Nintendo Announces DS Successor, 3DS

In a bit of a head-scratcher, Nintendo let loose this morning a sole press release that has turned the gaming world upside down… if you didn’t already see it coming, that is.  This morning’s press release, based out of Nintendo’s Kyoto home in Japan, reads like a vague announcement of an announcement… but with a few intriguing tidbits.

Here are the bullets from the release:

  • Temporarily named the 3DS
  • Will allow games to be enjoyed “with 3D effects without the need for any special glasses”
  • Officially succeeds the DS as the true, next Nintendo portable game machine
  • Backwards compatible for all DS and DSi games
  • Releases during fiscal 2011, which ends March 2011
  • More details will be revealed during E3

Nintendo heads have noted in several interviews that the only time to create a new gaming system is when its game designers’ ideas were no longer possible with current hardware.  In appears as though this has taken place.

Already, the new little(?) system seems to have much of what we’d want in a successor.  In comes this report (via our pals at Joystiq and Engadget) about additional features of the 3DS, from various Japanese and American sources.

  • Asahi Newspaper claims that the 3DS will utilize Sharp’s parallax barrier LCD system for its 3D output
  • Nikkei notes that the screens will be 4 inches, about the size of the current DSi screens, and will include a 3D control stick of some sort.  Could this be a PSP-like nub?  Full analog stick? Or a method of which to use the stylus as a control stick?  This is unknown.
  • The Nikkei also reports on the inclusion of vibration and an improvement on both battery life and WiFi.
  • The New York Times report that the 3DS will be playable at E3 this year

After a cup of Biggby’s (plug!) coffee this morning, I sat back and thought, “What could this all mean?” Let’s make some silly assumptions.

Deducing from the press release’s claim about the hardware being compatible with all DS and DSi games, we can safely assume the following:

  • Will have online compatibility
  • Dual cameras
  • Microphone
  • HDD (hard disk drive) for downloadable content
  • SD card slot

Based on the NYT’s E3 time-frame, we can possibly see the 3DS released as early as the holidays.  Nintendo usually doesn’t wait long after revealing a product before they put it on store shelves.  “Wait, isn’t the DSi XL coming out, like, NEXT WEEK?”  Yes, my astute readers, it is.  Perhaps Nintendo feels as though the XL will appeal to a different audience than the 3DS, or perhaps there is a killer idea for the 3DS that Nintendo wants to put in front of the public’s eyes to soak up the PlayStation Move’s recent semi-launch.

If what the Nikkei reports is true, an analog stick/nub would be a natural fit for games that can be manipulated in 3D space.  A stylus and D-Pad alone aren’t sufficient enough, relying on 2D interfaces.  I’d say that this report is probably in the area of 99% accurate.

Nikkei’s claim that the 3DS will have vibration is a natural fit for the handheld, which already has (at least, with the DS Phat and DS Lite) compatibility with a special vibration accessory for game enhancements.  Vibration is common in mobile phones, so the official inclusion of it in a handheld system is natural.  The drain on battery life may not be, however.  Perhaps this is where Nintendo’s “battery life” improvements come in, although if they mean improvements over the DSi or DS Lite is unknown.

Finally, Asahi mentions Sharp’s 3D screens.  The technology revolves around the display switching from 2D to 3D electrically, through the use of a secondary LCD display on top of a primary one.  The display allows images to be shown in 3D by creating vertical lines visible by each eye individually.  While researching the technology, something Sharp has had in the works since the early 90s, I discovered that there are potentially a couple issues.  Theoretically, the image is degraded when going from a high-res 2D display to a 3D display.  With each vertical “stripe” of the screen image belonging to one eye or the other, the image wouldn’t be a “full-res” image… effectively being split in half for each eye.  The 3D effect is also dependent on the location of the eyes to the screen.  If the user’s head moves, the image may not be clear.  This is where the DSi’s central camera can help alleviate that, effectively positioning the screen/vertical lines to where it sees the eyes move.

Whew.  I’m no techie, but I think I got about 40% of that right.

There are other notes to consider, including some of the rumors we’ve posted about in the past.

  • Nintendo’s Iwata noted that a future DS would/could have motion-sensing and higher-res graphics
  • According to CVG, certain Japanese developers love the new hand-held’s tilt function
  • Nvidia may be working on a Tegra-based chip set for the next DS

Motion-sensing, something Nintendo loves with the Wii, would allow the 3D positioning of the device to capture the eye location more precisely when used in conjunction with the camera.  Major motion wouldn’t be taking place on the 3DS, as the system’s smaller screens would prevent users from ever really seeing anything while flailing about.  Gyroscopic sensing similar to the iPhone — enough to detect rotation during racing games, or raising & lowering of the device in space instead of WiiMote sweeps — would potentially be enough to keep the cost down.

Higher-res graphics would be a must, as the DS visuals are aging with 6 years under its belt.  Plus, up-resing visuals helps with the 3D Sharp technology.

Here is a look at what the 3DS could possibly look like, taking into account all of the data we have above:

To summarize, the 3DS could be an incredible piece of hardware if all of these conjectures and rumors are even remotely true.  The device would also be incredibly more expensive than the current models.  Either way, we’ll find out come June, when SideQuesting arrives at E3.

[Source: Joystiq]

Author: Dalibor Dimovski

Dali is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of SideQuesting, as well as the co-Founder of CarDesignFetish and the founder of MakLink. Dali is also a car designer, deejay, and introductory beer-brewer.

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