updated 10:00 am EST, Wed January 19, 2011
Nintendo commits to US launch of 3DS on March 27
Nintendo at its special event in New York City commited to the US launch details of the 3DS. The glasses-free 3D game console should ship on March 27 and will cost $250, roughly in line with expectations. About 30 games will have shipped between launch and the E3 show in early June, including a 3D Ridge Racer port, Dead or Alive Dimensions, first-party titles like Nintendogs and Ubisoft games in well-known brands such as the Ghost Recon action shooters.
The game system is also now known to have much simpler Wi-Fi setup and a more elaborate passive wireless connection than first thought. Gamers will only need to enter a friend code once to have that friend as an option across all games. Wi-Fi will now not just quietly sip updates and free downloadable content but have access to a Street Pass, which can connect 3DS systems even while sleeping and exchange both their common data as well as friend codes, Wii avatars and other details, even when the core game isn't loaded. Nintendo also promised location-specific content and deals when connecting to a public hotspot.
The 3D features will be broader than just games and should include the known 3D photo capturing and sharing as well as recently leaked augmented reality cards to put 3D characters into the real world. Nintendo will support 3D video playback, but it won't support 3D recording due to the hardware limits.
An "enhanced" web browser is built-in. Earlier DS games should still work in the new system, although only new games will have access to the analog stick and the top screen's larger resolution.
The 3DS is the first significant improvement to Nintendo's handheld hardware since the original DS in 2004 and is considered a possible savior for the company's flagging mobile gaming business. Its December sales plunged sharply versus a year ago and has been blamed both on the lack of new hardware and on the iPod touch. At $250, the 3DS faces uncertain prospects as it will cost more than an 8GB iPod touch, a rarity for the DS line, without having any permanent storage.