Goodbye, Nintendo’s Dual Screens - Geek.com

The Nintendo Switch represents a lot of important things for the gaming juggernaut. Can the company move past the failure of the Wii U? Can it survive with a single system instead of a console and handheld duo? Can it keep making hardware while also releasing games on mobile phones? But it also represents something else. It marks the end of Nintendo’s idea that when it comes to gaming, two screens are better than one.

Goodbye, Nintendo’s Dual Screens - Geek.com

In 2003, before we learned about its touchscreen and polygonal graphics and online features, the only thing we knew about Nintendo’s next-generation DS handheld was that the “DS” stood for “Dual Screen.” And we were pretty confused. Why on earth would this portable system need two screens? Granted, some members of the Game and Watch line, Nintendo’s earlier handheld gaming machines, featured two screens. But why return to the idea now?

Goodbye, Nintendo’s Dual Screens - Geek.com

I’m a big fan of the Nintendo DS. I think it has one of the greatest libraries in gaming history. But I maintain that the fact it has two screens is actually least necessary thing about the device. Some games used the two displays in clever ways, like morphing the bottom screen into a pseudo-mouse surface for first-person shooters (Metroid Prime: Hunters) or turning the DS sideways like a book (Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword). But more often than not the two screens were just used for maps (Mario Kart DS) or presenting a single, awkwardly long screen (Contra 4). Features like touch, online, improved graphics and even the microphone did more to enhance the quality of games.

Still, whether or not it was because of the two screens, the DS was a smash success. It utterly crushed its single-screen competitor the PlayStation Portable. At 155 million units sold, it’s tied with the PlayStation 2 as the best-selling video game machine of all time. It became Nintendo’s flagship portable. No more wishy-washy rhetoric about it being a “third pillar” as an excuse in case the thing failed and the Game Boy had to return.

Goodbye, Nintendo’s Dual Screens - Geek.com

If we believe that the Wii and the DS were developed somewhat concurrently, then every Nintendo device following the DS used two screens in one way or another. Of course, there’s the Nintendo 3DS, the DS’s successor, which used one of its screens to display 3D images without the need for glasses. But the Wii U home console was also a dual-screen the device. Instead of holding both screens in your hands, you held the GamePad and its touch screen while also looking at your television screen. Even non-Nintendo companies got in on the dual-screen action. Remember the Kyocera Echo?

Goodbye, Nintendo’s Dual Screens - Geek.com

The Nintendo Switch, however, marks the end of this era. It’s (probably) Nintendo’s next portable system, but it only has one screen. And when you want to use it as a console, you put it in a dock and look at your TV. You’re only ever looking at one screen. The Switch has other features that make it unique compared to other game consoles, and again I’ve never felt that two screens were vital to Nintendo’s past success.

That said, as excited as I am for the Switch, it is odd to watch the death of this one particular, decade-long design quirk. So unless things go sideways and the DS needs to make an emergency comeback, let’s pour one out for Nintendo’s dual-screened gaming systems.

Want to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch.

Goodbye, Nintendo’s Dual Screens – Geek.com

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