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Nintendo: Another console winner?

Rory Cellan-Jones | 08:44 UK time, Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Los Angeles: When I last came to E3 I made a big mistake about Nintendo. It was in 2005 for the launch of Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360, and once we had finished filming I rang home and talked to my then 14-year-old son, an expert gamer. "Dad," he told me, "be sure to go to Nintendo's press conference, they're bound to come up with something special."

Nintendo 3DS launchIn my best patronising Dad tone I told him we had no time for the number three in the console market, a company now sure to be left behind by the stunning graphics capabilities of the high-end machines just launched by Microsoft and Sony. How wrong I was, as the Wii's emergence as the hottest console of the moment went on to prove.

So on the day I flew out of Los Angeles, I made sure I went along to the Nintendo press conference. Even though it involved standing in a queue outside the venue from 7 am, then going through airport-style security to get in.

Inside I found the same kind of slightly scary crowd you get at an Apple keynote, oohing and aahing, cheering and wowing at every demo, though it's Mario and Zelda who get the warmest welcome rather than a guy in a black turtle neck. The Nintendo demonstrators even managed to repeat Steve Jobs trick at his iPhone 4 launch, blaming wireless interference from the crowd of bloggers when things went slightly wrong.

Reggie Fils-Aime, the splendidly named boss of Nintendo's US division, welcomed us with a useful summary of his firm's philosophy. Yes, we'd seen all sorts of exciting new tech at E3, from 3D to HD to motion control, but that was only part of the story:

"It begins with technology -  but technology is only a tool. The thing that matters is the experience."

We then got quite a show - when an American game demonstrator appeared to be too clumsy, Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's presiding genius, was magicked off a screen and onto the stage to loud applause to demonstrate how it should be done.

Shigeru MiyamotoWe raced through a series of new games for the Wii, accompanied by a blizzard of statistics designed to dispel the false assumption that it was now losing ground to its rivals. More games had been sold for the Wii than for any other console in a comparable period, Wii users played more game than other gamers, and the new crowd it had attracted certainly didn't just play a bit of Wii Sports or Wii Fit and then give up on it.

Fine, but we hadn't come to hear about the Wii, we wanted something new, and that of course was the Nintendo 3DS, the first 3D handheld games console. it seems an amazing feat of technology, promising not only 3D games but a camera which takes 3D pictures and the ability to show movies like Avatar without the need to wear special glasses.

"Wow" went the crowd but I couldn't help returning to what Mr Fils-Aime had said about the importance of the experience rather than the technology. We will have to wait and find out just how much 3D adds to the experience of playing or viewing on the small screen of a handheld console - but I'm just a little sceptical.

But what do I know? I contacted a real expert, my son, who is now a student and had watched the Nintendo press conference from his college room while revising for exams. He wasn't convinced that many of the new games would interest the casual audience that had been attracted by the likes of Wii Sports - but he was impressed by the new handheld console:

"The 3DS looks very exciting. It seems like they're trying to head off Apple, who've been trying to get into the game market with the iPhone and iPad. I'll definitely be getting one!"

Hmm, top quality analysis I'm sure. But wouldn't the meagre resources of a student be better spent on books - and maybe beer - than yet another gadget that will be obsolete within a couple of years?

Still we've seen over the past few years that Nintendo seems to have a better understanding of what gamers new and old really want from the experience than Sony, Microsoft or ageing technology journalists. So parents beware - next Christmas, or whenever the 3DS goes on sale, expect to be standing in a long line or spending many hours online trying to get hold of another must-have present. 


  • Comment number 1.

    Does anyone have any details on how the 3D works on a tech level? If it works well then this could be a very interested development indeed, not only for games but media in general.

  • Comment number 2.

    I suspect it will be on a similar line to Fuji's 3D camera, which had the honour of reviewing last year. It works in a similar way to those toy wind-up televisions, where there are two images on a slightly different paralax, so they marry up. It's not flawless, but it's pretty damned amazing.

