Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Last Night's 3DS Announcements: Thoughts, Opinions and Surprises

Third post in a row with the 3DS as its primary subject. When will the madness end?!

It would be an understatement to say last night's conference was surprising. To start, a quick recap of what I expected as opposed to what actually happened.

I began my last post with the assumption that we'd hear the Japanese launch date, and, as expected, this came true. What wasn't expected, however, was the launch date itself: February 26th, 2011. I, along with many others, were certain that a November 2010 release date would be announced. In retrospect, though, it only makes sense to launch it next year, rather than cannibalize the sales of Nintendo's many Winter 2010 releases. Launch the 3DS in November and you can pretty much say goodbye to sales for games such as Kirby's Epic Yarn and Donkey Kong Country Returns. While it may suck for us, it makes good business sense.

Related to the above, I was fairly certain that there would be no word on a North American release date just yet. As was the case with my previous prediction, this, too, was wrong. A vague date of "March 2011" was given, and not just for North America, but every other major market. So much for me getting the best birthday present ever... Well, at least my release date period guess was correct! Curiously, though, this points towards a nigh-simultaneous launch all around the world, which, as I stated in the previous post, would create one heck of a limited supply. Better start lining up at Gamestop now, folks!

One announcement that did actually match up with my predictions was the final 3DS design. The changes, however, are far less drastic than I anticipated. A few minor tweaks around the slide pad are pretty much all that happened. The two separate types of plastic comprising the lower half still remain, sadly. I don't get why they didn't change that; It would look much sleeker with one solid colour. Speaking of sleekness, the overly-chunky hinge corners remain, raising many similarities between the 3DS and the original DS model. Does this mean a 3DS Lite will be coming our way within two years? Probably. Will this stop me from grabbing the 3DS "Fat" on launch? Not even close.

My final prediction concerned the announcement of an additional, game-changing feature within the 3DS, such as a multi-touch screen or a Kinect-like camera. I didn't really expect either feature to be implemented, and, as expected (Or unexpected?), neither was... Nor was any other new game-changing feature. A few features we'd heard of previously, though, we're more adequately fleshed-out, such as a game-pausing Home button that allows users to browse the internet or perform other functions mid-play (Sounds like a DSi feature I proposed some time ago). Not quite game-changing, but certainly a helpful feature.

Not attention turns to the announcements I didn't consider, such as the price announcement. First of all, I need to say I have no idea how I managed to forget this one. I guess it was just sort of lumped-in with the release date announcement. Anyways, the price was announced and... Well, this was my reaction*. The 3DS will retail for 599 US dollars* 25,000 Yen, which translates to, oh, roughly $300 USD*. Not all hope is lost, though, as this was the Japanese launch price for the Wii as well, and that started at $250 USD. In all likelihood Nintendo won't do a direct conversion on the price, and we'll end up paying far less than $300. After all, Nintendo wouldn't sell a handheld for a higher price than the Wii... Would they?

And now for a quick rundown and opinion regarding all other interesting 3DS announcements:

  • -Miis have been confirmed for the 3DS, with a built-in editor that's actually better than the one found on the Wii. How about updating that one, too, while you're at it?
  • -Miis can also be created instantly by taking a picture of a face. The system will then attempt to recreate the picture as closely as possible. Cool idea, but this sort of thing has never worked that well for me in the past. Maybe my face is just too weird.
  • -One final Mii-related announcement says that Mii data and pictures can be uploaded to an SD card for system-to-system transfer. Finally, a way to get a picture of a Mii without actually having to point a camera at a TV screen!
  • -The advanced Tag Mode, now known as "StreetPass", can download and transmit data from 3DS to 3DS, even if the game related to the transfer isn't physically in the unit. I foresee many interesting applications of this in the new Animal Crossing.
  • -The above functionality also extends to internet connectivity, where the 3DS will download game and system updates automatically. The Wii was announced to do this as well, but that promise sort of fell through. Perhaps the 3DS will finally bring this idea to reality?
  • -Much talk regarding Wi-Fi connectivity seems to hint at a less-restricted online experience. Could Nintendo finally be dropping Friend Codes? Well, no, probably not, but I can hope!
  • -The 3DS can use both cameras at once to snap a picture of both the player and someone standing in front of them, then merge the pictures into one. This frightens me more than a little.
  • -Also included in the box with the 3DS is a charging cradle, a 2GB SD card and several special cards for playing augmented reality games. I suppose that helps soften the prospect of the high price point a little bit.
  • -The 3DS will feature a Virtual Console-type service, allowing for the download of 3D-enhanced Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, as well as retro titles. Game Boy Advance downloads are currently unconfirmed, but would be more than welcome in my eyes!
  • -The 3DS will be available in two colours at launch: The black unit seen above, and the blue colour seen below. It's unknown if this relates to Japan exclusively or all markets, but judging by recent hardware releases Stateside, I wouldn't expect more than one colour on launch day.

