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60 MCV 13/08/10 3DS ANALYSIS Talk of the town

Nintendo’s new handheld has provided the games industry with a regular talking point since its E3 unveiling back in June. Kristan Reed asks journalists and developers for their thoughts on the device...

IN AN INDUSTRY as incurably excitable as games, sometimes it’s hard to find the calm middle ground. People are either prone to getting carried away with The Next Big Thing, or are just too damned cool to display any cred-damaging positivity. But it’s a different matter when it comes to discussing the Nintendo 3DS. Holding it in your hand for the first time, it’s almost impossible not to revert to a frothing child-like state of unfettered glee at what it represents. The future, it seems, is here. Now. “It’s difficult to believe what you’re seeing for the first few minutes,” observes Edge writer Kelly MacDonald. “3D visuals from a handheld is a technological marvel that I thought was still years away.” Black Rock creative director Jason

Avent agrees: “You really have to see the 3DS screen in the flesh to believe it. I’d buy it for movies alone, I think, because it’s 3D that doesn’t hurt me!”


Indeed, with many people experiencing discomfort from traditional glasses-based 3D, the arrival of Nintendo’s Auto- Stereoscopic tech is a godsend. “Before I saw the 3DS, I was very cynical about 3D in general,” Avent admits. “I still don’t like the blurred ghosting you get on 3DTVs, and 3D tech in cinemas gives me a headache and eye strain. [3DS] has the best 3D on any platform – and no glasses needed.” For Eurogamer editor Tom Bramwell, the 3DS represents yet another example of Nintendo’s uncanny knack for “taking inexpensive hardware and doing inventive things with it.” But he wants to see more before he gets sucked into the hype. “The E3 showing was a clever bit of misdirection,” Bramwell reckons. “There aren’t many actual games for the 3DS yet, but you don’t see people moaning about the lack of software, and that’s because they’re distracted by Ocarina of Time and Metal Gear Solid tech demos.” But such is the overwhelming impressiveness of these demos, it’s hard not to be drawn by the system’s potential.


“Even once you know what it is and you know what it does, actually seeing it in front of your face for the first time is astonishing,” asserts MacDonald. “I’ve certainly never witnessed a games console make a grown man reach out instinctively to touch a virtual puppy’s paws before.” It is, perhaps, tempting to imagine this seductive visual trickery will just be a gimmick that we’ll take for granted fairly quickly. But placed in the right creative hands, could the 3DS

revolutionise gaming as we know it? Adam Green, MD of developer Assyria thinks so.

“The idea of game mechanics that utilise Auto-Stereoscopic 3D is particularly interesting,” he says. “I expect the use of depth perception will lead to new mechanics, as well as adding to existing genres.”

In the early stages of showing off the

system’s potential, most agree that games such as Kid Icarus and Pilotwings were the standout offerings.

But while Bramwell argues that “developers are still figuring out how to make best use of 3D”, he fully expects Nintendo to deliver “one or two inspirational first-party games to show people the way.” Past history certainly backs him on that score.

But outside of the first-party elite, Green warns of a “steep learning curve” ahead for fellow designers who try to blaze a similarly creative trail. “A lot of what we as developers do is smoke and mirrors. For instance: ‘bill boarding’, where we place an image

Even once you know what it is and what it does, seeing it in front of your face for the first time is astonishing.

Kelly MacDonald, Journalist

such as a tree on a flat plane. While on a 2D TV this works fine, Stereoscopic 3D makes it identifiable as a flat plane. Developers we will need to work around issues like this.”

PUSH DATA AND PIRACY Particularly exciting to developers is the always-on ‘Crosspass’ technology, which grants the ability to add content wirelessly over the internet in a way not previously possible on a handheld. “Imagine in a game like GTA, we could push to the devices a simple in- game newspaper each day to give an ongoing story of that world,” Green says. “Maybe we could go even further and set up systems to allow us to easily add new missions and quests based on

that story, just utilising existing characters so that little new content would be required.” Used wisely, he argues, this type of tech could potentially evolve the single- player experience in a way that we’ve only seen to date in MMOs.

“I think [this] has a vast amount of potential,” adds Green.

expecting an explosion of interest when the device launches.

Meanwhile Justin Keeling, Ignition’s newly appointed head of global product and strategy, finds it interesting that the Kyoto-based giant hasn’t followed Apple’s lead in other areas. “It’s interesting that Nintendo seems to be trying to buck recent expectations driven by [Apple] – like digital download only, short form games with a low price and low barrier to entry,” he says. “I suppose a big question for publishers will be if the [3DS] can sustain high engagement and high attach rates in a way that the DS and Wii didn’t manage to over time. “If there’s one lesson learned from the last 20 years in the business, it’s never underestimate Nintendo.”

As for the 3DS’ sales potential, the news is definitely good for the whole industry, with publishers and retailers

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