  • Comment number 3.

    Another gadget to add to an ever increasing supply of 'stuff' we do not need.....
    Rory , I agree with your comments towards the end of the article re- "yet another gadget that will be obsolete within a couple of years"
    I watched the short video clip and heard the Whooping and screaming for the launch of another handheld device and do you know what, with all that's going on in the world, it made me feel quite sick and despondant.....
    Don't get me wrong, I am fully aware of technology and use it every day, whether my PS3, Blackberry, Laptop etc etc but I know that I have enough and my life will not be ENRICHED anymore by buying more 'stuff'.
    The Crisis in the Gulf currently has/is being caused by our continual desire for Consumption. The manufacture of this device and others uses more resources with the end result being that things become more obsolete quicker.....
    When will we all wake up and realise that our lives are becoming more shallow and transient and more dependant on external stimulation rather than using our minds and imagination....

    I sort of feel sorry for the SHEEPLE who will flock to buy this as I'm sure they will, after reviewing it on their overpriced and poorly functioning IPAD's..

    Me now, I'm going for a walk in the countryside, whilst we still have the luxury of it !!


  • Comment number 4.


    Despite early rumours that it may be head tracking, thanksfully it is not.
    It uses a parallax barrier: to create the 3D effect which on a handheld console works well as the user is pretty much in a defined position unlike with a TV screen where it would be much more difficult.


  • Comment number 5.

    3D technology that does not require glasses is in my opinion the way in which 3D will hit the masses! Who wants a TV they have to wear glasses to watch. Furthermore, who wants glasses that cost £100 a shot when friends come over to watch a film or sport?

    This could be a significant break through in moving 3D from niche to mainstream in the coming years. I'd watch this space...

  • Comment number 6.


    The technology is 'stereoscopic 3D' as opposed to the polarised light 3D (used in cinemas). Look it up, it's not new technology, but I think Nintendo have just improved it to the point where it is actually pretty good.

  • Comment number 7.

    I just don't understand this..... why do we want 3-D TV's and handheld gaming consoles when we live in a 3-D world...... get outside and see the world and stop wasting your lives looking at the 'magic 3-d box' in the corner of the room ..!


  • Comment number 8.

    Lovely stuff. One question however: do people still actually play the Wii? The one in our flat hasn't been played since a couple of months after getting it, and I can't think of anyone else that still uses theirs either. When it comes down to it, people want great graphics and quality gameplay - after the novelty of waving sticks about to emulate tennis rackets etc, both these aspects felt extremely limited when comparing Wii games to those on the other two consoles.

    Does Nintendo really have a better idea of what gamers want from their experience? No. Does it have a better idea of what people think they want? Yes.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm very sceptical about this 3D looked great when i saw Coraline in cinemas but when it comes to games i cant help but think it will be a bit of a gimmick and drive up the costs of games development even further into the strotosphere

    However, i could never have predicted how essential HD is too gaming nowadays so i'm preparing too be proved wrong!

  • Comment number 10.

    mattsaintsfan - Nintendo certainly aren't the first to get the auto-steroscopic technology up to an acceptable standard. At CES, earlier this year, Samsung, Philips and TCL all showed off autostereoscopic TVs (i.e. ones which don't require glasses) with picture quality that quite simply blew the glasses-based TVs out of the water.

    It's good that Nintendo is bringing this tech to a handheld, because that will help to drive popular demand for glasses-free 3D in other media. Right now, demand for 3D TVs isn't coming strongly enough from the right market segment to justify launching the more expensive, autostereoscopic sets.

  • Comment number 11.

    A much better launch than waste-of-money Playstation Plus.
    But still, how many games developers will use this? and who has the skill and the patience to keep their portable DS at the correct viewing angle?

  • Comment number 12.

