updated 01:45 pm EDT, Tue June 15, 2010
Nintendo 3DS teased with motion controls
Nintendo, as promised, has teased the first details of the 3DS at its E3 keynote. The console superficially resembles the DSi but has a new, 3.5-inch top screen with glasses-free 3D; it not only adds depth to games but has a 3D effect slider to tone the effect down. 3D also plays into photos, as the back holds dual cameras that can create 3D images for sharing with others.
3D movies will also be possible, although Nintendo didn't say how players would get these on the handhelds. DS and DSi games are likely to be backwards compatible.
Other parts of the design have been upgraded to make it more competitive with modern mobile gaming. The graphics processing itself is faster, which comes out in the significantly higher level of detail. A motion sensor and a gyroscope have been added to make tilt and movement a part of gameplay. The 3DS is, finally, the first Nintendo handheld to have analog controls through the slide pad, a stick not unlike the PSP's that gives more accurate movement.
Internet access is at least slightly more important, and the 3DS can now always keep its Internet connection active, even if the user has to switch away to another game or app. Game updates can download automatically so that gamers already have new content by the time they leave home.
Nintendo surprisingly made no mention of when the 3DS would ship or what its price might be, implying that it may not ship this year. The company nonetheless promised one of its best launch lineups, with Kid Icarus Rising (pictured) and Nintendogs as its current headliners while games from Activision, Capcom, EA, Konami, Square Enix and others are also enroute.
The 3DS is likely to be Nintendo's most important game system release in several years both in terms of features and in terms of the company's ability to survive the current trend of handheld gaming. The improved graphics and motion gaming may be direct responses to the iPhone and iPod touch, both of which have considerably faster, motion-sensitive hardware. This combined with far less expensive, downloadable gaming has seen Apple steal revenue share from Nintendo as previously loyal customers either add an iOS device or switch entirely.
Apple will be first and will still have advantages over its older rival; the iPhone 4 already has a gyroscope and now has a 960x640 screen that should be sharper than what the 3DS can manage. The iPod touch is eventually expected to get similar treatment late in the summer or early in the fall.