Twilight Years 2D: The New Nintendo 2DS XL

Nintendo has been in the news quite a bit lately regarding their hardware, a trend you might realize even if you only read this blog. They took serious heat after their baffling decision to discontinue the NES Classic Edition/Famicom Classic Mini, despite selling as many as they could ship, and how they never fulfilled demand after it was on the market for a little over five months. In fact, Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aimé confirmed that 2.3 million systems were shipped worldwide, but claimed they needed to discontinue it because of their limited manufacturing resources. He also mentioned their need to focus on the future, referencing the six-year-old 3DS and the newly-launched Nintendo Switch. Neither of these are good excuses for ceasing production of a system people would still buy in droves.

Perhaps that “future” will include the Super NES Classic Edition (or Super Famicom Mini), rumored to be coming this fall. If so, expect Nintendo to announce it shortly after E3. Also expect it to be nigh-impossible to find before it’s discontinued.

Speaking of Switch: Nintendo wasn’t hesitant to put out a press release touting its sales. While it’s too early to call it a success, which will depend on whether it maintains these sales trends over the next several months, it’s an encouraging start for a system several skeptics figured would be Wii U 2.0.

Now, they have a new surprise: The New Nintendo 2DS XL. It’s mostly what it says, in how it’s yet another new 3DS model, and will be the sixth iteration in the system’s over-six-year life when it arrives in late-July. It’s similar to the Nintendo 2DS in how it won’t have 3D support, a feature that won’t be missed by many after glasses-free 3D didn’t catch on as a selling point. The design is also more colorful than the comparatively drabber existing New 3DS models, showing how it will follow the previous 2DS in being aimed towards younger audiences. That makes sense considering most software releases for consoles in their twilight years tend to be aimed towards kids, the audience least likely to be early adopters for new platforms. Here’s a new piece of hardware to go with those remaining games.

The New 2DS XL also takes after the New Nintendo 3DS line of systems in including the power to play existing games in their New 3DS-enhanced forms, and the few New 3DS-exclusive games in existence. The upcoming Fire Emblem Warriors will be the next, and perhaps final, addition to that exclusive line — though it’s also releasing on Switch. Unlike the New 3DS, though, it’s nice that you won’t have to unscrew the back of the device to replace the microSD card.

The biggest surprise is how it drops the 2DS’ slate form factor for a clamshell design, to resemble other 3DS models. While that makes sense with the screens being larger (with sizes identical to previous XL models), it gets rid of one of the biggest selling points of the 2DS for those who aren’t children or purchased it as a cheap alternative. The lack of a clamshell made the system easier to hold for longer periods for those whose hands wrap into an uncomfortable claw with the 3DS models. Nintendo hasn’t said anything about discontinuing the 2DS models, so it’s good that they’re keeping it around for now.

The existence of this platform could also explain why there were shortages for both New 3DS models, and the 2DS to a lesser extent, over the holiday season. Perhaps they were in the middle of phasing those models out and replacing them with this one, but the system’s second sales renaissance in the second half of last year caught them off guard. This will be an accurate assessment if it’s shown that Nintendo is able to keep these in stock when they release, and that’s a big “if” given their recent methods.

The announcement of this model shows how Nintendo is serious about keeping the 3DS alive for a little while longer, despite the Switch recently launching. It will release alongside titles like Hey! Pikmin and Ever Oasis, while Monster Hunter Stories and the aforementioned Fire Emblem Warriors will arrive in the fall. But Nintendo could have other announcements in store, like the possibly-leaked Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga DX, an enhanced port or remake of the first game in the franchise.

It would be nice if more third-party games came along with them, like Etrian Odyssey V, and the trio of games Atlus announced for Japan a little over a month ago. That is, assuming they haven’t abandoned the platform entirely.

The New 2DS XL will release in July in every territory for $150, or an equivalent. In classic Nintendo of America fashion, we’ll only be getting the black and blue color, while other territories will also have the option to a white and orange one. Japan will also receive a spiffy-looking Dragon Quest XI edition, adorned with a Liquid Metal Slime. It’s a shame the 3DS isn’t region-free, so you can’t import it to play games from multiple territories. Stay tuned to see if Nintendo can keep these in stock when they arrive.

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