That about covers all the 3DS-related news that surfaced last night. To summarize: Wow. The 3DS is certainly packed-full of features and, by extension, potential, making the wait for March even more difficult than before. I'm certain it will be worth it, though, so I suppose for the time being we should just sit back, relax, and enjoy the wait. To me the anticipation is one of the most exciting parts of a new console coming out. Difficult, yes, but very exciting. Here's to many long months of anticipation!

*This is why I will never go professional as a writer, and I am fine with this.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Upcoming 3DS Announcements: Predictions and Opinions

For an explanation regarding the recent void of updates on the blog, click here. Now then, moving along.

In a few short hours Nintendo will be holding a press event all about the 3DS. Many possible announcements float in the air at the moment. Hardware release dates and new software are well within the realm of possibility, along with many other hypothetical headlines.

First off, it's certain that the hardware's Japanese release date will be laid down tonight. After all, that's pretty much the core purpose of the event. Well, as far as we know, at least. Back on subject, many "sources" point to this yet-to-be-announced release dropping on the 11th of November. Can't really call it a prediction what with the crazy amount of outlets pointing in that direction, ergo this paragraph shall just sit here with a blank look on its face, much like I do every day.

Crossing the ocean back to the land upon which my blank look is typically fixated, many are eagerly anticipating a release date for the North American market. Sadly for those people (Myself included, blank stare and all), I just don't see such an announcement taking place tonight. Look anywhere and you'll see a million signs pointing towards the system not hitting our shores until at least 2011. Games deemed launch titles are being quietly announced for next year, bringing the 3DS along with them. Add to that the complications that would result from attempting to release a highly-anticipated system in multiple regions nigh-simultaneously and you've got a 2011 launch date*.

One announcement that's sure to please everyone, however, will be the highly-probable reveal of the 3DS' final design. As has been stated repeatedly since E3, the model we've seen so far is still in development, and changes from that model are surely going to be detailed tonight. I'm anticipating a sleeker design, one without the two different types of plastic comprising the inner and outer halves of the lower section. Doubling the camera on the inside to allow for more 3D picture possibilities would be nice as well, but I'm not exactly expecting it. I suppose such a feature would lend itself to some rather perverse interactions should a video chat service be included...

Slightly related to the above is the announcement of a new built-in, game-changing feature. It was suggested many months ago that the 3D was far from being the most revolutionary of gameplay-related additions to the handheld, and now would be the time to announce such a feature. What could it be? A multi-touch screen on the bottom, allowing for more advanced manipulation of and interaction with the game world? Perhaps the seemingly-normal camera we've seen on the inside is actually a highly-advanced, Kinect-like, hands-free motion controller? Or could there be no final secret after all and I'm just rambling like a madman? I suppose we'll find out shortly.

Uncertainties aside, one thing we all know for sure is that the 3DS is going to be a great system once it hits... Whenever that may happen to be. Whether it's next month or next year, though, it will certainly be worth the wait.

*Slightly off-topic, I personally believe the 3DS will be hitting North America sometime in February or March 2011. My mind's stuck on February 20th for some unknown reason... Or maybe it could be really cool and launch almost a month earlier, on my birthday (Which conveniently lands on a Sunday). Well, Nintendo, if you've been wondering what to get me this year...