A couple of weeks ago IQGamer reported that Nintendo were in the process of developing a true successor to the Nintendo DS, and that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had maybe, by accident, let slip some details on what to expect, such as more powerful hardware along with something else entirely. Well, today Nintendo officially confirmed that they are working on a follow up to the NDS due for a full unveiling at this year’s E3.
The Nintendo 3DS, an official working title for the machine, is being considered the true replacement for the current line-up of NDS consoles, and will boast a completely glasses-free 3D gaming experience. The new handheld, due for a complete reveal at E3 this summer, in which it will be playable, is expected to launch in Japan sometime before March 2011, and will be backward compatible with all DS and DSi software.
Speaking to the New York Times, Ken Toyoda, chief spokesman at Nintendo stated that "We wanted to give the gaming industry a head's up about what to expect from Nintendo at E3," and "We'll invite people to play with the new device then."
Despite not announcing any other details, a few sources have been digging a little deeper in regards of finding out just what will be powering the 3D screen on the device, and also looking at what control methods could be included in its design.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper, seems to have uncovered that the 3DS may in fact be using a Sharp 3D LCD panel in the console. This particular LCD panel uses a thin film attached to the screen, separated form the screen by a tiny space to create the 3D effect without the need for any special glasses, making the image look different to both eyes, thus giving the graphics a 3D look to them.
This way of driving a glasses-free 3D image via an LCD panel is known as the parallax barrier method, and was hinted at by Blitz Games chief technical officer, Andrew Oliver in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.
"I'm fairly sure it would be based on the parallax barrier method, which is better than lenticular screens and has seen some great advancements recently," he said. "It can also be turned off to give a perfect 2D screen as well. This screen already exists in the Fuju 3D camera and I have a 3D laptop from Sharp with this technology and it works very well for one viewer within a reasonable viewing area for a handheld."
In addition The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a paper usually responsible for breaking Nintendo hardware related news, reported that this latest handheld would in fact include a ‘control stick’ for moving characters around in 3D instead of the current d-pad seen on the existing DS’s, along with information regarding some kind of rumble technology being included too. Nintendo apparently acquired the patents for the rumble tech late last year, which also matches up with our earlier report in February surrounding this ‘mystery’ successor to the NDS.
Whilst the machine will be 3D enabled and feature rumble functionality, both the battery life and wireless range will be improved over the current DS models, as well as potentially boasting some form of motion control via an accelerometer, which would allow the user to control on screen characters by tilting the machine. Though at present this inclusion of motion is not set in stone, and is merely being ‘looked into’ according to the paper.
The last piece of the puzzle falls onto the technology powering the machine from inside, namely the combined CPU/GPU believed to be from the Tegra 2 family of chipsets by NVIDIA.
Around three years ago a report surfaced that Nintendo had entered into a contract with NVIDA to use it’s Tegra IP for use in the 3DS handheld. Now it’s not quite known whether the contract was for Tegra 1 or Tegra 2 architectures, however the fact that they have the rights to use the IP means that they could take the more costly and power hungry Tegra 2 chipset, and simply scale down the design to fit their needs for this new DS.
Given past custom choices for their handhelds, it is likely that Nintendo will go down the route of working with NVIDIA in developing a 3DS specific chipset from the established Tegra 1 or 2 IP chain. As we reported in our article last month, the use of such a chipset derived from Tegra IP could well mean that the 3DS will produce visuals on par with what we were seeing on the GameCube, or possibly even the Xbox depending on how advanced their chipset or CPU/GPU chip turns out to be.
Of course this is simply speculation at this point, although we shouldn’t have to wait to long to find out the truth about just what is inside the 3DS. Details should be forthcoming during or shortly after E3.
Nintendo will of course be fully unveiling the 3DS at E3 this summer, delivering what they promise to be the next leap in handheld gaming, the true successor to the Nintendo DS series of consoles. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, seeing as many people I’d imagine, are getting rather fed up of incremental upgrades to a nearly six year old hardware design. Thankfully being fully compatible with all DS/DSi software will mean that the sudden announcement of yet another Nintendo portable just weeks after the western launch of the DSI XL shouldn’t offend too many people.
IQGamer will be following any news on the Nintendo 3DS closely, and we look forward to bringing you an in-depth look at the system sometime in the future.