After showing of the 3DS (in my opinion, the most impressive piece of tech I've seen in the last 5 years), a lot of questions were raised. "What's it going to cost?" some people asked. "When will it launch?" asked others.
We've had a steady stream of info pouring in, and I want to talk and speculate about some of the things that Nintendo hasn't talked much about. I'll explain why I think the 3DS will have a greater variety of games than any previous Nintendo system, why the online will be on par with Xbox LIVE, and why the price may be cheaper at launch than you think...
1. Game installs - A Japanese tech article has stated that the 3DS is capable of installing games to the 3DS's hard drive. No, not just extra files, but the full game. This is for the purpose (according to the article) of being able to play your 3DS games while leaving the cartridge at home. Security against pirating seems like an issue, but if true, this would be the first video game system (to my knowledge) that allows you to legally make a digital copy of your physical game and store it on the game system. What does this mean for the gamer? Well, that should be obvious. You can bring your library with you. My only concern is for the inevitable security restrictions. For instance, will I have to register my cartridge to my system? Does than mean I can't rent or lend out games? Also, I'm not sure if the article addressed this or not, but I don't know if it will let you install 3DS games AND DS games, since the 3DS is fully compatible with older DS titles.
2. Gyro and Motion controls - Yes, I understand that others have done this in handhelds first. (Apple being the most notable with the iTouch and iPhone). However, Nintendo is the first gaming company to implement gyro and motion controls into a handheld system. What does this mean? Well, you're holding the screen as well as the controls, so it's not simply a "Wii clone". Imagine the 3D images on the top screen automatically adjusting as you tilt the game system. Imagine the number of Marble Madness clones. Imagine having to shake the 3DS vigorously and make a fool of yourself (hey, Phantom Hourglass required you to YELL at your DS). Nintendo didn't talk much about these controls, but if you've seen the cool stuff Nintendo has done with touch controls on the DS, you can be sure that it will not ignore the motion controls on the 3DS. Nintendo has stated that the inclusion of gyroscope and motion sensors was deliberate and that it will have gameplay ramifications as well as integration with the 3D screen.
3. Freakin' Online - Oh, online. I'm stunned that more journalists (of which I am not one anyway) haven't picked up on what Nintendo said about the 3DS's online. First, from a hardware perspective, the wi-fi speed of the 3DS is 2.4ghz/802.11 wi-fi, which as far as I know is beyond the current DS and PSP speeds... maybe even on par with the 360's wi-fi speed. But under the hood, the 3DS is able to do some very special things. Iwata spoke about the online for quite a bit of time, emphasizing that "[online] communication can even occur during sleep mode" and that it "automatically communicates with [wi-fi spots, Wiis, and other 3DSs] without you even knowing it". He goes on to say that a limitation of the DS's communication was that you have to be playing the same game. Not so with the 3DS. "The hardware supports automatic communication regardless of what is being played," Iwata says. Hmmmm. Doesn't that sound like Xbox LIVE? He says that content can be downloaded passively, too. Does this mean that updates and content can be downloaded for games you're not even playing? In other interviews, Nintendo states that they want to have an Achievement system for the 3DS. Again, this sounds like a much bigger deal than people think. Let me put it bluntly: the "passive online" that Nintendo has built into the 3DS allows things like cross-game chat from Day 1. Just think about that. Nintendo has built a handheld with the online functionality of a current-gen console. I think this is a MUCH bigger deal than people realize.
4. The price - A lot of analysts are looking at the tech of the 3DS and are saying "$250 to $300". That simply does not make sense. I think so-called analysts are saying this simply because other 3D technology costs so much, so in their minds this new 3D tech is also expensive, right? Well, Nintendo has been working on this tech for the last 3 years...even "for the last 20 years" as Miyamoto said. This tech may seem new and amazing, but you can bet that Nintendo has found a way to lower the price down to their usual handheld launching point: $150 to $200. Nintendo's core audience includes 8-year-olds. Don't forget that. In addition, the majority of the 3DS's hardware is "recycled", so to speak. It borrows the basic DS case, camera, buttons, card slot, dual screens, and touch screen from previous DS versions. It borrows gyroscope and motion technology, which Nintendo has been using on the Wii for nearly 4 years now. The upgraded graphics, while nice, don't look any better than the Wii. So, I think people overestimate how much the 3DS costs Nintendo to manufacture.
5. Developer support - I think that the 3DS will last longer than the DS. Not only that, but I think it will have thrice as many games. Why? It's the 3D screen. "True 3D" has been sought after since the NES days, and even non-gamers think the effect of 3D is cool. Now that the 3DS offers glasses-free 3D, the gaming world is going to go crazy. It really will. The market wasn't saying: "We need a handheld with touch controls and dual screens", yet Nintendo made the DS and it sold like crazy. The market didn't say "We need a system with motion controls", yet Nintendo made the Wii and it sold like crazy. However, the market HAS been saying "WE WANT 3D! Wouldn't that be COOL?!?" since the days of the NES. I think the impact of the 3D screen is beyond what even the gaming industry can understand, and Nintendo knows this: the 3DS can take 3D pictures and can play 3D movies. This isn't simply going to be a gaming device. It's going to be a piece of tech that everyone wants to try. I guarantee you that - especially at the $150 to $200 price point I speculated - hundreds of thousands of people will buy the 3DS simply to watch 3D movies and take 3D pictures, just as hundreds of thousands of Wii owners bought it for the fitness aspect. The 3DS is the first glasses-free 3D movie player, and that is HUGE. Expect anyone and everyone to own a 3DS.