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Opinion: Nintendo's 2DS is brand confusion in a box
Opinion: Nintendo's 2DS is brand confusion in a box Exclusive
August 28, 2013 | By Brandon Sheffield

August 28, 2013 | By Brandon Sheffield
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    29 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



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).

Confused parents

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.

Form factor

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.


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Comments


George Menhal III
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I can definitely see how the announcement today would diminish the value of 3D game development, but from a consumer perspective (not considering the confused parents), it's just another option to play Nintendo's great handheld content at a cheaper price point and without features which your article correctly assesses to be unnecessary.

I know for sure that I am in the minority on this one, and I admit I'm about to make a weird point, but honestly my 3DS XL never even leaves my house. There is a big car-commuter culture where I live, and most people do not take public transit, so having my portable gaming device with me on my way to work each day is really kind of pointless. I bought the system to enjoy some great games, even though I understand it is a portable. If the 2DS had been announced with all the features of my 3DS-XL but at a slightly higher price, I would be considering a purchase right now.

Brandon Sheffield
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Agreed - as I mentioned in the article, I do have a feeling this will be successful for Nintendo short-term. Long term, I'm not so certain, because I think it'll continue to push devs away from the console a bit.

If they up their game on the E-Shop fixes though, and they wind up expanding the market considerably with this offering, all may be forgiven!

Connor Fallon
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"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."

While this is not entirely true, I can see why it would be interpreted this way. My understanding was that the 2DS was targeted at younger children -- children under 7, hence the lack of a hinge. Seeing how 3DS ads need to have notifications that 3D can damage eyesight in children of a young age, removing it in something that targets them makes sense. I'm not arguing that 3D has been a smash hit, but I think it's inaccurate to paint the 2DS as an "admission."

That said, I'm not sure about the viability of remaking the 3DS for the very young audience, having worked with them for a couple projects of my own. I am a fan of the system and the games on it, but they will never be as accessible for the very young as the iOS devices are. Maybe if they had removed the menu interface as well, but it doesn't appear that they have.

Brandon Sheffield
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The sans hinge thing is apparently because the 2DS is in fact one giant single screen, which I find quite interesting.

Connor Fallon
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That is interesting! What, do they just cover portions of it in plastic?

Rosstin Murphy
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I agree with the original poster, yeah. This is a weird move. I can understand the Wii U price drop, but I feel like this brand confusion with the "2DS" is going to hurt them in the long term.

It shows that they're thinking and struggling, at least.

David Amador
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I love the 3DS, but I rarely use the 3D option. Having a cheaper option without that makes sense.
The whole "should we develop the game with or without 3d effect" is not very valid since people can turn off the option on a regular 3DS.
However the brand may lead to some confusion within consumers, and that is the real problem. Nintendo needs to make some change to future game boxes to let consumers know where the game works.

Ryan Barrett
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If it takes off, I'm Expecting the 2DS to soon be remade with a clamshell design. "2DS2"...

Kris Graft
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Obviously we shouldn't forget that Nintendo will still be making two other variations that do have 3D. But I do agree with Brandon, that it seems to fragment the market a bit. As for actually using 3D on a 3DS, no one I know personally likes using the 3D feature (except for me).

Amusing story -- last year during Tokyo Game Show, I stopped in a small shop for some noodles, and the owner's three- or four-year-old was there with his 3DS. I had my 3DS, and was showing him some of my games. I don't speak Japanese, he didn't speak English. Anyway, he wouldn't let me play my 3DS with the 3D on. He'd just shake his head, reach over, and turn it off. Even little Japanese kids hate it.

So yeah, lesson is that hating on the 3DS' 3D is the universal language. In a post-2DS world, what will different cultures bond over?!

Bob Johnson
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lol. well little kids aren't supposed to play with the 3d on. HIs parents probably have instructed him to turn off the 3d before playing. And in my experience little kids have a hard time sitting sit enough for 3d anyway. They probably just wonder why that slider is even there. Why would anyone want to make the screen look worse?


btw, I'd be all for a 4th model that had a 3d glasses option. That would eliminate the viewing angle problem which makes the 3d less enjoyable.

Christian Nutt
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Dunno. I think the really salient criticism of this system is Nintendo continuing to create brand confusion around its systems. It kind of painted itself into a corner with the name 3DS (i.e. you can't call a 3DS that doesn't do 3D a 3DS, so what do you call it?) but it's still awkward in light of the DS -> 3DS and Wii -> Wii U situations.

As for the rest, like the form factor and the lost confidence in 3D, I mean... these are entirely down to the fact that the company cut everything out of the manufacturing process that adds expense while not losing core functionality of the system (because, let's face it, the 3D has not turned out to be.) This is entirely a price-based move aimed at getting the system into the hands of kids (bonus: the warning they have to put on the 3DS about not giving it to small kids no longer applies, which may make parents more comfortable.)

