[In a Friday opinion piece, Gamasutra editor-at-large Chris Morris looks at Satoru Iwata's musings on possible video recording for Nintendo's 3DS to look at the stealth non-gaming elements of the 3DS and how they might truly 'future-proof' the handheld.]
While it has had to endure its fair share of navel gazing and questions from the media over the 3DS -- including from me
-- Nintendo is starting to show once again why it's always foolish to bet against the company.
There's no doubt the 3DS will be a hot seller when it hits shelves. Most new game technologies from major players in the industry usually are. The question that has always loomed over the 3DS's head, though, was is it enough to lure people who are spending more and more time with their iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.
That's likely to be the case in the short term, when the technology retains its novel qualities, but now Nintendo is showing some of its hand on how it plans to keep the 3DS relevant long after the masses have gotten past their fascination with seeing Mario in 3D.
In the latest Iwata Asks Q&A session
, Nintendo's president acknowledges that he would like to include video recording capabilities into future updates of the 3DS, letting people shoot home movies in 3D and watch them back on their device or (presumably) on a 3D TV via SD card.
"I think it will be fun if we're able to include video recording capabilities with future updates," he says.
It's an intriguing potential addition and if Nintendo doesn't drag its feet for too long with the feature, it could give the company a leg up on the entertainment industry as a whole.
3D camcorders were prominently on display at this year's CES. Some were good. Some were meh. But, with very few exceptions, they had one thing in common: They were stupidly expensive. Generally, the price point on the models started at $1,000 and soared from there. Only Sony had one that was at a reasonable price point: the $250 3D Bloggie HD, which will go on sale this April.
And 3D TVs might be on the way, but they won't hit critical mass for several years. By giving people the opportunity to a) start preserving 3D memories sooner than that and b) giving them somewhere to watch them now, Nintendo could take a leadership position in the space with the mass market, much like Sony did with DVDs, by including that player with the PS2.
The included 3D camera is a good start but adding video functionality would be a tremendous selling point to fence sitters. The big question, of course, is: When he said "future updates", was he talking about a possible firmware update or a refresh of the model line? It's a question that has no answer now, as the company is careful to note that "3D video support for Nintendo 3DS has not been officially announced at this time."
In the meantime, Nintendo has been curiously quiet about one of the most interesting bullet points it discussed last June when unveiling the 3DS.
At the time, Iwata mentioned that the company had been talking to major Hollywood studios about integrating their works into the 3DS' content library. So those people who couldn't find a game to interest them might instead buy a copy of Avatar
or How to Train Your Dragon
Given the hesitancy of people to shell out thousands of dollars on a 3D TV where there's not enough content to justify the expense these days a platform that will allow them to recreate the cinematic 3D experience (on the go, no less!) and let them enjoy top-tier games is one that will hold a lot of appeal. And the bundling potential of a system, game and movie is one that could send holiday sales into overdrive.
Hollywood is looking far and wide for partners as it tries to convince people that 3D will be a critical part of the viewing experience in years to come. And with the 3DS poised to be one of the hottest 3D devices on the market for the foreseeable future, you have to think they're either close to jumping on board or have already aligned themselves with the company.
Perhaps we'll hear more next week at Nintendo's press event in NYC. But if not, it's one hell of a rabbit for Nintendo to have ready to pull out of its hat the minute sales show any sign of slowing down.