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The 3DS, the Wii 2 and Touch Tablets

Nintendo’s 3DS 3D upgrade to the DS range is just the kind of development we expected in reply to the arrival of touch tablets. As with the Wii, Nintendo are using novelty and innovation to tap straight into the interest stirred up by 3D movies and the prospect of watching the World Cup on 3D TV.

Critically, the 3DS is expected to deliver portable 3D gameplay without the need to wear 3D glasses. Though Nintendo’s likely use of lenticular technology will probably mean keeping your head fairly still and staying within an ideal viewing range.

Expect some ‘pop-up’ titles that just try to throw 3D effects at you, followed by familiar DS brands and formats, which start to use 3D in the more complete way shown in the Avatar movie.

Expect to see the DS XL on discount in the near future

As a reaction to the iPad, the 3DS invites DS players to stick with Nintendo for the novelty of playing in 3D. A 3DS delivered in time for Christmas 2010 would certainly leave parents with a cheaper option, which could claim to be as novel as an iPad while also running existing DS titles.

A delay much into 2011 might represent a missed opportunity, because a wide choice of cheap Touch Tablets, (equipped with a stack of familiar games), may turn the heads of parents looking for kids to use touch tablets as media players and learning devices. Shared and family gaming may also become a consideration as families connect up multiple tablets within the home.

The iPhone and its Apps Store have shown that touch works. The touch games already on their way to the iPad offer an wide selection of quality titles. The offerings seen so far make full use of the iPad’s graphic capabilities through intuitive interfaces, e.g. Sims 3, Mirror’s Edge and Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom. Consequently, Nintendo are gambling on instant appeal and pricing over a guaranteed result.

Scrabble offers clutter free shared gaming on the iPad

3D technology has the backing of major studios and major distributors like Sky, but there’s a range of technical problems including encoding 3D, technical standards and, in most cases, 3D glasses. Nintendo, therefore, appears to be able to deliver workable 3D games on a DS and can wait to see where the rest of the 3D market goes. At the very least they’ll have sent developers at Microsoft and Sony into a frenzy, as they try to work out whether or not to follow Nintendo’s lead.

The 3DS is certainly going to face a lot of competition with tablets, including the JooJoo, the Courier, the HP Slate, the Dell Mini 5 and the ‘gSlate’, all lining up for a share of the handheld market. Touch gaming may not sound as novel as 3D gaming but it does make games very easy to play and share.

The 3DS has also raised the possibility of a 3D Wii 2. If a lot of 3D TVs make their way into homes over the next five years a 3D console could be a profitable option. The largest cost would be the 3D TVs, which Nintendo wouldn’t have to pay for.

So, if 3D doesn’t take off Nintendo will have added a novel feature to the DS. If 3D does take off Nintendo will have a head start in much the same way as they seized a very profitable lead with the Wii’s motion control.