    7. At 11:53am on 16 Jun 2010, Ganretti wrote:
    """I just don't understand this..... why do we want 3-D TV's and handheld gaming consoles when we live in a 3-D world...... get outside and see the world and stop wasting your lives looking at the 'magic 3-d box' in the corner of the room ..!

    Because in our current 3-D world you cannot easily go around yielding a sword against a bunch of 15 barbarians, kill them all and then expect also some form of respect in return. The rather mundane result would be that people would not fight you but flee in panic until police would come to arrest you and put you permantly in a pshychiatric prison cell where you would pass your time in white rooms fed with drugs and other such niceties.

    In fact even if you were born 1000 years back 1 could not take his sword and dive into a bunch of 15 barbarians and hope to get out alive at the end of the experience: the rather mundane result at best would be that you would be killed after having killed the 1st or 2nd man out of the bunch (and that only if you were trained for 10-15 years in combat...). Even if you had 15 friends with you and you managed to kill the 15 barbarians, you had better do the killing near a source of water to wash the blood spilled on you or you risked dying from infections (you know, these barbarians were not of the most clean & healthy lot).

    Don't you get it? People since prehistory enter this short of game via the game, the dance and the myth, it is all about our fantasy. The negative aspect of it is that dive too much and you lose contact with the world which is not good but if contained, it can be a pleasant and a more useful experience than watching cinema or tv which is a passive experience. If 3-D super graphic games are combined with Wii technology (which so far has been applied by Nintedo for low graphics, simplistic sports games), then it will be extra super as children will not sit and play eating pizzas but will actually eat a bit more healthy and excercis to score better in their favourite game. I have entered the 30s so not playing anymore but can't wait for such games, my kids will take so much more from their gaming experience.

  • Comment number 13.

    It was a lot better conference than last year and this was a step up in games wise also the 3ds seems to be good even rumoured to have stronger processing capability than the ps2 and on par with the wii if so Nintendo has yet again got the winning product

    Best e3 conference by far!!!

  • Comment number 14.

    playstation plus was pushed too much and kinect was a joke everyone knows casual users will buy the cheapest and most publicsized console and that is the wii which "is" the markets motion device

  • Comment number 15.


    For someone so keen on the "real" world and the great outdoors, you sure spend enough time commenting on this blog!

  • Comment number 16.

    @Ganretti without being dismissive, and I feel you make a good point, the simple reason 3D is suddenly so big and being pushed by all the studios and games makers - it's difficult to pirate! It really does come down to that

  • Comment number 17.

    REPLY to 12


    I do get your point about romanticizing about the future of gaming, BUT if you think that future 3-d immersive environmental games will be better for your kids because they will play less and exercise more than that's rubbish.
    We all know computer gaming can be quite addicitve, I play MW4 online and i'm in my 40's. It's a good release of frustration and tensions from the REAL worl and yes I can shoot at things without SO-19 giving me an 'armed police' warning.

    You still can't get away from the fact that 3-d or not you are still plugged into a media which denies your own creativity and fantasy but plays out some gaming programmers script..... as a parent will you un-plugged your kids into their teens and beyond..... might find that hard me thinks.....

    My original point ....

    "I just don't understand this..... why do we want 3-D TV's and handheld gaming consoles when we live in a 3-D world...... get outside and see the world and stop wasting your lives looking at the 'magic 3-d box' in the corner of the room ..!"

    is about the fact that we now, as a society crave EVERY new gadget and cheer with every advance however significant or not and keep consuming and consuming and consuming...... let's actually start to think hang on ... Do I really need to buy this, have this, need this ???? or is it that our lives and our childrens lives are so shallow and let's be honest 'CRAP' that we can't enjoy the world we live in ??!!



  • Comment number 18.

    Do you think back in the days when Monopoloy was brand new the older generation were saying...why can't you go out and be a REAL property tycoon!?

  • Comment number 19.

