruber, argued today that Nintendo should just stop making hardware and start bringing their highly valuable game properties over to iOS.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.