Psst. Hey kid. Want to buy a Nintendo 2DS? Before you answer, look at this trailer for the New Nintendo 2DS XL. Mmm. So sleek and smooth. Looks good enough to eat, right?
"Buzz off, Nadia," you tell me, "and take that weird-smelling trenchcoat with you. I already have a Nintendo 3DS, and I think it's stupid that Nintendo is making another model of the stupid old system when it's having enough trouble keeping up with demand for the Switch."
Fair enough. But the reveal of the New Nintendo 2DS XL tells us a couple of things about Nintendo's long-lived family of handhelds. First, demand for the Nintendo 3DS is still surprisingly hot. The little machine seemingly sold out during Christmas 2016, and became very hard to find into the new year. Last winter, I did an online search of Amazon, GameStop, Wal-Mart, and other major retailers for the 3DS, and came up nearly empty-handed. New stock is finally on its way, and I guess Nintendo was slow to re-stock because it decided to perform a system revision first.
Second, if the New Nintendo 2DS XL is the Nintendo 3DS's final form [insert Frieza cackle], then its lack of a 3D feature is very telling. I'd go so far as to suggest the initial selling point for the Nintendo 3DS – its glasses-free 3D display – is a bust.
I don't blame Nintendo for initially getting swept up in the 3D hype. In 2009, back when the Nintendo 3DS was probably in development, 3D was a hot ticket thanks to James Cameron's Avatar movie. By the time the 3DS hit the market in 2011, 3D hype was already deflating – and news reports about how the Nintendo 3DS's 3D display might hurt your kids' eyes didn't endear many parents to Nintendo's system, or to 3D tech in general.
Fast-forward to today. Most movie theatres are (thankfully, thankfully) cutting way back on 3D showings for major titles. I can't remember the last time I turned up my 3D tuner on my 3DS; some newer 3DS games, like Dragon Quest VIII, lack 3D support altogether. James Cameron's Avatar is far behind us, and few people look back at 3D movies and televisions with any sort of warmth. Luckily, the 3DS wound up garnering a great library of games that pushed it up and carried it beyond the deflated 3D bubble.
Making a Nintendo 3DS sans the 3D slider is a big cost-cutting measure for Nintendo, but it also says the system's 3D feature was never popular enough to become the system's primary identifying trait. Many developers found clever ways to use the DS's dual screens and lower touch screen, but the 3DS's 3D capabilities never evolved beyond being a cool visual trick that people would try out once before forgetting about altogether.
To be sure, I was blown away by the 3DS's glasses-free 3D back in the day. I also quickly learned it's an exclusionary gimmick. I have terrible eyesight, and the 3D effect gives me a headache; even though I like the 3D pop-out, I can't use it for long. In the same vein, people who are unable to "see" 3D images (like my mother, who is blind in one eye) wound up paying extra for a function they could never use, at least until Nintendo rolled out the 2DS. And that was seemingly designed with young kids in mind, i.e. users who weren't supposed to be looking at 3D images until their eyes developed fully.
So here we are at the very end of the 3DS's growth cycle, and what we have is a compellingly slim clamshell-style system that lacks the ability to project 3D. Living things evolve and adapt according to their environments, and the New 2DS XL demonstrates how consumer products similarly evolve and adapt according to people's needs.
(Seriously though, you want one? I have, like, 20 under this trenchcoat.)