Nintendo 3DS: Is it 3-D gaming's savior?
(CNN) -- Nintendo announced this week that its much-anticipated 3DS handheld will arrive in Japan on February 26, 2011, for around $300, with a U.S. debut to follow in March.
That's about three months too late for the holiday shopping season and later than some had predicted. But even more notable is the gadget's potential to actually make 3-D gaming a household staple.
Unlike 3-D games for the PlayStation 3 or those utilizing NVIDIA's 3-D Vision technology, which adds three-dimensional special effects to PC titles, software for the Nintendo 3DS doesn't require the use of cumbersome stereoscopic glasses.
Fans also don't have to pay for expensive hardware upgrades such as a 3-D TV or custom graphics cards. Both are major hurdles that have thus far kept players from hopping on the 3-D bandwagon en masse, and game makers from following in large numbers.
Original 3-D games also should be more readily available, at least in the near future, for the 3DS than those for desktop or living room units.
Popular franchises including "Resident Evil, "Metal Gear Solid" and "Sonic the Hedgehog" are all slated for upcoming 3-D appearances, with publishers such as Activision, Namco and UbiSoft committed to developing for the gadget.
The device is better suited to the briefer, more mobile gaming experiences that define current gaming trends and appears better poised to satisfy both casual and hardcore video game fans than its competitors.
Additional support for 3-D TV shows and films should further buoy the Nintendo 3DS' popularity as a portable entertainment device. The gadget also offers the benefit of on-demand game updates and downloads via Wi-Fi connection.
More extras, such as the option to use the device as a camera, convert friends' photos into personalized virtual avatars and wirelessly communicate with other Nintendo 3DS machines, should only add to its usefulness and versatility.
On the downside, the portable console's graphical enhancements, which resemble pop-up storybook cutouts, aren't as technically advanced as what you'll get from set-top systems. But they can be adjusted to suit individual preferences.
A broad selection of supporting titles ranging from "Nintendogs + Cats" to "Kid Icarus" and "Mario Kart" also promises to appeal to all ages more than rival units, which target diehard gaming fans and early adopters.
Everyday expectations also play to the 3DS' advantage, because players naturally anticipate smaller and/or less complex gaming experiences on handheld devices.
This makes supporting games easier and more affordable to build for the unit, giving designers a leg up on 3-D game development. Instead of forcing manufacturers to push the technical bar to justify pricey living room upgrades, the Nintendo 3DS offers creators a platform to experiment. In this way, it offers simpler, more natural transitions between 2-D and 3-D adventures.
Early feedback from gaming critics is promising. Nintendo's knack for making new technology engaging and user-friendly is evidenced by the success of systems like the motion-sensing Wii.
If the 3DS proves half as eye-catching and intuitive, and even a fraction of the promised games materialize, rivals should be worried. Rather than be televised, the 3-D revolution may quietly unfold in your pocket instead.