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New Nintendo 3DS Fails To See North American Release

One of 2015's worst kept secrets thus far has been the announcement of the North American release of Nintendo's next iteration on the 3DS hardware. Plenty of people predicted that the January 14th Nintendo Direct would be the perfect time and place to announce the 'New' 3DS and they were right; to an extent.

Released last October in Japan, the New Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL consoles follow a familiar trend in Nintendo handheld hardware dating back to the Game Boy days. Steady, minor improvements to hardware over an extended period of time allow Nintendo to test the waters for future features without sacrificing too much of the functionality that made the system a must-have in the first place. Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Advance SP, DS Lite, DSi and 2DS are just a few of the many intermediaries that filled the shelves during the long stretches between generations. Most of these see worldwide release save for a handful of oddities like the Game Boy Light.

Unfortunately for some, it seems the New 3DS will be added to that small list.

Outside of the feature improvements that have already been revealed as being shared by both New models (C-stick, face-tracking stereoscopic 3D, faster load times, etc.) the New 3DS really separates itself from its XL brother on the shelf by having a customizable faceplate. During the launch of the console in Japan this feature was marketed heavily alongside Japanese pop icons as a means to express individual flair and taste.

Tied in to this campaign was the release of digital 3DS themes available for purchase directly from the 3DS home screen, most of which are also available here in the west. Many of these themes were designed to match the physical faceplates that could be bought in-store as a way to further coordinate your console's look. A strong emphasis on mixing and matching was a key component of this marketing push. Strip away the pop idol-centric motif and you have a similar message to the Game Boy micro ads that graced the pages of game magazines circa 2005. And it doesn't take much searching to find small groups of devoted fans that love the Game Boy micro and are still making custom faceplates to spice up their old hardware at very little cost.

So what is it about this little piece of hardware that Nintendo of America believes won't sell? Well, numbers. The 3DS XL has been outselling the smaller model here in North America for a while now and even the New 3DS XL has outsold the New 3DS in Japan almost 2-to-1. It seems like NOA wants to solidify the 2DS as the preferred entry-level member of the 3DS family, keep the XL around for those who want the deluxe experience, and kick out the middle child that overstayed its welcome.

I won't argue that this is a bit of a kick in the pants for people who were keeping tabs on the New 3DS's release in other territories. Just recently Europe got a taste of a Club Nintendo exclusive New 3DS model that looks absolutely gorgeous. Even in the Japanese Nintendo Direct on the 14th more faceplates were shown off including one featuring Kirby and Waddle Dee and I love it so so much. Not to mention with only the 2DS and New 3DS XLs lining the shelves, those of us who wear slightly tighter pants are going to have a tough time clearing out real-estate in our pockets. Life is hard.