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Nintendo goes long with the stripped-down 2DS
Can ugly and cheap prevail?
 

Nintendo surprised plenty of people today when it pulled the wraps off a new handheld system called the 2DS — a clumsier, uglier alternative to its best-selling 3DS. It's Luigi to the 3DS's Mario.

As the funny name suggest, the 2DS allows users to play 3DS games without the 3D effects, and exchanges the closable clamshell for something more slate-like. It's also backwards compatible with Nintendo DS games.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is that Nintendo's 2DS will be $40 less than its sibling at just $130 — a strategy that Nintendo is hoping will drive sales and push 2DS units into the tiny hands of budding gamers. "Forty bucks may not be a lot, but for families it's a lot," Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, told the New York Times.

That the 3DS is selling well in spite of the glut of affordable tablets like the Nexus 7 is somewhat of a surprise. In fact, according to NPD Group, the 3DS has easily been the best-selling piece of gaming hardware for the past quarter, easily eclipsing Nintendo's living room console, the recently marked-down Wii U.

So… how does the 2DS handle? "It's surprisingly comfortable," said USA Today's Brett Molina after a brief hands-on.

My lone, minor concern is protecting the screens now that there's no way to close the device. Nintendo will sell carrying cases separately for 2DS, but curious how those screens hold up in a backpack or other bag. Also, will most 3DS games work just as well in 2D only? The first game that sprung to mind was Super Mario 3D Land, where having the 3D view is valuable. Nothing would be more frustrating than buying a 3DS game for 2DS and learning that extra dimension would prove very useful in having a positive experience. [USA Today]

Nintendo, which refuses to license its games for iOS or Android, is betting that it can cultivate a new generation of gamers by catching them while they're young. The legendary video game company is clearly playing the long game, even if it means cannibalizing 3DS sales in the interim.

A price point closer to the $100 mark might just be enough of a concession to get a few parents to buy the portable system on impulse alone, especially come the holiday shopping frenzy. Nintendo's 2DS goes on sale in North America starting October 12.

 
Chris Gayomali is the science and technology editor for TheWeek.com. Sometimes he writes about other stuff. His work has also appeared in TIME, Men's JournalEsquire, and The Atlantic.

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