Do We Really Need a 3DS XL?

The announcement of a 3DS XL wasn’t huge news, as speculation of an improved 3DS had been running around the rumor mill for… well… ever since the 3DS’s original release, actually. The thing is, why now? What’s the point? At a time when the 3DS has finally filled out its catalogue and is starting to build momentum in European and North American markets, why would Nintendo choose to release a new model so soon after initial launch?

Well, it’s not all that soon, looking back to past hardware launches. If you recall, the gap between the original DS and the DS Lite wasn’t that long either – it was as if one day you saw the original, blinked, and suddenly everyone was holding the Lite. And with that one system, there were four versions in total before the 3DS ever showed up on anyone’s radar.

Nintendo is known for offering improvements on its hardware, and it’s certainly a way to put their products back into the eye of the public, ultimately attracting more consumers and, to put it bluntly, make some additional cash.

But why an XL, and why now?

There’s no question that Nintendo is looking to capitalize on the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2 by providing this new version of the 3DS at the same time. DS owners who loved the DSi XL are likely the target here, as they’re the ones looking for a less-squinty experience. It’s also often the older gamers – and here we have an aging couple of generations who grew up with Mario and friends – who prefer the bigger screen, as it’s more comfortable on the eyes… and this is a growing segment of the gaming population.

That said, will those gamers be the ones with disposable incomes who can afford a new system? The economy isn’t in the same place as it used to be, and sales of entertainment products tend to slow and get cut first. If it’s food, rent, and clothing for the kids vs. a 3DS XL, guess what’s going to come first? Whether the market can bear the XL is a serious question that hopefully Nintendo tried to answer when first thinking up their plan.

If it sells, it looks like the XL may actually be a profitable release, as opposed to the original 3DS launch. Instead of working from the ground up, there’s an existing base here to work from and market to, while also reaching new people for whom the 3DS may have dropped off the radar. Considering that Satoru Iwata has assured stockholders that Nintendo will return to profitability by the end of the year, it seems that the losses due to a high price point that hit the 3DS won’t be repeated by the XL. Now, the pricing on the XL is still competitive for the marketplace, but because it’s a remodel and not an entirely new device, it’s also possible that the cost to build the XL is low enough to assure a profit on each console sale.

But if it doesn’t sell at all? There’s no profit there at all! Because the 3DS will remain the cheaper option, we’ll quickly find out whether consumers will choose price point over gaming comfort at the register. If the XL’s release just results in continued sales of the 3DS, well, that can’t very well be considered a success for the XL, can it?

And as for timing… well, consider the summer months for gaming. There are typically few big releases during the summer, as most companies wait for the pre-holiday hype to build up to holiday releases. Large events like PAX Prime are the perfect place to demo those upcoming releases and build excitement, so rather than wait for the crowds, it could be that Nintendo saw a window of opportunity during Summer 2012 and decided to go for it.

Besides, they’ll be competing for holiday dollars with the Wii U and focusing their marketing efforts there, so all signs point to Summer 2012 unless they wanted to wait until the new year. This could be a case of shooting themselves in the foot, however, because again… disposable income is limited for many people these days, so we may see gamers holding off on a new 3DS model because they’re saving their cash for the Wii U.

Ultimately, we have to ask the question: Do we really need a 3DS XL right now? The timing is both good and bad, based on Nintendo’s past handheld console releases. It could go either way. The good news is, releasing the game in conjunction with the highly anticipated New Super Mario Bros. 2 could be the push they need to get the 3DS back on the map, and get the XL selling as hoped.

Whether Nintendo will make the money they’re hoping on this new release – and whether gamers will have any of it to give them – remains to be seen.


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Author: Micah View all posts by
Micah has been playing games since his first pong machine, and has been writing for as long as he could grip a pencil and not drool on the paper. So, for about a week.

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