    "Nintendo seems to have a better understanding of what gamers new and old really want"
    I would have to disagree. Nintendo know what non-gamers want, and knows how to turn them into casual gamers. I would say there is a big difference.
    As a 'hardcore' gamer, all i want is for Microsoft and Sony to ignore the 'casual gamer' market and not bother with motion and other party gizmo's. Let Nintendo have their share of the pie and concentrate on us hardcore fans. We are the guys that will be willing to spend £50 on a 3D HD uber-graphical game

  • Comment number 20.

    3DS will be joke 3D. It's simply not possible to get the same 3D effect that you get with glasses, from a simple Parallax Barrier display.

    The problem you have, is users are wishing this will be "3D without the glasses", and in a way, it will, but it will be "massively inferior 3D without the glasses".

    Unless Nintendo have someone changed how human eyes work....

  • Comment number 21.

    I think I saw a glimpse of Rory (in a yellow shirt?) holding a 3DS on some Nintendo video coverage after the press conference, so maybe he'll tell us whether it's actually any good or not.

  • Comment number 22.

    While I am sure that the 3DS will continue to cater for the crowd of gamers that already enjoy the DS, I honestly do not think it will make any additional breach onto Sony's PSP territory gaming territory. Additionaly I do not think the ability to play 3D movies will make any steps into the portable entertainment market that the PSP, iPhone and iPod touch dominate.

    The current range of PSP's still have a more powerful processor and the console as a whole is still capable of rendering a much higher degree of graphics. That means for all the 3DS's fancy 3D effects its actual graphical quality is still not that great compared to the PSP.

    Sure graphics aren't everything, as the Wii has proved, but it means that the DS/3DS and PSP still hold two very different portions of the portable gaming market which surely is leaving the door open for a future PSP2 to storm in and steal the show.

  • Comment number 23.

    Phil - the 3DS isn't just a tweaked version of the DS; it's an all new system and it's considerably more powerful than the current DS, and from the few demos seen so far it looks comfortably ahead of the PSP as well.

  • Comment number 24.

    Rory, one thing to bear in mind is how potentially revolutionary this device could be. Not with regards to gaming but to photography. If Nintendo can get this kind of technology into the hands of the masses (which is inevitable) then others like Kodak, Canon, Olympus etc, will jump on the bandwagon and as a result there could be a whole influx of new technology such as new monitors, new printers, whatever you can imagine, to enable us to view photos in 3D.

    If Nintendo can find a way of utilising 3D to enhance the gaming experience (and you have to suspect they already have and are hiding it from us) then I can see Apple seriously struggling to keep up. Nintendo have just upped the ante. The 3DS will be a juggernaut and I cannot see anything stopping it.

    Apple must be relieved Nintendo didn't put a phone on it. They'd have just given up!

  • Comment number 25.


    Look at the lineup of developers who have pledged their support and the franchises that are heading in 3DS's direction. The PSP's "dominance" (don't know where you got that idea from) will be shot to pieces. As another post mentioned, this is entirely new hardware and judging by the videos released we're talking PS2/Wii capabilities. As a 360 owner left very miffed by Microsoft's inept press conference, the 3DS is looking like my next big gaming purchase. That and Rock Band 3 anyway. RB3 will simply revolutionise rhythm-action gaming. But that's for another blog...

  • Comment number 26.

    timmynorfolk - It’s a shame you think the playstation3 and Xbox are "hardcore"- they simply appeal to teenage boys- people who think MW2 is "hardcore".
    Plays Mario Galaxy 2 - that's "hardcore". MW2 you'll finish in 6 hours, MG2 you probably haven't the skill set to ever finish.

    Don't be too pround to play a game with bright colours. Until you finish a mario game you can never call yourself "hardcore".

  • Comment number 27.

