Nintendo's finally talking 3DS release dates, pinning its upcoming powerhouse portable to a February 2011 release in Japan. The rest of us--those in the U.S., Europe, and Australia--will have to wait an additional month (though probably a bit less) to wrap our fingers around the no-glasses-3D handheld.
While we're waiting for Nintendo to break cover on a specific U.S. date and price, here's what we know about the launch so far.
The 3DS will launch on February 26, 2011 in Japan. That means it'll completely miss the holiday window, though perhaps that's for the best, with eyes trained on Sony and Microsoft's motion-control parts. It's also a change from prior model launch timeframes. The DSi XL hit Japan on November 21, 2009, the DSi on November 1, 2008, and the DS on December 2, 2004. Then again, the DS Lite launched in Japan on March 2, 2006, the Game Boy Advance on March 21, 2001, and the original Game Boy on April 21, 1989, so there's definitely precedent for bumping the date to late winter/early spring.
It'll cost 25,000 yen in Japan (US$299). That's the word from Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who revealed pricing at a news conference in Chiba, Japan. That's hardly cheap. The DSi launched for 18,900 yen (US$226) and currently sells for 15,000 yen (US$179). The DSi currently sells for $149.99 in the U.S., so applying the percent difference to the 3DS, I'd wager it'll sell for $249.99 when it goes on sale stateside.
It'll support transferring downloaded software between units. A hardware fact sheet (PDF) unearthed by Joystiq reportedly reveals it'll be possible to move downloaded software between 3DS units. It'll also be possible to transfer for downloaded DSiWare from a DSi or DSi XL. Nintendo apparently limits the number of times you can transfer something, and it's probably safe to assume it'll be tied somehow to an online user account to prevent piracy, perhaps like Valve's Steam.
The hardware's complete, but the games probably aren't. The 3DS looked more or less finished when we fooled around with them at E3 this summer, which probably means it's the games holding things up. Nintendo needs a strong launch to convince handheld gamers who've already sprung for a DS Lite, DS, DSi, or DS XL to spend another $250 plus $30 to $40 per game.
It'll have an augmented reality angle out of the box. The Japanese version comes with a charge cradle, a telescoping stylus, a 2GB SD storage card, and six cards made of paper. that let you play augmented-reality games (they reportedly work with the handheld's 3D camera to replace objects in view with different ones).
It'll wirelessly communicate with other 3DS units dynamically. The following promotional video shows a girl tucking her 3DS into a purse, then taking a stroll. As she walks by other people, the 3DS units in her and their purses/satchels appear to "talk" to one another--all automatic, without the need to manually engage the units. A light on the upper-right-hand corner of the unit appears to indicate "you've got mail" (or whatever), and flipping open the unit reveals new Miis (sort of like exchanging business cards).
You can create Miis by snapping pictures of yourself. Take a picture of yourself (or someone else) and the unit automatically renders a cartoon-style Mii version, using an anatomical abstraction algorithm.
It'll have backlit face buttons. You probably shouldn't play in the dark, but since a lot of us do, never mind low-light situations on domestic redeyes or international pond-hops, we'll probably wonder what we ever did without this one.
That's all for now. We'll know more shortly about the U.S. launch and lineup, so stay tuned.
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