Last week, Nintendo unveiled a brand-new piece of hardware for the 3DS family – the New 2DS XL. It came as a surprise to almost everyone, especially considering the 3DS platform is now well over six years old. Indeed, with the launch of the Switch on March 3rd, many expected Nintendo to wind down its 3DS operations, despite the platform holder saying multiple times that it remains committed to the handheld and that it would run both consoles in tandem.
Now we know why. While Nintendo UK declined to speak to MCV about its plans for the New 2DS XL, which launches on July 28th alongside the release of Hey! Pikmin, Dr Kawashima's Devilish Brain Training and Miitopia, Nintendo of America bossReggie Fils-Aimhas since spoken to Time about the reasoning behind this sudden new addition to the 3DS family. As you'd expect, having multiple pricing options for its handheld business was one of the key factors behind its decision:
"There is a visual impact difference between these different items, and we believe in our market by having these three different variants," he told Time.
"The Nintendo 2DS really focused on that entry level gamer, the four-, five-, six-year old that is just getting into gaming, but wants to playMario Kart, wants to have aSuper Mario Brosexperience, wants to playPokmon. And we feel with Nintendo 3DS XL at $199 that it's a fully-featured product, that it is, if you will, the Cadillac of handheld gaming. And then we heard from consumers, 'Boy, I wish there was something in between.'"
Hence why the 2DS will now have an XL-sized cousin that can also play games specifically designed for the New 3DS family, such as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D – just in regular 2D.
It certainly makes sense when you look at Nintendo's sales figures for both the 3DS family as a whole and the 2DS more specifically. In its most recent financial results briefing for the fiscal year ending March 2017, 3DS Nintendo revealed that 3DS sales had actually growth in the last fiscal year by 7.7 per cent year-on-year, reaching 7.27m units worldwide. Global software sales also increased, rising 14 per cent year-on-year to hit 55.08m units.
Likewise, the 2DS's share of Nintendo 3DS hardware sell-through has now reached 50-50 in Europe, with the 2DS selling as many consoles as the New 3DS, New 3DS XL, 3DS and 3DS XL combined.
Admittedly, the 2DS isn't quite as dominant in Japan or the US, with 2DS making up 19 per cent of the 3DS hardware sell-through in Japan and 32 per cent in the US. However, as Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima pointed out to investors, the 2DS only launched last year in Japan, and a 2DS price cut in the US "saw an increase in sales that exceeded our expectations," showing the console still has plenty of growth potential.
"[The New 2DS XL] broadens the options available to consumers, whether they are looking for their first handheld system, or want to add a second or third handheld system for the family," said Kimishima.
However, whether this new addition will be able to find the same kind of success as the regular 2DS in the UK remains to be seen. While the appetite for the 2DS is certainly there, pricing will be key – and if the New 2DS XL ends up suffering from a similar Brexit mark-up as the Switch, then it may end up being a tougher sell than its 80 sibling.
That said, with the New 3DS currently priced at 150 with a game, we'd hope it would fall somewhere around the 120 mark, putting it more or less on par with its price of $149.99 (116) in the US. Any more and Nintendo risks losing customers to its 3D-capable cousin, whose smaller size may also make it a better fit for child-sized hands.
Either way, it's clear Nintendo's not giving up on its handheld business any time soon, and we look forward to seeing the reception of the New 2DS XL in the UK when it launches later this year.