The form factor is fine for the intended audience, and it has upsides too (the people who've got their hands on it like Jeremy Parish and Stephen Totilo seem to think it's quite comfortable to play.)

As far as the screen issues go, given that Nintendo's systems didn't fold from 1989 - 2003, and Sony's never have, it doesn't seem like that big a deal, surely? And you can't throw a Vita in a pocket, either!

Bob Johnson
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How many DS's do you want? Do you want 1DS or 2DS or maybe 3DS? You cannot buy 4DS or 5DS or more.

Joe Zachery
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How many $500 Ipads, and Iphones you have?

tony oakden
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I like the idea of a 1DS. Display consists of a horizontal line of pixels. Actually that's a neat idea for a game jam challenge. Are there any 1D games? Is it even possible? I'm completely side tracked now.

Rosstin Murphy
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Haha, our club actually made a successful 1D game once.

http://www.gamecreation.org/game/lineland

Brandon Sheffield
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man, I can put a vita right in my jacket pocket.

Bob Johnson
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I think from a developer perspective this is a big positive. The membership fee to the store which houses your games just got a lot less.

Giro Maioriello
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I think that the form factor of the 2DS is (deliberately) similar to a 7 inch tablet and people don't seem to have much issue with lugging those around.

Joe Zachery
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First and foremost please give me a list of western 3rd party games coming to a dedicated handheld console in the near future. Waiting.......
There aren't any this system has been supported only by Nintendo, and Japanese developers. The same goes for games that are in 3D or use 3D as a major part of the gameplay experience.
I agree this is a sign that they backed the wrong horse with 3D. The same way Microsoft backed HD DVD, and that move didn't seem to hurt them any.

Nintendo hopes to keep as much of the 150 DS the sold this generation. This is a move that can help.

Bob Johnson
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The DS wasn't exactly a well spring of AAA western 3rd party development. Rockstar made the only AAA-type effort on the DS that I can recall and it was a commercial failure.

Western developed games were mostly licensed games and then fairly crappy versions of well known console franchises or that is how it looked from a distance. I didn't try most of those games.

Still the DS did well.

3d probably wasn't as popular as Nintendo hoped. But at the same time they had a slider, on day one, to turn it off quickly. So they must have known it wasn't going to be a universal hit. That it had its limitations. And so all games were also playable without 3d from day one.

I think the 3d adds to the gaming experience. I like using it frequently on the 3ds in short bursts. But the tech isn't at a point where I can use it 24/7 without it getting annoying. It is too hard to hold still for one thing. I now wish you had the option to wear 3d glasses so viewing angle wouldn't be a problem.

Owen Bennett
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Opinion from my 5 year old - "That looks really cool". As far as the form factor goes, I'm in favour - the hinge is a liability with a small child, and have you seen a 5 year olds pockets? They're really tiny and you can't fit a DS in them anyway. The screen also inevitably gets covering in greasy paw prints within about 5 minutes anyway, so the clam shell isn't protecting anything.

The only thing I'm hoping is it not stupidly region locked. My kids are half Japanese, and the reason I didn't get a 3DS was because I didn't want to have to choose between Japanese and English games.

Duje Kragic
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So, if the screen is really one-piece...

What prevented them from using it as a whole, as one big square touch-screen device that plays (3)DS games and has its own neat little app-store tailored just for the kids with lots of $0.99 3rd party apps?

Call it Gameboy Evolved and watch it print money. WiiU and 3DS would die out quite quickly, but nobody would care, just as nobody cared for GBA as "second tier" when "third tier" DS won back in 1804.

These 2DShenenigans really seem like a unnecessary link between the (3)DS and aforementioned device.

E Zachary Knight
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Because Nintendo didn't want to fragment its market. They want the 3DS and the 2DS to sell along side each other and share a library of games. By even making fragmentation optional, they risk quite a bit.

Bob Johnson
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The 3ds does have its own app store.

Vos Normandy
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It would be hard to understand that the Gameboy Evolved plays 3DS games in 2D... and gamers would complain that it doesn't play their old Gameboy cartridges

Scott Lavigne
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I wonder if we'll ever get a clamshell model of the 2DS. I've held out on a 3DS because I know I'd be paying a high premium for a feature I don't care anything about.

Bob Johnson
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Just buy a 3DS when its on sale and turn the 3d off. Problem solved.

David Navarro
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"I wasn't a fan of the iPad 3 being called the iPad"

Well, the MacBook Pro is called "MacBook Pro" every generation, and people's heads don't seem to be exploding with the confusion.

Chris Nash
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I think people won't be as confused as the article states. Do people think the XBox One is an old console? Probably not.


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