Will the 3DS be enough to secure Nintendo's handheld gaming future?
The Nintendo 3DS has officially launched. As expected, the near-mythic Isaiah "Triforce" Johnson was the first US customer to purchase the handset. He spent days out in front of the Union Square Best Buy, dodging security guards and blue shirts to keep his place in line. It paid off, and Isaiah was once again the first Nintendo fan in line at a blockbuster release.
"Triforce" met Nintendo America's president, Reggie Fils-Aime, for the second time (the first was at the Wii launch). By all accounts, the Union Square launch was a blow-out. Music, free food, and demo kiosks were all on hand for the amusement of hundreds of queued up gamers. But outside of the big show, the story was rather different. Customers from across the country report much less line activity for the 3DS in their towns.
Nintendo launched a warning alongside the new handset. The company recently posted on their site that "Vision of children under the age of six has been said (to be in the) developmental stage. The 3DS delivers 3D images with different left and right images, (which) has a potential impact on the growth of children's eyes."
So basically, 6-year-olds shouldn't turn the 3D feature of their 3DS on. One optometrist recommends users take a 20 second break to focus 20 feet in front of them every twenty minutes. Even if this advice is not followed, long-term damage is not expected. Dr. Justin Bazan warns that "Some people" may feel sick or nauseous after extended play. Parents should use the parental control feature to disable 3D for their younger children.
The 3DS is the top selling console in Japan for the fourth straight week. 61,394 units of the glasses-free handset have been moved in the last month. This puts it at twice the PS3's sales total for the same period. Nintendo is hoping for similar success over here in the US, but there are serious doubts as to the handset's long-term viability.
iOS and, increasingly, Android both represent major challenges to traditional handheld gaming brands. Dedicated gaming devices have trouble competing with versatile gadgets, like smartphones. For the immediate future, the 3DS delivers a type of gaming experience that no "multifunction" device can. The day of glasses-free 3D phones and tablets is fast approaching though, and Nintendo may once again find themselves struggling to find a place in the market they invented.