When it came time to name the Xbox 360, you got the impression that Microsoft were eager to call it anything but the Xbox 2. With Sony on the verge of announcing its third iteration of the PlayStation, no-one wanted to risk looking like old news. PlayStation 3. Xbox 2. Three is greater than two, right? That's not just science, it's plain old mathematics. It's a numbers game.
From that perspective, you might argue that Nintendo hasn't done the best job of naming its latest consoles.
First there was the Wii U. A name that has done its level best to bewilder, confuse and bore the casual audience that made the original Wii such a great success. Now there's the 2DS, the console that's currently sitting comfortably in my hands. Microsoft was so afraid to move the Xbox number forward one they added 359. Nintendo, it seems, couldn't care less. They're doing something a little crazy. They're going back a number. Ballsy.
But as I use this new piece of tech, with its unique design, I openly wonder about the name. The 3DS was a name that signalled progress. Not just from the natural progression of the numbers, but from the '3D' perspective. 3D = future, some kind of future. What does 2D mean? It means flat. It means old, it means taking some sort of a step back.
As I'm holding this piece of technology, a well designed, well-positioned piece of technology that — in my opinion — has done everything right I remember its name and this is the thought that enters my head: 'what the hell were they thinking'.
I'd argue they were thinking about the money they're going to make. So much so they forgot to give it a decent name.
I'm in the minority when I say the words, 'I think the 2DS is a good idea', but I believe the numbers will prove me right. The game that's launching alongside the 2DS is Pokemon X and Y. Being an insufferable aloof teenager when the first game was released, I couldn't even pretend to be an expert on Pokemon. I missed that boat but I didn't miss its impact: a turn-based epidemic that spread from generation to generation with terrifying ease. Pokemon is airborne and the X and Y virus is the most potent and efficient yet. It will infiltrate the minds of children who are playing for the first time, the parents who first played all those years ago, and everyone in between. It will be a game changing release and the 2DS exists to help facilitate that change.
Because it's cheap. So cheap. $149.95 cheap to be precise, and by the time it's been discounted in Big W and packaged with Pokemon in JB Hi-Fi there won't be a damn thing you can do to hold back that river. It's Christmas, it's summer, it's money flowing in the goddamn streets all headed in one direction: Nintendo and its gosh darn Pokemens.
So the name is terrible but the product itself? I love it. I actually love it. From the initial images I worried about the shape of it. As far as I'm concerned the 3DS XL represents one of the best designed handhelds I've ever owned: great size, great shape, everything. The 2DS is such a massive diversion from that, so I expected to be frustrated. I wasn't. The buttons felt fine, to the point where I didn't notice their supposed cheapness. The d-pad felt small against my medium-sized man hands and the relegation of some parts of the console to the touch screen, I imagine, might be frustrating in the long term (especially if, like me, you frequently turn off the wi-fi to save battery) but as a core package the design felt sort of flawless.
This is what the 2DS is for: it's for parents who are terrified of 3D and its effects. No matter how inane and senseless that instinct is, it's a very real concern that parents have and its a whole market that remains untapped. The 2DS is about to do some serious tapping.
The tipping point is here for the 3DS in all its shapes and sizes. A burgeoning library with classics across multiple genres. An install base that allows large scale software development to make sense. A brand new Pokemon on the horizon, a new Zelda, a brand new market to sell to. Two well designed handhelds (in the 3DS XL and the 2DS) that court two very different markets. I expect great things for Nintendo's handheld business over the next few years.
But that name? The 2DS? What the hell were they thinking?