We've been waiting for this for a while, but it's arrived: Nintendo has finally leaped aboard the 3-D bandwagon in an attempt to revitalize its DS handheld games console, with the new 3DS.
The 3DS is a glasses-free 3-D display version of Nintendo's popular handheld gaming console. It features the line's characteristic dual-screens (the lower one a touchscreen, the upper display the new 3-D one), sports two 266MHz ARM processors and relies on SD for expansion—it comes with a 2GB card. The device is offered in two colors—Aqua Blue or Cosmo Black—and has an accelerometer and gyroscope to give it motion-sensing powers so it can rival the tricks that the iPhone 4 uses for gaming.
Interestingly, it also has a charging cradle instead of the more traditional power socket and cable—and there's a charging indicator light that also doubles as a friend alert status: If the battery is low it's red, normal operation is green and it goes orange if a pal is online too. A built-in activity log includes a pedometer and players can earn coins to buy content in certain games. The console's also designed to do clever things when it's notionally "sleeping," as there's a Street Pass mode that lets sleeping 3DS's exchange data if they're nearby—a complimentary service to Spot Pass which allows games to update automatically (versus the clunky update process you have to typically go through with a PlayStation title). A web-browser is built in, naturally.
At launch there'll be some dedicated games available to maximize its 3-D powers. These titles include: Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs and Cats, Steeldiver (a submarine game), Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time 3-D and Kid Icarus: Uprising. All in all around 30 titles are promised between the launch date and June 2011.
Nintendo is promoting the 3DS with a national campaign in the U.S., heavy on "experiential" emphasis—the company is obviously desperately keen to distinguish its new device's powers over the iPhone or Android smartphone gaming experience, as these two systems are seriously threatening Nintendo's long term future. To this end 5,000 demo units will be hawked around the U.S. in mobile promotional units (we're guessing trucks!) for 8 weeks.
The 3DS hits Japan February 26th for ¥25,000 (around $300), but arrives in the U.S. a little later: March 27th, for a more manageable-sounding $250.
That's around twice the price of a current DS Lite model, and represents a big departure for Nintendo: Before they'd been focusing their efforts on the lower price end of the gaming market, relying on sheer sales figures and games revenue to keep income levels up. $250 is also $20 above the entry level price of the iPod Touch—which sports a camera, has an App Store with tens of thousands of cheap games and other multi-purpose apps, and also acts as a powerful music and video player. The iPod Touch certainly lacks a 3-D display and Nintendo's stable of titles—but to many parents looking at the raw cash investment, the iPod may be their choice.
And on the subject of game pricing, Nintendo wouldn't comment when we asked them at the event. Many people are suggesting a price point of around $40, based on the fact that some Japanese 3DS game prices are higher than in the past.
Reporting from the event by Kevin Ohannessian.
To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.