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Nintendo 3DS Available March 27 for $250 in U.S.

Matt Peckham Matt Peckham – Wed Jan 19, 10:21 am ET

Nintendo's 3DS glasses-free 3D games handheld will launch on March 27 in the U.S. and sell for $250, the company revealed at a press event in New York this morning. You'll be able to buy one in "cobalt blue" or "cosmo black," and unlike prior DS handhelds which employed a fixed stylus, the 3DS will include one that telescopes.

Calling today "a big day for Nintendo," Nintendo America COO Reggie Fils-Aime described the company's forthcoming flagship handheld as an "experience [that] simply doesn’t exist anywhere else," referring of course to the device's ability to produce 3D images on a tiny, totable screen without the need for special eyewear. It'll also be the only device to couple a 3D top screen with an opposing touchscreen as well as motion-sensing technology, allowing gamers to interact with the device in multiple never-before-experienced ways.

In With the Old, In With the New

Nintendo reiterated much of what we already knew about the 3DS before building to the price and launch date finale: The top 3D screen will be 10% bigger than the DSI's. It'll be backward compatible with DS and DSi downloadable games. You'll be able to snap 3D pictures and watch 3D videos. It'll have an analog thumb-joystick just above the traditional d-pad. And it'll include both a gyroscope and accelerometer, allowing it to recognize both directional and velocity-related motion.

Nintendo's also learning from its competition. Like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the 3DS will include a "home" button that allows players to break out of an application and switch to others.

The company claimed it'll offer 30 games between the system's launch at the end of March and the E3 2011 video game convention in early June. Titles briefly teased at the event included Pilotwings Resort (think Wii Sports Resort), Nintendogs + Cats (pets can recognize you, but won't be as kind to strangers), Steel Diver (a submarine game where you employ the 3DS's gyroscope as a periscope), Dead or Alive Dimensions (a 3D fighter), Super Street Fighter IV 3D (another 3D fighter), and Madden Football (supporting 3D gameflow with arcade-style play calls).

Tweak, Spot, Fight!

A special 3DS features called "Street Pass," which allows two 3DS units near each other to exchange information automatically, will also allow games like Super Street Fighter IV to be played silently. Imagine your custom game character knocking arms, elbows, and knees with someone else's while your 3DS units sit in pockets, purses, or backpacks on a train or in an airplane. A related "Spot Pass" feature will allow the unit to connect to public hotspots--even while "asleep"--to routinely download new content and system updates.

Nintendo revealed the 3DS will ship with several bundled apps as well, including a pedometer-style fitness tool (think Wii Fit in your pocket), an "enhanced" web browser, a "Mii Maker" avatar creation tool (you can alternatively import Wii Miis), and a shooter dubbed Face Raider that snaps a picture of your face to use in lieu of a ship or vehicle. Yeah, that last one sounds a little weird to me too.

Store This, Emulate That

To get you started, Nintendo says it'll ship the 3DS with a 2GB SD card (removable, if you want to buy something bigger), and the company says it'll offer a special service allowing DS and DSi owners to transfer games downloaded from the DSi Shop onto new 3DS systems.

If you're into Game Boy nostalgia, the 3DS will include both Game Boy and Game Boy Color emulators, with games downloadable from Nintendo's eShop, cash-based online store. No word on a Game Boy Advance emulator yet, alas.

The company says it's planning interactive demos across the country with some 5,000 units available for customers to give the 3DS a go.

Showing is of course going to be Nintendo's biggest challenge winning converts here. You can't demo 3D gaming or videos with static pictures and non-3D trailers, after all.
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