Today, Nintendo finally released some concrete details regarding the release of their newest system, the 3DS. Since their press conference was held in Chiba, Japan, much of the information — like the 25,000 Yen price, the February 26th launch date, and the streaming television service — only pertained to the Japanese market, but Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata did let it slip that the system will launch in America and Europe sometime in March for an unspecified price.
Nintendo also showed off some of the new features built into the 3DS. Unlike previous iterations of Nintendo hardware, the 3DS doesn’t treat online like an afterthought: in addition to fully featured online multiplayer in games like Super Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil Mercenaries, the 3DS also has the ability to auto-connect to any open wi-fi hotspots it detects and it will automatically download updated news, updates, content, and leaderboard information.
The 3DS’s local multiplayer features have received an upgrade as well: the local tag mode, which was used to limited effect in DS games like Dragon Quest IX and the upcoming Pokemon Black and White, is now built directly into the 3DS hardware, allowing users to passively trade contact info, stats, and game content simply by being within wi-fi range of another 3DS users.
One of the nicest features of the Wii was the Virtual Console, an online store that allowed users to download classic console games and play them on their Wii. That service has now been extended to the 3DS, which features the ability to download classic Game Boy and Game Boy Color games and save them directly to their system. In addition to that, Nintendo teased the ability to update classic retro games with a 3D depth-of-field effect that takes advantage of the 3DS’s unique screen.
But of course, the most exciting thing about the 3DS was it’s lineup– Featuring a veritable who’s-who of big name franchises, the 3DS launch window is already crowded with games like Zelda, Kid Icarus, Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, as well as the surprise announcement of Mega Man Legends 3, the long-awaited sequel to the cult-hit PS1 Mega Man spin-off. The visual quality of the 3DS games was also mostly impressive; while some games shown were obviously early in their development cycles, certain games, especially the 3DS Resident Evil, looked to be pushing more polygons and cleaner texture work than most Wii games.
But the biggest hurdle to the 3DS’s success will probably be it’s steep price: While hardware has typically cost more in Japan, if it’s as-yet-unannounced US price is anywhere near its $300 Japanese launch price, the 3DS may be a hard sell to an American populace currently in the throws of a recession. Of course, the Wii and PSP also launched at the same price in Japan and were later released in the US at a much lower cost, but as of right now, price is definitely the biggest issue holding back the 3DS.
All in all, I’m currently pretty hyped about the 3DS; everything about it, from it’s lineup, to it’s hardware capabilities, seems like it was designed to compensate for all the shortcomings and disappointments that befell the Wii. But as Sony learned with the PS3’s original $600 price tag, a steep price, especially in this economy, can be a massive, almost insurmountable hurdle in achieving sales success, so it still remains to be seen if Nintendo can manage to keep up the DS line’s popularity when coupled with a premium price point.