Tech Biz

Nintendo 2DS: Made for Kids … and a Pokemon Renaissance

Launching the 2DS on the same day as Pokemon X and Y is no coincidence.

Yesterday, Nintendo had gamers scratching their heads and asking, “Why?” As has been the case with console after console from the Japanese gaming giant, plenty of tech commentators exclaimed that Nintendo had just hammered another nail into its own coffin. The company’s decision to release the 2DS – essentially a fully open 3DS with the 3D functionality removed – was a bold and very obviously polarizing move. It may also have been the best idea that Nintendo has had for quite some time.

It is no secret that Nintendo has faced some bumps in the road when it comes to the Wii U. The console has struggled to gain third-party support, with Electronic Arts (EA) sharply criticizing it as “more of an extension of [their] last console.” Another game publisher, Ubisoft, said that “Third party partners are, in a word, disappointed with Nintendo.” Ubisoft’s exclusive Wii U launch title, ZombiU, failed to turn a profit.

The truth is that third party publishers can criticize Nintendo hardware as much as they want because Nintendo makes far more money by selling its own games. A quick glance at the VGChartz Game Database drives that point home: Nintendo games designed for Nintendo consoles fill the top 15 spots for total global sales.

Rank   Title Console   Year   Global Sales
(million USD)
1 Wii Sports Wii 2006 81.47
2 Super Mario Bros. NES 1985 40.24
3 Mario Kart Wii Wii 2008 33.9
4 Wii Sports Resort Wii 2009 31.84
5 Pokémon Red / Green / Blue Version GB 1996 31.37
6 Tetris GB 1989 30.26
7 New Super Mario Bros. DS 2006 29.25
8 Wii Play Wii 2006 28.74
9 Duck Hunt NES 1984 28.31
10 New Super Mario Bros. Wii Wii 2009 27.07
11 Nintendogs DS 2005 24.53
12 Pokémon Gold / Silver Version GB 1999 23.1
13 Wii Fit Wii 2007 22.75
14 Mario Kart DS DS 2005 22.58
15 Wii Fit Plus Wii

2009 21.23

(All figures provided by VGChartz)

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On closer inspection, we can see that six of the top 15 are handheld titles. In fifth and 12th place are the beloved Pokemon RPGs for GameBoy. It is no coincidence that the Nintendo 2DS will launch on the exact same day as the upcoming Pokemon X and Y games – October 12.

Nintendo’s 2DS is a bulky device. Its wedge shape makes it look more suited for use as a tabletop than to being held in a player’s hands. But the 2DS can play all 3DS games (in two dimensions) while also being reverse compatible with older DS titles. It will retail for only $130 – $40 less than the standard 3DS. The key points here are the lack of 3D (which can be dangerous for young children’s eye development) and the lower price point.

“We’re always thinking about what we can do that’s new, unique, different, and brings more people into this category that we love,” said Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime, in an interview with IGN. “And so with the Nintendo 3DS, we were clear to parents that, ‘Hey, we recommend that your children be seven and older to utilize this device.’ So clearly that creates an opportunity for five-year-olds, six-year-olds, that first-time handheld gaming consumer."

Fils-Aime continued: “We’ve always been thinking about, ‘how do we approach that as one target?’ And that certainly helped spur the idea of the Nintendo 2DS. Let’s have the consumer have access to all of these great games – Mario Kart 7, Animal Crossing – but do it in a 2D capability with a device that has a dramatically lower price point. That’s just an example of how we’re always thinking about, ‘How do we get more people playing Nintendo games?’”

The 2DS is meant for children, and the price has been set low to make parents more inclined to purchase it. “There's a good chance the 2DS could slip into impulse buy territory for both parents as well as gamers who haven't tried the 3DS yet,” said The Verge.

Add hardware that is targeted at children (and priced right) to a launch that coincides with the hugely anticipated release of Pokemon X and Y, and Nintendo could be on the cusp of a Pokemon renaissance.

Pokemon is the second best-selling video game franchise of all time, second only to Mario – so popular that many gamers probably had their first handheld experience with Pokemon Red or Blue. It was also announced that the 3DS is, at present, the best selling console in the U.S.

Naysayers will be naysayers, but it looks like Nintendo may have a very successful holiday sales season.