A few years back, Nintendo launched a low-cost follow-up to its 3DS. The 2DS was a slate instead of a clamshell, and it dropped the 3D capabilities Nintendo built into the 3DS, all while selling for a lower price ($129 at launch compared with $170 for the 3DS at the time). Now, Nintendo has released a new budget-oriented version of its 3DS XL, the New 2DS XL.
The New 2DS XL drops the slate form factor that the 2DS favored and returns to a clamshell design. As the name implies, the “2DS” still can’t handle the stereoscopic 3D effects that the 3DS uses — though these were generally limited to eye candy and minimal changes, unless you consider high battery life consumption to be a feature. Otherwise, the hardware between the New 3DS XL and New 2DS XL is identical, though not always laid out in the same fashion. The front camera has been moved to the hinge on the 2DS XL, while the rear camera is now on the bottom of the system. This means the New 2DS XL should also feature a quad-core ARM11 CPU, 256MB of RAM, and the faster Wi-Fi that was available on the newer 3DS variants.
There’s been widespread speculation that Nintendo would kill the 3DS family if the Switch really took off, though Nintendo has always refuted these claims. Instead, they appear to be positioning it as a budget, kid-friendly entry-level machine. That’s actually a fairly smart move, especially if you want to introduce your kids to Nintendo games with a handheld that’s less expensive to replace than the Switch. It may also help Nintendo stave off competition from smartphones, though repeated hardware refreshes haven’t reversed the 3DS’ slumping sales.
There are two ways Nintendo could play this out. One would be to simply retire the 3DS and handheld brand, focus entirely on the Switch, and merge the game libraries of the two devices. Another would be to create a new line of budget handheld products. Emulation of classic 3DS games wouldn’t necessarily be an issue for a smaller handheld device like the theorized mini-Switch. The 3DS uses ARM9 and ARM11 code, which should be easy to port to a modern 64-bit ARM architecture. The GPU would be another matter, but the PICA 200 core used by the 3DS and 2DS was first presented in 2006 and its performance is an order of magnitude or two away from a modern GPU. Emulation should be plausible. Whether that makes sense, given slumping handheld sales, is another question. With the Switch selling like crazy, Nintendo may just wind down the 3DS over the next few years.
The New 2DS XL will retail for $149.99; it arrives July 28th.