Nintendo 3DS won’t arrive until 2011

So much for a holiday surprise from Nintendo.

The company today announced launch details for the 3DS, its
upcoming handheld gaming platform that lets users play games in stereoscopic 3D
without the need for special glasses. Japanese consumers will be the first to
get their hands on the system – starting Feb. 26. U.S. and European gamers will
have their chance in March.

Some industry observers had hoped the company would announce a ship date during the fourth quarter of this year, but Nintendo said it was unable to create a sufficient supply of the devices.

When it does arrive, the 3DS is not going to be cheap. While Nintendo did not
announce a launch price for Western markets, the 3DS will run roughly $300 in

Nintendo also today announced a few new features for
the system – most notably, a “Virtual Console” which will let owners purchase
legacy Game Boy, Game Boy color and Game Boy Advance games. The 3DS will
also come packaged with a 2GB SD card, which will likely be used to store both
downloaded games and 3D pictures taken with the 3DS’s integrated 3D camera.

It will also feature an enhanced “tag mode” – meaning users
will be able to exchange data with other nearby 3DS units even if their game is
not in the 3DS at the time. This means players on different schedules can still
share gameplay elements.

The system will also support Augmented Reality gaming –
coming with 6 AR cards to use with those games – but Nintendo did not offer
many details on that component.

The pricing for the 3DS could be a concern for the company.
If Nintendo stays in the $299 range when it launches in the U.S. (something
that’s hardly a guarantee), that puts it in the same territory as the iPhone,
which has functionality far beyond gaming. (Software is also expected to be
significantly more expensive than it is for titles from the app store, although
the company did not specify what it will charge for 3DS titles.)

Nintendo’s hoping its catalog of strong titles, including
Mario, Zelda and Pokemon, will prove a strong draw. And to double down, it’s
also in discussions with Hollywood studios to bring 3D films to the 3DS –
although it once again did not offer any additional details on those talks at
today’s conference.