The only DS I ever bought was the original “DS Phat” soon after its launch. I remember feeling so excited when I walked into Toys-R-Us with the fat wad of cash in my bank account and the knowledge that soon I’d be playing on Nintendo’s brand new portable– provided it was in stock. I walked out with the system in my grubby little hands and my history with another Nintendo console started. I didn’t know then that DS would have the most phenomenal library of games of any Nintendo system, even surpassing, in my mind, SNES. I didn’t know how much the system would be able to ruggedly stand up to the damage I dished out against it on a regular basis. I just knew I had something special in my hands that would keep me entertained on the go for years.
It did. Over my DS Phat’s lifespan, before I “retired” it a few months ago, I played lots of games. Every week new titles were released that made me excited to be the owner of a DS. Then Nintendo revealed the DS Lite, a system that was exactly the same only slimmer and sexier. I wanted one, sure, but not enough to go plop down the cash, especially since my DS– now sans its styli– still played all those games fine. Sure, the battery life wasn’t as good, but I knew that Nintendo would inevitably reveal its next system before too much longer. But a year passed and Nintendo didn’t. Even then, I wasn’t sold on a DS Lite. Hinge problems aside, it was just not a luxury, I a poor college student could afford, especially with Wii taking up more and more of my time.
Then Nintendo revealed DSi. At first all I could think of was how much of a ripoff it was since the removal of the GBA slot meant not only was backwards compatibility gone, but many of the peripherals for the system were now useless. I scoffed. There was no way this half-hearted attempt to extend the DS line would actually work. And yet, another Christmas came and still DS– bolstered by its new form– was on top of the sales. It also helped that Nintendo finally took their first steps into DLC on the go with DSiWare. Finally there was a reason to purchase the system.
Still, I didn’t buy it. I could give any number of excuses, but the big one I kept giving myself was the same one I always used: my DS still worked just fine.
Then Nintendo revealed the DSi XL. First impression: man, that’s a sexy piece of tech. Second impression: there’s no way I’m ever getting that; it’s just not for me. But E3 2010 would change my mind completely about the system “being for me.” Getting a chance to feel how solid the system was in my hands and to see how good the games looked on that big screen, I was sold. DSi XL was awesome, and I wanted one.
I still didn’t have the money to pick one up. I was done with college and struggling to make ends meet as it was. There was no way I could put forward the cash to pick up a system that was going to outdated soon by Nintendo’s surprise announcement of 3DS. Then my parents surprised me with one for my birthday. I was ecstatic. It was everything I was hoping for, and it didn’t cost me a dime. I drank the Kool-Aid.
You see, DSi and DSi XL were not really a stopgap to draw in new consumers. Sure, DSi XL sold itself to some first-timers, but overall DSi and its big brother were prestige systems. They were the perfect gift for a parent to pick up for a child as a gift because they had a certain “rule of cool” effect when you whipped it out of your pocket– or backpack– when you were with a group of friends. Nintendo knew it didn’t need to bring in new gamers with a prestige system. It just needed consumers to adopt the new hardware and pass down their old systems to a sibling… or eBay. Meanwhile, Nintendo had the time to camp on 3DS until it was able to be manufactured at a better cost to maximize profits. That, above all else, is why DSi and DSi XL were a Band-Aid that Nintendo needed for its aging DS brand.