Tuesday, 18 May 2010

3DS Development / Test Hardware Revealed?

It seems that Nintendo have been testing out parts of their new 3DS handheld with the US Federal Communications Commission, reportedly aiming to get the system’s new Wi-Fi card approved for use in the United States.

Some images from the testing appeared on the FCC Filing website late last month before being quickly removed. However a single image was posted at WirelessGoodness before the entire batch disappeared, showing something being referred to as a "Nintendo CTR Target Board". Most likely this image is that of Nintendo’s NDS Successor, the tentatively titled 3DS.

The image below shows what looks like a 3DS test kit or early development system, with the Wi-Fi card and related parts being highlighted due to being involved in the FCC’s testing process. WirelessGoodness initially assumed that it could be a custom board to test out a new built-in Wi-Fi card for either the existing DS or an upgraded model. However this is very unlikely as the board on display has some very different defining characteristics compared to any of the existing NDS designs.

The test board clearly has two screens situated one above the other like the current DS, although the top screen is clearly in a widescreen format and the bottom is in the standard 4:3, whereas the existing DS’s feature a dual 4:3 set up. The new 3DS, if that indeed is what this board is based on, shows that only one of the two screens will be 3D compatible. It’s clear from the image that the top screen features Sharp's new auto-stereoscopic 3D tech, whilst the bottom screen is just a standard LCD display.

From the image it is also possible to point out the inclusion of both a DS cartridge slot, and a SD card port too. Both of these are currently standard in the DSi and DsiXL systems, but are also likely to be included in the new 3DS when that launches, as Nintendo have previously confirmed full compatibility with all DS and DSi software. There is no sign of any new type of cartridge slot or card port, meaning that games for the new 3DS are likely to appear on the same carts as current DS software, leaving the SD card support for something along the lines of multimedia application.

More interestingly, the board on show is listed with a three-letter codename, something that Nintendo has used for all versions of its NDS hardware. The DSi was referred to as TWL, and the DSi XL as UTL, much in the same way as the GameCube, which was internally referred to as the GCN (GameCube Nintendo) rather than the publicly abbreviated NGC. The codename CTR hasn’t been used by Nintendo before, so most likely refers to a brand new generation of handheld, which is also backed up by the images showing a completely different design to the one found in the current range of DS systems.

All evidence clearly points to this being a form of 3DS development hardware, or at least a testing kit for the new machine. With the system likely to be on show at E3 in some capacity, or at some point later in the year, it isn’t a stretch to assume that development kits are in first party hands at least. This test / dev kit shows that the design is being finalised, with some features being tested out for a final inclusion, and others yet to be put in or decided upon.

With only a few months to go until this new handheld makes its debut, it’s only likely that more information and leaks begin to surface. Maybe some prototype images of the new hardware will appear a little later down the line, or that Nintendo will have its hand forced once again into an early reveal? Either way today’s images clearly show that the DS’s successor is almost in sight, and that we probably shouldn’t have long to wait for more concrete information to arrive.

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