Nintendo's New 3DS XL Offers Uncertain Appeal

Nintendo took the wraps off its new, super-sized 3DS XL handheld on Friday, but reactions have been anything but enthusiastic. The new DS offers a larger set of screens (4.88 inches top / 4.18" bottom), better battery life, and will ship with a copy of New Super Marios 2 for $199.99, but it's launching into a very different market than what the original DS XL faced in 2009.

The 3DS XL's battery improvements aren't just icing on the cake -- they're seen as remedying a critical problem with the current handheld. It also won't support the second circle pad added by the Circle Pad Pro, which implies Nintendo is ready to kill that peripheral altogether. The other major problem is that a larger screen isn't really what the 3DS needed in order to be more successful. The large screen may capture the same group of buyers who bought into the DS when the DS XL was released, but there's no evidence that this constitutes a particularly large percentage of Nintendo customers.

When you consider that the improved battery life and bigger screens come at the cost of mobility and weight, the 3DS XL looks more like a step sideways than a leap forward. It's not a bad idea, but it's not the must-have rabbit that Nintendo needed to pull out of its proverbial hat to silence the "Mobile games will kill handheld devices" crowd.

Looking at it, I can't help thinking Nintendo would be better served by a next-gen handheld that reduced power consumption by die/process improvements, used an IGZO-based screen from Sharp to reduce screen power draw, and incorporated a second circle pad natively rather than requiring gamers to buy an add-on.

If you're a current 3DS owner or a 3DS XL user, is the 3DS XL appealing? Drop a line and let us know.