on Sep 05 by Michael O'Connell-Davidson
The 2DS is a bad idea. It doesn’t matter that it’s a good idea for young children who can’t handle 3D yet, because they don’t have real incomes. It doesn’t matter that it’s vaguely reminiscent of a tablet, because handling a Galaxy Note or an iPad will draw fewer stares on public transport than the 2DS will. More than that, though, it’s more sand in the eyes for developers, whose incentives for developing 3DS games seem to be dwindling further and further by the day.
Let’s face it: developing for the double screened system isn’t easy. If you’re porting pre-existing software, you need to figure out how to distribute information across both displays. You also need to figure out what touch controls actually do for you and your app, because the no model of DS has capacitive touch technology and working with a stylus is much different to working with fingers. These notes, when coupled with the fact that you have much less in the way of computing power and screen real estate in the first place, make developing for the 3DS a bit of an awkward concept.
What incentives do you have to actually develop software for the 3DS? Well, the install base is growing, and that’s something – another iteration of the console can only help that, as those who either couldn’t afford or refused to pay for the 3DS or the XL are finally convinced to leap onto the bandwagon. It doesn’t make good business sense to try and attract this audience, though, because those who are unwilling to spend any more money than they have to aren’t the people who will be buying games regularly enough to make a difference. Furthermore, if Nintendo wanted a piece of that audience, then they should have offered a price cut on the original 3DS and sold it at a more of a loss, because the only other incentive developers have to work with the 3DS is its unique selling point – the 3D screen.
By removing the 3D screen from this iteration of the 3DS (what are we even calling the 3DS now that they’re not all 3D?), Nintendo have shown that they lack confidence in their original game plan. Microsoft’s original ideas for the Xbox One were good, if poorly marketed; there were plenty of reasons to have confidence in the platform as a developer. One of the more bizarre moves Microsoft have made is making the Kinect no longer required to use the system. Sure, it eases people’s privacy concerns, but now developers can’t be sure whether or not the camera’s even plugged in – so why use it?
Nintendo’s indie and third party developers now stare down the same question – if we can’t be sure that the 3DS has 3D capabilities, why bother trying to use the screen in any meaningful way? It’s a question worth asking, and that’s a real shame, because Nintendo have created a great ecosystem almost accidently with the 3DS eShop. The drought period that followed the 3DS’ launch was marked by little more than great indie titles like Pushmo (Pullblox in Europe) which served as free R&D for Nintendo; it showed both them and their customers how 3D technology could be used for gameplay as opposed to gimmicks.
Developing a 3DS without 3D is like developing a Wii without a Wiimote, or a Wii U without the gamepad. It’s unthinkable, and the only reasons consumers seem remotely pleased about the 2DS are short-sighted (with the exception of parents, who want their children to be locked out of using 3D); the price difference is nothing after you factor in buying a charger and protection for the screen now that Nintendo have ditched the clamshell design that previously kept their displays safe. If announcing an ugly diluted 3DS was a response to Sony’s recent Vita price cut (which matched the price of the console to the cost of the XL in some markets), then Sony have already won. It asks too many questions – what will a circle pad pro look like on this thing? Will there even be one? What about the sections of Super Mario 3D land that recommended you turn on 3D.
Compare this to Sony’s indie push, which has seen games like Fez make it onto the Vita, and you begin to wonder – do Nintendo even care about third parties any more? Their desire to grow an install base is understandable, as they seem to have completely missed the Chinese market. (I’ve been gathering 3DS streetpass data out in Hong Kong, and it’s clear that the only people who use the service here are Japanese tourists.) But a fractured install base doesn’t benefit anybody, least of all the consumer, because in the long run, all this means for the system are worse games, and a worse deal for early adopters who actually placed their faith in Nintendo’s dream.
If future Nintendo systems are little more than more ‘mates club’ hardware – designed to handle Nintendo’s intellectual property and little else – then it’s your move, Sony. Playstation Plus on the Vita is also a members club, but it’s one that their customers are also invited to. The 2DS is another bad decision by a company that seem less and less relevant with each major hardware release, and it’s a far cry from what Nintendo need to do to combat the real enemy – because let’s face it, it’s not Sony, it’s the Smartphone.
Think differently? Read our counter-argument here