I have a couple of friends who are not the smartest of the bunch, to say the least. Granted, I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way about me. Nevertheless, they asked a very apt and a very good question; why is Nintendo pushing two variations of their handheld consoles nowadays? Not only this usually means larger loss of money and material on Nintendo’s par, but also may confuse the consumer to some extent.
Actually, the second one of those is why Nintendo is now refusing to release the standard sized N3DS Flanders in the US, opting to promote and sell its fat brother instead. It is true that it is harder to promote two different products, that do exactly same thing just in different pants, than to promote and sell only one sole product. After all, trying to advertise consoles named 3DS, 3DSXL, 2DS, New 3DS and New 3DS XL can be confusing, just like advertising Wii and Wii U and trying to keep the consumers on the roll what’s what. If we take into notice that there is also DS and DSi, things just get mudded down like no other.
While the hardcore consumer or the general gamer is well versed what is what on the market and by whom, the same can’t be said of the larger market. A person who is almost 24/7 in touch with the latest news either via Famitsu, Niche Gamer, TechRaptor or whatnot, the blue ocean customer doesn’t give two flying pennies about what happens in the industry. All he cares about is what the darn box is that plays Mario. In that Nintendo’s marketing has seen incredible failure. Wii U is still a damn PR disaster, people confusing what it is. At the E3 it was revealed, people thought it was a Wii add-on and rightfully so. You’d think Nintendo learned something about naming their consoles, but then they came up with the stupid New 3DS (Flanders.) Not only the name is unimaginative as hell, but it has already caused confusion among the general consumers.
As for why the standard and XL sizes exist can be traced back to the DSi.
The DSi is essentially what the Flanders is to 3DS; a bastard son created to replace its father. In the 3DS’ case, it’s what the father should’ve been in the first place. However, with the advent of the DSi, Nintendo had noticed that the DS’ large library drew in older audience in with such titles like Brain Age Academy. The DSi XL was designed and advertised this older audience in mind, with larger screen and far more pen like stylus. The colour selection reflected this with more mature colours like Burgundy as opposed to some of the more toyish colours of bright candy red. Of course, black and white are the standard colourchemes every and any company tend to use nowadays. Nevertheless, I’m not sure how well the DSi XL excelled, as the standard sized consoles sold decently well to the audience, but the XL is still warming shelves.
As such, it wasn’t a surprise that the 3DS saw two different versions as well. Nintendo’s approach not to release the standard 3DS in the US is a good move overall, as they have less confusion in the market. I’d like to know why Nintendo didn’t do the same thing for the PAL regions. Nintendo’s decision reflects on the age split the consumers have in the US. The XL at its core is directed for the older audience, the 20-years plus group. Seeing the US has its infamous problem with the size of their citizens, it makes sense to market the console that fits the most to the market. Nintendo does recognize that their core audience will have a pole up their ass because of this move due to the surprisingly fierce division between standard and XL owners’ sides, but they’re using their logic heads instead of emotional heads. The latter is just for dicking, after all.
This may seem uncharacteristic of me, but do keep in mind that I am all for the companies maximising their earnings, but not on the expense of the consumer or ethics. If the data does show that the XL sells more than the standard size, I will always be for the removal of the lesser selling version of that exact same product. The whole standard and XL mixing had its time when software library was attracting consumers from each and every corner of the sales ocean. The DS and the Wii were incredible hits with the blue ocean market, whereas the 3DS and Wii U returned competing with other red ocean products.
However, I do think Nintendo should have gone their way out and release the Standard version in the US as well, seeing they already have production line for it. In a market that relies on its core audience more than on the general one (unlike with the DS and Wii) Nintendo doesn’t have much leeway to push that core audience away.
If my personal opinion was asked, I would say that a standard and XL versions should not exist at all. One version is enough, and seeing frequently updating your system is a thing, you can produce wholly different design later in the future. That is, if the console lives long enough to see those iterations. Both GameBoy and GameBoy Advance saw three core versions respectively. The old ass brick GameBoy is an iconic thing, beauty in its size and gobbles AA batteries like a horse, whereas the Pocket version fit into smaller hands and found a faithful following with that. The Colour was a lesser redesign, but far more curved and fit more hands than the two together. The original GameBoy advance is incredible comfortable machine to hold for hours end, whereas the SP is a thin and flat bastard with its own users. The Micro wasn’t a huge success, but ultimately is as surprisingly comfortable as the SP is horrible. Yes, I do not like SP’s design and the 3DS versions, and to large extend the DS’ too, share its shortcomings in ergonomics. I often employ some sort of grip with the modern handhelds because I enjoy my hands actually working when I do work. Then again, you can argue that my line of work is not good for your hands anyways, but the I’d argue that even the smallest things to make things better can have a significantly positive effect.
Whether or not you like the standard better than the XL is up to you. Whether or not the market deems the other more desirable than the other should show which one is more preferred and what direction the next Nintendo’s handheld console’s design should go towards. I hope it will love our hands more than these damn flat flip flops we’ve been getting.