June 22, 2012 at 12:21 AM ET
Nintendo has unveiled a new super-sized version of its Nintendo 3DS handheld game machine. During a pre-recorded online video released Thursday night, the game giant took the wraps off of the Nintendo 3DS XL (that's XL for extra large) -- a gadget that boasts top and bottom screens that are 90 percent larger than the original 3DS's screens.
The original 3DS launched in March of last year, offering owners a chance to play games in eye-grabbing 3D without having to wear special glasses. The new 3DS XL handheld will run $199.99 and will launch in North America on August 19 -- the same day "New Super Mario Bros. 2" launches for the 3DS.
Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, said the super-sized version of the 3DS will come with an updated form factor and a battery that outperforms that of the original 3DS. That means the top screen will measure 4.88 inches while the bottom screen is 4.18 inches compared to the current 3DS' 3.53-inch and 3.02-inch screens. The battery will last 3.5 to 6.5 hours compared to the 3 to 5 hours with the current-model 3DS. (The battery will last 6 to 10 hours when playing non-3D DS games.)
The 3DS XL will come bundled with a 4GB SD card for storing downloadable content from Nintendo's eShop.
"Your handheld gaming experiences will be more intense and more engrossing than ever before," Fils-Aime said.
While the Nintendo DS line of game machines had been a long-running hit for the Japanese company, the Nintendo 3DS struggled to thrive when it launched last year in the new smartphone-filled game market. But smartphone competition was only part of the problem. Nintendo had launched the 3DS without enough hit games to support it and at a steep $250 price. The company was quickly forced to cut the 3DS price to $170.
The rocky 3DS launch (and a weak yen) hit Nintendo hard. In April, the company posted its first ever annual loss since it began reporting its financials in the early 1980s. But Nintendo did reveal that 3DS sales have slowly picked up and the company has, as of March, sold more than 17 million of the game machines worldwide.
The super-sized 3DS isn't especially surprising. Many expected Nintendo would reveal a 3DS revamp during the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this month. Meanwhile, back in 2010, Nintendo released a larger version of its handhel DSi game machine, It was called the DSi XL and it featured similarly sized 4.2-inch dual screens.
Fils-Aime on Thursday pitched the 3DS XL's larger top screen as a boon for those who like to watch videos via Netflix on their Nintendo handheld. He also said the launch of the 3DS XL and "New Super Mario Bros 2" marks the beginning of "a huge push" by Nintendo on behalf of the 3DS.
Nintendo on Thursday outlined a number of games that will be launching for the 3DS. "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Mirror of Fate," "Skylander Giants," "LEGO: The Lord of the Rings," "Scribblenauts Unlimited," "Disney: Epic Mickey, Power of Illusion," and "Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance" are all launching before the end of the year.
In November, "Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask" -- the latest in the very popular puzzle-solving series -- will arrive for the 3DS. (Check out the trailer below.) We'll also see Nintendo games "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon" and "Paper Mario: Sticker Star" later this year while the new "Fire Emblem" turn-based strategy game will launch next year.
A new "Super Smash Bros." game is in the works for both the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo's forthcoming game console, the Wii U.
Meanwhile, not only will "New Super Mario Bros. 2" launch in August, it will come with a Coin Rush Mode in which players try to grab as many coins as possible. Fils-Aime said Nintendo will create and sell additional downloadable Coin Rush stages for the game on an ongoing basis after the game arrives.
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.