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Nintendo on Saturday initiated sales of its highly-anticipated 3DS game console on its home market in Japan. The initial interest towards the device seems to be very high as this is the first modern portable game console with auto-stereoscopic 3D screen.

Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo, said that the company planned to sell 1.5 million of 3DS consoles in Japan in its first month (starting from February, 26) and ship 4 million of the new-generation portable game systems worldwide by the end of March. According to local reports, the first batch of 3DS game consoles for Japan was 400 thousand units and was quickly sold out. Nonetheless, the second batch was quickly delivered to stores.

Nintendo 3DS costs ¥25 000 ($304) in Japan. According to VG247.com, the Japanese console was released alongside a number of games that take advantage of the new screen, including Pro Evolution Soccer 3DS, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, Samurai Warriors: Chronicles, Bust-a-Move Universe, Nintendogs + Cats, Ridge Racer 3D, Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, and Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle.

Despite of strong interest from the so-called hardcore gamers, who usually acquire new game consoles on the launch days, it remains to be seen whether the device will repeat the success of the DS-series of consoles. The previous-generation devices were bought by both enthusiasts as well as general consumers. This time, however, the success among general consumers and occasional gamers is not cast in stone as the latter can play a lot of casual games on smartphones and tablets like Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy Pad.

“Nintendo’s competitive advantage is that they develop both hardware and software. I don’t think you will see a change to Nintendo strategy longer term, but because of smartphones they will not see the same growth they once had,” said David Gibson, head of equity research at Macquarie Securities in Tokyo, in an interview with Reuters news-agency.

Sony Computer Entertainment along with a number of other companies, including such game publishers as Electronic Arts, are working on porting their older games from game consoles and personal computers onto new-generation of smartphones. While directly those titles are not a threat for new games designed for consoles, in the mid-term they will have a direct influence onto the content quality of titles for smartphones and in the longer term games for handsets will be able to match those for dedicated consoles in terms of experience, quality and length of game-play. In the meantime, handheld consoles will still have something exclusive to offer.

"I have been away from playing games for a while, but 3DS brought me back to it. What smartphones can do is different from what the 3DS can do - it is not that either one is superior," said Hitoshi Yanagi, a 39-year-old from Kawasaki in the suburbs of Tokyo, in a conversation with Reuters.

Nintendo 3DS features a 3.53” autostereoscopic 3D top screen with 800x240 resolution (400 pixels for each eye) and a 3.02” bottom touch screen with 320x240 resolution. It has three 0.3MP cameras – one inner and two outer – to deliver the stereo-3D effect and take stereo-3D pictures. It includes a motion sensor, a gyro sensor, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n controller, a Slide Pad that allows 360-degree analog input and so on. The device also has a special slider that can increase, decrease or disable stereoscopic 3D (S3D) effect. The 3DS comes in form-factor that is similar to the predecessors and is fully compatible with Nintendo DS titles. The console uses DMP Pica 200 graphics processor. As announced previously, it will have a slot for SD cards as well as support cartridges for previous-gen DS systems. When playing stereoscopic 3D games specifically developed for 3DS, the console will last 3.5 to 5 hours depending on conditions. When playing DS or DSi games, which are naturally 2D only, the system will have a battery life of 5 to 8 hours. Full charge of the batter takes around 3.5 hours.

Tags: Nintendo, 3DS, Stereo 3D

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