In a move that took absolutely no one by surprise, Nintendo announced YADS this week. (That would be "Yet Another DS" in case you were wondering.) Coming out later this year, (July for Japan and Europe, August 19 for North America), gamers will now have the option to get their 3D handheld gaming in regular or SuperSize with the release of Nintendo's 6th - SIXTH - 6-freaking-th system in the DS family, the 3DS XL.
In case you forgot, here's a list of the DS systems in order of release. The original Nintendo DS, the DS Lite, the DSi, the DSi XL/LL, the 3DS, and now the 3DS XL.
This follows in the grand tradition of releasing the exact same system in a slightly different package. The obvious comparison would be the GBA. There were the GBA, GBA SP, GBA SP backlight, and the GBmicro. Which, of course, was the successor to the Game Boy, which came in the following flavors: Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light, Game Boy Color.
(There were also the "Play It Loud!" Game Boys - but those were just original Game Boys with a different color case. I'm not going to count each color as a different system. That's just silly.)So that brings Nintendo's handheld game console offerings to a whopping 18 systems. Bear in mind, that most of these models offered little to no actual new features. Despite having 18 handheld systems, Nintendo has only had - and this is a stretch - 6 different handheld game lines. Most people would say 3. They are Game Boy games, Game Boy Color games, Game Boy Advance games, DS Games, DSi games, and 3DS games.
(Technically, Nintendo would say there is a 7th type - and that's the Game Boy Hybrids - which were Game Boy Color games that were backwards compatible with the Original Game Boy. And a possible 8th - DSi Enhanced games, which were DS games that when played on a DSi offered additional functionality, like using the camera in some way.)
(For the record, Wikipedia lists a total of FOUR DSi games. I'm talking about actual DSi carts, not DSiWare which is downloaded from the Nintendo shop, or DSi Enhanced games. So you would be completely justified in ignoring the idea of a DSi game as a format entirely.)
The fact is, though, most of the systems played multiple types of these games. All of the GBA models, for example, played Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games, (except the Game Boy Micro, which was GBA games only). The DS and DS Lite both played DS and GBA games. The DSi, DSi XL/LL, 3DS, and 3DS XL all play DS games and DSi games. And, of course, the 3DS and 3DS XL also play 3DS games.
(If you don't count DSi games as a thing, then the DSi and DSi XL/LL are the "GBmicro" of the DS line, since they only play DS games - but they do offer DSiWare, which is a real thing and has actual value. But it's also available on the 3DS - along with a lot of other downloadable apps and games. So... um... yeah.)If you look at new features - there have really only been 6 systems. The Game Boy, which started it all, (yes I'm aware of the Game & Watch games - but those aren't consoles - they are stand-alone games). The Game Boy Color, which, of course, added color. The GBA, which was a new system entirely, with updated graphics and more controls. The DS, which added a second screen, touch controls, and even more buttons. The DSi, which added web browsing, downloadable games (not just demos), apps, and a built-in camera, (the Game Boy had a camera accessory). And the 3DS, which added 3D gaming, AR, Virtual Console, and many more apps and downloadable games.
(Again, I would totally understand ignoring the DSi altogether, because it was merely a stop-gap measure between the DS and the 3DS. Even though the DSi was out for over 2 years before the 3DS - the fact that the DS Lite was in production the entire time and even after the 3DS came out made the DSi a completely forgettable platform. And, for the record, I own one, and have for years. It was an improvement over the DS Lite, but was basically ignored by developers and replaced so quickly and so thoroughly by the 3DS, it will be forgotten before long. The DS Lite at least offers a GBA slot which the 3DS does not have. The DSi offers nothing that the 3DS does not have, and the 3DS version is better.)So - I know I've thrown a lot of numbers and similar-looking acronyms at you. Let me try to recap and clarify. Nintendo has, since 1989, released 18 different hand held game systems to play what amounts to basically 4 types of games - GB, GBA, DS, 3DS. No system could ever play more than 2 of those 4 types, (ignoring the Virtual Console of the 3DS and non-Nintendo sanctioned emulator Flash Karts). That's a new handheld game system every 15.3 months (1 year 3.3 months) for the last 23 years.
So when Nintendo announced the 3DS XL, it was not a shock. It was not news. It was the clock ticking again. It happens.
Oh, and Nintendo is already hard at work to replace the 3DS. Shigeru Miyamoto told reporters that last week. Just a couple of days before the 3DS XL announcement.... So, the clock will tick again. Probably 15 months or so after the 3DS XL. I'm thinking the Super 3DSi Advance SP.