Nintendo 3DS, a forthcoming handheld console from Nintendo, got its key features - autostereoscopic 3D screen and motion sensitivity - rather shortly before the formal introduction in mid-2010. Back in early 2008 the console was completely different, according to a high-ranking executive at Nintendo who headed the development of hardware for the 3DS.
"The first time I heard from [Nintendo president Satoru] Iwata and Miyamoto about this was just after I wrapped up Mario Kart Wii [in early 2008] and got started working on DSi Sound. They showed me this piece of hardware which later became the 3DS and said 'Here's what we're working on right now'. [...] I became involved with development starting in 2008, but at that time, it did not have 3D visuals. [...] Those [motion] sensors were actually put in pretty late. We officially went with them just before E3 [in June] last year," said Hideki Konno, group manager of the 3DS hardware project at Nintendo and also the producer of games like Nintendogs and Mario Kart Wii, in an interview with Famitsu magazine (which article was quoted by 1Up web-site).
The development of the 3DS started probably sometimes in 2004, right after the launch of the DS. Based on the comment by the official for Nintendo, the company only included one key feature of the new console in 2008 or even 2009 and another in 2010 after years of development. It is not clear what was original 3DS supposed to be like without stereo-3D screen and motion-sensing technology. In fact, it was uneasy to add the latter.
"The boat had really left the port by [June 2010], the hardware team had the final specs [without motion sensors] and just had to work it all out. Then, in the midst of that, Miyamoto said 'This isn't enough; we can really change things if there's a gyro sensor in there'. We had a prototype for the sensor already, so we got everyone together to try it out, and the conclusion we came up with was 'Well, if we can do things this fun with it, I guess we've got no choice'," explained Mr. Konno.
While we do not know anything about the original 3DS, it is clear that the concept of the model that will go on sale was designed in 2H 2008 - 1H 2010. There is hardly anything wrong about it as all devices get redesigned a lot of times before the release. However, such late changes indicate that either the original model was not really competitive or the company simply did not know what it wanted to get from the new handheld video game system. With the pretty hard development process of 3DS in mind, it becomes more or less clear why it takes Nintendo so long to introduce a new non-portable game system to succeed the aging Wii.
We are constantly thinking about ways to surprise our customers as much as possible. That theme is always there even as our hardware and software changes," said Mr. Konno.