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Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo 3DS: The PSP’s Death Knell

The general consensus among game industry-watchers at E3 is that Nintendo presented the best press conference among the “big three,” leaving Microsoft and Sony in the dust. While Microsoft made waves by giving everyone who attended the company's conference a free new Xbox 360 Slim and Sony got attention with its homegrown character Kevin Butler, the healthy library of new games from the House That Mario Built put Nintendo over the top.

Nintendo also formally presented its new portable gaming console, the 3DS.The 3DS represents the truly major handheld upgrade from Nintendo since the original DS launched back in 2004. In a 12 month period that has been absolutely dominated by 3D news from other areas of the consumer electronics arena, Nintendo is capitalizing on the newest frontier in entertainment, and doing so without a pair of stereoscopic or active-shutter glasses in sight.

Let’s recap the hardware of the 3DS. The handheld is a little bit bigger than a DS Lite, but still smaller than an original DS at 5.3”x2.9”x0.8”, and the 3DS weighs in at eight ounces. As for the insides, Nintendo didn't reveal much. Many speculate that it may be running on a Tegra platform, but it is safe to say that it’s running on something more power than the sub-100 MHz total clock speed of the original DS. The touchscreen on the bottom of the 3DS is a 3.02-inch screen with a 320x240 resolution. The 3D on the top is much different, coming in at 3.52 inches with an 800x240 resolution. There are three cameras, two on the outside for 3D picture-taking (probably only viewable on the 3DS itself) and one on the inside to use with certain games. The 3DS comes with slots for 3DS and DS games, an SD card slot, integrated wi-fi, rechargeable battery, a new slide pad (analog joystick), and a 4-inch stylus.

Of course, the centerpiece is the 3D screen, which can be turned on and off with the 3D slider to the right of the screen. Not only can you play games and view pictures in 3D, but Nintendo is also promising a great 3D movie watching experience. We are still skeptical on this point, but we will have to wait for Avatar to appear on a 3DS cartridge before we come up with a final verdict. The 3DS also benefits from a graphical update over the DS. From what we saw during the press conference and on the show floor, we think many of the titles look quite a bit like Gamecube games, which is rather impressive for a handheld.

So what does all this mean for Sony's PSP and PSPgo? Neither Sony handheld is selling well today, and the 3DS won't help Sony's standing. Sony has recently added Kevin Butler-like flare to its PSP ads, but we think this is too little, too late. If Sony wants to remain relevant in the handheld space, the company needs to put the same amount of focus it put on 3D for the PS3 into 3D for the next PSP console. Nintendo has done nearly everything right when it comes to its DS line, from backwards compatibility to camera integration to allowing for downloadable content while maintaining physical cartridges. Even if Sony knocks the PSP2 out of the park, the 3DS will remain a formidable competitor with a head start. Analysts expect the 3DS to launch in the first quarter of 2011, though Nintendo has not announced a date.