Contrary to what some may believe, the Nintendo 3DS is not Nintendo’s first foray into 3D gaming.  The infamous Virtual Boy was an abysmal failure with it’s eye-crossing, head-ache inducing screens; but it’s apparently not the only attempt.  According to an interview between Nintendo Presidet Iwata, the company’s lead designer Mayamoto and a Japanese journalist Itoi, several other attempts at 3D gaming were done over the course of the company’s history.  Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally: A  Famicom racing game staring our favorite plumber in 3D was developed by HAL Labs and released in 1986 featured special goggles to see the game in a type of 3D.  According to the same interview the Gamecube had 3D functionality built in, only requiring a a certain accessory and a 3D LCD screen, which according to Iwata, was extremely expensive at the time.  Nintendo even developed a version of Luigi’s Mansion in 3D, which sadly has never seen the light of day.  Now where does this place the 3DS, nintendo’s fourth major itteration of it’s handlheld brand started nearly 22 years ago with the original Game Boy?

Handhelds have been Nintendo’s bread and butter for the past 20 years.  Especially with the decline of console sales starting with the 64 and continued up until the success with the Wii.  The DS is now the second biggest selling system off all time, just a few thousand units behind the PS2.  The 3DS has a lot to live up to even though Nintendo has consistently shown that it can capture lightning in a bottle more than once in the handheld market.  According to early reports coming from preview events the 3D is sound and for the most part lives up to Nintendo’s claims. It may not be as pronounced as watching a 3D blockbuster at a movie theater but it’s certainly no Virtual Boy.  There are other issues surrounding the 3DS which will determine the outlook of Nintendo’s new system’s long term well being; that is to say one expects it to sell out like gang busters for the first few months.  The question is, how will people respond to the reported 3-5 hour battery life and the seeming overabundance of ports?  The PSP owners have had to deal with both of those issues since the system’s launch in 2005, issues that have certainly contributed to the system falling a distant second behind the DS.  While on the subject of Sony one must take into consideration the rumored official unveiling of the PSP2 at a strategy conference on January 27th.  Early reports claim that the system is half as powerful as the PS3 and will have an OLED screen and 3G wireless functionality.  Nintendo has issued a statement that it is not interested in it’s competitors products and simply wants to be left alone to do its own thing. Marketing bravado aside Nintendo should learn from their experiences with the Wii that novel control inputs and 3D won’t secure the long term lifespan of their systems.  3rd party support and a cheap price point will.  Nintendo fans have allot to look forward to in the next year on the 3DS, hopefully sooner than later.  Ocarina of Time is finally getting a remake, Kid Icarrus will get a new game after nearly 25 years, and hopefully Nintendo will correct the woeful display of laziness that was Animal Crossing City Folk.  Hopefully Nintendo has something up it’s sleeve for the console owners, but for now we are about to enter a new episode of Nintendo’s hand-held history. 3D hand-held gaming is upon us, but oh if it weren’t so damn expensive…

http://iwataasks.nintendo.com/interview.html#/how-nintendo-3ds-made/0/2

http://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/library/historical_data/pdf/consolidated_sales_e1009.pdf

http://www.nintendo.com/3ds/hardware/specs

http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/23/nikkei-psp2-to-have-3g-cellular-data-oled-touchscreen/

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