Nintendo announces 3DS without 3D

On Aug. 28, 2013, Nintendo, the famed Japanese game developer responsible for creating Mario, “Pokemon” and numerous other recognizable franchises, announced the 2DS. A version of the 3DS without a stereoscopic 3-D screen and selling for $40 less than the standard model, this unit also lacks a hinge for folding up the device when not in use. Its announcement was a surprise to the video game press, the company’s fanbase and the wider tech news community, all of whom expressed a mixed reaction to the product. It is scheduled for release Oct. 12 of this year.

The system will be compatible with all 3DS and DS games, retail for $129.99 and come packed with a 2GB SD memory card for storage. Its technical specifications are all identical with those of the earlier 3DS models, with the sole exception of the 3-D stereoscopic effects, which have been removed on this model in a bid to save manufacturing costs.

In a piece for Wired magazine’s website, Chris Kohler notes that 2DS is “the death of glasses-free 3-D as a fundamental feature of the 3DS platform. Now it’s more of an extra bonus for buying the more expensive versions.” When Nintendo announced the original 3DS, the technology industry was busy producing and marketing a whole range of products taking advantage of 3-D displays. Sony, which manufactures the PlayStation 3 and portable PlayStation Vita, was especially active in this regard. Now, however, according to a report from Forbes, “the much-touted 3-D TVs of years past [may be] no more.” Nintendo, by removing the 3-D screen from the new model, may just be moving with the industry away from stereoscopic 3-D in order to save costs.

In an article for Kotaku, a popular gaming blog, Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo’s North American branch, said, “This is an entry-level handheld gaming system … The reason we do this, obviously, is there’s a limit to how low hardware can go from a profitability standpoint. This device allows us to reach lower consumer price points and still generate some profitability for the company.”

Price, therefore, appears to be the most important motivation behind Nintendo’s decision to release this device. The 3DS had a notoriously rocky launch, though it has recovered significantly since then, outselling every other system on the market in July 2013, according to the NPD Group. However, the system is not selling near the numbers that its predecessor, the DS, has traditionally done. Since the DS was initially sold for a lower price point ($150), the company was able to appeal to a larger customer base, while the more expensive 3DS, which initially retailed for $250, has struggled to gain traction.

Looming behind all of this is the rising popularity of mobile games designed for smartphones and tablets. Commentator John Siracusa, writing for Hypercritical, writes, “It’s much easier for a two-person team to write an iOS game and put it up for sale than it is for that same team to get a game onto a Nintendo platform.” This lack of lower-cost, more accessible development and games for customers is seen as a significant disadvantage for traditional consoles like the 3DS.

While Nintendo fans can seemingly always be assured of the company’s first-party content quality, the company’s ability to sell hardware in this tumultuous market situation has been challenged. Siracusa concludes his article this way: “If the market for dedicated gaming hardware disappears, I fear it’s game over for Nintendo as we know it.” Fans of the company, and the company’s shareholders, are obviously hoping it turns out otherwise.