    @timmynorfolk - Firstly, I agree with #26 completely. Adding to this,
    Microsoft and Sony are bringing out some amazing "hardcore" titles, I can
    not wait to get my hands on some of them. It seems to me that Sony and
    Microsoft are most definitely concentrating on a higher end gaming
    experience or "hardcore" as you put it, especially Sony with 3D Gaming.
    The PS3s 3D HD Games will only be 720p though; this is currently the
    maximum resolution the PS3 can output 3D Graphics at, I think I read this
    somewhere, please do not quote me on this.

    The 3DS is probably the closest to a 3D gaming experience I will own for
    a good few years. On my student budget, a £2000 3D TV is well in the
    distance, it would take weeks of sleepless nights playing online poker to
    make that sort of cash. This price gap may largely increase the number of
    people willing to buy the new Nintendo Hand-Held system, at least until
    the 3DS Price is much less than Alternative-3D-gamings price. I am
    Hoping whilst writing this comment that the 3DS will be around
    £200, as are most Nintendo products at launch.

  • Comment number 28.

    3D can make things much more immersive. For instance I find playing chess on the computer in 2D less satisfying than playing with a real set. Something like this can help bridge the gap.

    People like Ganretti have existed for thousands of years and, whilst some enjoy the pleasurable life of a simple farmer working an honest toil under the sun, we are fortunate enough to have the freedom where others can pursue alternative lifestyle choices. If it leads to cool Star Trek style holo-decks all the better.


  • Comment number 29.

    "The 3DS looks very exciting. It seems like they're trying to head off Apple, who've been trying to get into the game market with the iPhone and iPad. I'll definitely be getting one!" lol...Rory since when did your son become a review expert:) It is a mistake to compare the DS (in any form) as a competitor to the iphone or ipad as they are not competitng against each and are not in the same market segment. The PSP is a more direct competitor. There is a possibility that the 3G DS might become obsolete in a few years time as most techs become.

  • Comment number 30.

    Come on BBC wakey wakey you missed the boat 5 years, you even covered Johnny lee’s gizmo 2 years ago, Rory you're getting as bad as Maggie.

    This is how 3D will work with a heads up display.

  • Comment number 31.

    p/s the 3DS uses the the above idea by slighty picthing and yawing about 60 times a second the screen(virtually) to create the "illusion" of 3D thus no need for head tracking or glasses.

  • Comment number 32.

    Maybe i shouldnt be suprised being as this is a tech blog but noone seems to be meantioning the game lineup...who cares about fancy graphics? Its the games that matter and the 3DS lineup so far looks incrediblly healthy...for me especially, im a sucker for handheld versions of games previously only available on home console so the idea of a handheld Ocarina Of Time is very exciting :) I also cant wait too see Street Fighter IV 3D in motion to see if its as good as it looks because the screenshots look sublime

  • Comment number 33.

    Ganretti once upon a time many many moons ago, someone, a child, had a ball. They loved this ball, each day they would wake for another mornings bouncing of the ball. My, this child was happy. Then one day, the child took a rest from bouncing the ball and had a drink. Whilst quenching their thirst, the child happened upon an idea. "I wonder how much funner it would be if I could get this ball in my cup" and thus ball in a cup was born. Over many years, ball in a cup has developed into classics such as ring toss, pigeon racing and golf. Each game more and more exciting for the child as they anticipate just how much fun they will have. Eventually the child grew up, they invited monopoly, Pac-man, the Atari ST. Each new toy surpassing the previous.

    That sense of fun, want for entertainment, relaxation is no different to any other sense that drives human development and it’s no less important. Of course we don't NEED any of these things, of course its going to be redundant in a couple years time but for that initial excitement of "look how much funner my ball is now I have this cup"... I wouldn't change it for anything in the Halo.

  • Comment number 34.

    @20: You obviously have not been keeping up to date with the reaction from the industry and media at E3 who have been able to get their hands on a 3DS, I believe all have stated that the 3D in 3DS works as well as other 3D technologies. The mere fact that it does it without glasses is why we're all excited about the 3DS.


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