A few years ago the electronics industry grew obsessed with the third dimension – 3D televisions popped up in every superstore and dual-lens camcorders appeared, promising to add extra depth to the video of little Jimmy’s first football match.
Broadcasters got in on the action too, offering 3D coverage of everything from Wimbledon to the Queen’s Christmas message. Japanese games company Nintendo jumped on the bandwagon, replacing its ageing but popular DS handheld console with the 3DS. Virtually identical to its predecessor, its party piece was displaying games in 3D without the need for special glasses.
I reviewed the 3DS in 2010 and was mostly underwhelmed. The biggest problem was that the 3D screen had a very narrow sweet spot – move just a couple of inches left or right and the 3D effect was lost.
Sales of the 3DS have been good but not stellar; more than 30 million units have been shifted over the past three years, but that’s still less than one-quarter of the sales of the DS.
The truth is the world has moved on since the heyday of the DS. Tablets such as the iPad and Google Nexus now offer high-quality games, video playback, internet access and e-books in a single device that costs no more than Nintendo’s single-purpose games console.
Nintendo has finally responded to the competition with a new, cut-price handheld console, the Nintendo 2DS – essentially a 3DS with a conventional 2D display.
The other significant difference is the device’s shape. The original DS had a clamshell design, with the two screens folding together allowing the console to fit in a pocket. The 3DS retained this successful shape, which dates as far back as Nintendo’s Game and Watch gadgets of the 1980s. But with the 2DS, Nintendo has used a tablet-like shape, with both screens mounted on the same panel.
The decision to drop the clamshell design is bizarre, making the 2DS much less portable and less well protected than its predecessors. More importantly, the chunky black bezel around the screens on the 2DS is ugly – reminiscent of the cheap, first-generation iPad clones.
Priced at £109, the 2DS will cost less than half the original price of its 3D sibling. But maybe it’s too little, too late. For similar money there are Android tablets that are more powerful, more flexible and with larger and more responsive touch screens. More importantly, games for tablets are typically around 90% cheaper than Nintendo 3DS games, making the total cost of ownership significantly lower.
This review first appeared in The Herald