the 2x2x2 was actually invented before the 3x3x3 but was only popularized after the success of the 3x3x3, non-cubers have different opinions when they see one, some assume it must be trivial while others suggest that it might be even harder than a 3x3x3. The reality is that the 2x2x2 is not trivial, if you have no cubing experience then you are unlikely to figure out how to solve a 2x2x2 quickly but you are going to have a far easier time than with a 3x3x3, if you can just solve a layer then it is not inconceivable that the rest will solve itself, it happens 1 in every 162 times on average (as long as you can do one move to solve it).
Some people who know how to solve a 3x3x3 can sometimes struggle with a 2x2x2, this is often due to failing to understand how pieces interact properly, I usually tell anyone who can solve a 3x3x3 but has never tried a 2x2x2 before to just imagine that a cross is solved in the middle of every side, obviously they would have to snap out of such nonsensical ideas if they wanted to solve it quickly but it gets the point across. The other issue that some cubers may have with the 2x2x2 can be reached by turning the right layer clockwise followed by the bottom layer clockwise 8 times, cubers who use old methods that involve twisting the corners as the final step will struggle with this case but obviously it is not difficult to solve.
The top 2x2x2 solvers can one look the entire cube every time, the very top can even see multiple solutions and choose the one they reckon they can execute fastest, this is due to learning many algorithms, the most simple is CLL where the last layer is solved in one step, since solving the first layer usually only takes a few moves, with practice it is possible to trace those few moves to predict the CLL you are going to get. No one can plan out an entire 3x3x3 solve using a conventional speedsolving method.