You may have heard about Nintendo's recent unveiling of its new 2DS portable gaming console. It's basically the Nintendo 3DS minus the 3D and the clamshell design. It's flat both in hardware design and in visuals.
The good news is that the Nintendo 2DS costs only $129.99, which is $40 less than the Nintendo 3DS and $70 less than the 3DS XL. That's on purpose, you see, because Nintendo wants to give it a seemingly low price so price-conscious buyers will feel less guilty splurging on such a device.
It looks like a pretty decent gaming system, too. The price is right, the design is good, and there's little to no unnecessary bells and whistles. It's basically the perfect portable gaming gadget for people who want to own the new video games available for 3DS, but don't want the 3D part of it and do want $40 extra kept in their wallets.
That, however, is where Nintendo missed the target.
It's not that making a cheaper Nintendo DS model was a bad idea, but the 2DS isn't going to protect Nintendo against its biggest competition right now: smartphones. Cool, this can cater to 2D enthusiasts who want to save a little bit of green. No one cares about that though because that's not the big issue; smartphone games are.
I guarantee the majority of the people who will buy the Nintendo 2DS are shoppers who were already interested in buying a portable gaming console. It's not likely to convince anyone who already carries around a smartphone loaded up with games that they need a separate gaming device.
Plus, the biggest problem isn't the console price, it's the price of the games. Saving $40 on the 2DS (which really isn't that much to begin with) will look practically minuscule after you buy ten or fifteen 3DS games to go along with it. That's hundreds of dollars.
Meanwhile on a smartphone, you can get ten or fifteen games for $15 or less -- and they're usually pretty fun games. Granted, they aren't as lengthy or as graphic intensive as games you could get for your 2DS, but they're good enough for most consumers. That's the key point. Portable gaming devices like the 2DS used to be for anyone who wanted to play a game on the go, and now it's only for people who won't settle for the games that are merely good enough, especially for the price. The vast majority of consumers would rather pay $5 and get five good games instead of paying $50 for one excellent game.
Additionally, the Nintendo 2DS for many people is just another device to carry around. We don't need extras, we all already have enough gadgets nowadays. If playing Animal Crossing means I need to lug around another gadget with another charger, sign me up for Angry Birds. And since I'd be using a smartphone with Angry Birds, I can also use any other app, check my mail, browse the web, listen to music, text message, and make voice or video calls. The Nintendo 2DS can play games and not much else.
No one can deny that games with characters like Mario or Zelda are insanely fun to play and can easily wipe out any smartphone game. It's night and day, really. However, when Mario or Zelda require you to buy a new device to carry around with another charging cable plus buy the (usually expensive) game itself, it's easy to settle for what's available to buy or download on our smartphones.
In order to compete, Nintendo needs to seriously consider dropping the price of the games, and perhaps even try to hit a sub-$100 price point on the hardware. Adding some more useful WiFi-enabled features couldn't hurt either. This would not only keep current gamers loyal to the brand, but it would attract casual gamers stuck in the smartphone's "good enough" zone.
A $130 2D portable gaming device does seem like a solution to something, but it's not for the problem Nintendo desperately needs to address.
Image via Nintendo