In early 2010, when Nintendo’s DSi handheld game machine was racking up record-breaking sales, the Kyoto gamemaker introduced an unexpected new model, the DSi XL. It was a classic example of Nintendo zigging where others zagged; as its competitors raced to make handheld gaming smaller and smaller, Nintendo increased its screens to giant size, sacrificing pure portability to create a more impressive gaming experience and a larger touch-screen input area.
Back then — ages ago, in videogame industry terms — Nintendo was introducing the DSi XL as an optional new form factor for a platform that was already incredibly popular. The 3DS XL, which will arrive in the U.S. on August 19 at a price of $200, is being released into a less-friendly marketplace, one in which smartphones and tablets are sucking up players’ — and game developers’ — attention.
This time, the XL model doesn’t just need to supplement the existing 3DS, it needs to redefine the platform. And it might just do that.