Opinion: Nintendo's 2DS is brand confusion in a box
Game developer and Gamasutra senior contributor Brandon Sheffield argues that while the 2DS could move a lot of units, it will be confusing for consumers and developers.
Nintendo has just announced
that the "2DS" is the newest member of its 3DS family of consoles. This worries me for a number of reasons, more as a developer than as a consumer (and to be clear, if I were a stockholder, I'd be pleased, short term).
First there's the name. Not all customers are going to be completely aware of the differences between the terms "2D" and "3D," especially parents. 3D films have helped with this a bit, but you can bet there will be some folks who think that the 2DS is the predecessor to the 3DS. After all, the PlayStation 2 came before the PlayStation 3. Those who are aware of the differences between 2D and 3D, meanwhile, will perhaps feel like they're getting the lesser experience.
And for the average consumer, how do you distinguish between a Nintendo DS and a Nintendo 2DS? Isn't the Nintendo DS already 2D? Does this mean the console only plays 2D games? "I thought most games were 3D now," they might say. In addition to making Gamestop employees' lives harder, it creates a confusion in Nintendo's suite of handheld products that they would probably be better off without. But then, I wasn't a fan of the iPad 3 being called the iPad, so I may be in the minority when it comes to opinions on device naming confusion.
So, developers shouldn't make 3DS games...3D?
Second, making a new handheld sans-3D that plays all 3DS games is essentially Nintendo admitting their research shows not that many people cared about 3D as a feature. This new console can play all 3DS games, and DS games as well. If it plays all 3DS games to Nintendo's satisfaction, to where they'll dedicate a console to not having 3D, this shows a lack of confidence in their initial vision.
You could say they're listening to the market, which is generally good! But as a developer, would you ever want to devote any time to making sure your game works in 3D ever again, knowing the newest version of the console only supports 2D screens? I certainly wouldn't waste my time thinking of a game as a true 3D experience given that fact. That would appear to be the end of that particular line of thinking for Nintendo games.
Without the 3D to push, the new Nintendo handhelds are just the new Nintendo handhelds. That's been fine enough for me all along, but when you've got 3D and 2D in the titles, it gives you certain expectations that are now split apart by a low-level device fragmentation.
Lastly, there's the form factor. The thing is huge, and while I've seen some folks say this will be great for kids (it does look a bit more like a Leapster now), I'm worried about the durability of the screens, and how dirty the recessed touchscreen will get when it's not in a closeable clamshell. Plus, the thing is huge, which reduces its portability. I can fit my 3DS XL into my jacket pocket. My old 3DS fit into the back pocket of my jeans. The 2DS will not fit on your person unless you have another bag to carry it in. Its status as a handheld is greatly diminished.
The Nintendo 2DS is indeed cheaper, which will appeal to many consumers I'm sure, and releasing it alongside a new Pokemon
pretty much assures its success. I do believe that this will be a moneymaker for Nintendo, and is likely a big part of why they expect to sell 18 million units of 3DS by March 2014.
A bit of a confidence breaker
But from a developer standpoint it's a bit of a confidence breaker. I'm used to Nintendo standing its ground with its decisions and showing me why they made the choices they made. This shows me they backed the wrong horse in 3D, and I had better not go down that road either.
For me as a potential Nintendo 3DS developer, this isn't what I want to see Nintendo focusing on right now - from my perspective, this is a reduction of product services. I want to see changes to discoverability in the eShop, or an indie fund akin to Sony or Microsoft's. I don't want to see something that only helps Nintendo move consoles, while confusing my experience as a developer. As it has for years past, Nintendo needs to prove to third parties that its new console is one we should develop for. The Nintendo 2DS does not give me that confidence.