Adding the third dimension to handhelds

This Saturday sees the launch of the 3DS in Japan and to celebrate the coming of a new Nintendo platform, Famistu has put together a sixty page feature (yep, six-zero) covering the ins and outs of the handheld. Hideki Konno, producer of Nintendogs + Cats was interviewed (via Andriasang) about his involvement in developing the 3DS revealing that at one point, it may have been called something very different.

After Mario Kart Wii was finished in 2008, Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata approached Konno and showed him an early prototype of the 3DS, keen to strengthen the relationship between hardware developers like themselves and a predominantly software programmer like Konno. They wanted his opinion on the new device which Nintendo began working on once the original DS was completed. Remember, we’ve had three more versions of the DS since then too. As with all the iterations, Nintendo’s focus was to keep the system backward compatible, having a cross over period where both DS and 3DS are on the market allowing for people to upgrade and not lose all their old games. So the prototypes had two screen, one of them touch enabled but the other wasn’t originally planned to be 3D, this was something Konno suggested around two years ago today.

Since Nintendo is still to this day suffering from the metaphorical and physical migraines left after their failed Virtual Boy, it’s hardly surprising that an outsider (so to speak) was the one who put the 3 in the 3DS. Konno’s experiments consisted of a 3D LCD TV and Mario Kart Wii where he discovered that playing games in 3D without the need for glasses was pleasant and impressive experience. Word spread and the DS2 became the 3DS with a whole new level of gameplay added thanks to the work of Hideki Konno.

But having a 3D screen wasn’t the only late development choice. The gyro sensor was another last minute decision and came about after last year’s E3. Seeing as the best way to experience the 3D is to hold the handheld still in the ‘sweet spot’, adding a function where you have to tilt and twist the device seems a little counter intuitive. But these are very different days for portable gaming with mobile phones increasing invading the space of traditional handheld consoles so in order to successfully compete on release and well into the future, Nintendo had to include existing motion tech alongside the brand new three-dimensional viewing. That and Miyamoto felt the 3DS was lacking in features saying “if there were a gyro sensor, the play could change greatly.”

I wonder what kind of system we would have ended up with if Nintendo chose not to include 3D. Presumable the graphics would have increased since the 3DS has to process two images at the same time in order to create the effect but would its appeal have lessened? Maybe by the tech-centric masses but this is a new Nintendo hardware and whether you play hardcore games or those of a casual persuasion, the company have always maintained healthy support from their fans.

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