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Nintendo 3DS may be hard to get your hands on for a while

A man tries out Nintendo 3DS portable game system which displays graphics 3-D without glasses. The first day it was

A man tries out a Nintendo 3DS portable game system, which displays graphics in 3-D without the glasses. The first day it was available in Japan last month, 400,000 units were sold. | Elodie Le Maou~AFP/Getty Images

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Updated: April 27, 2011 12:16AM

Nintendo is looking to conjure up a little March Madness of its own: Its new Nintendo 3DS handheld system hits stores Sunday. The $250 successor to the seven-year-old Nintendo DS — the most popular portable game system ever, with nearly 145 million units sold — displays 3-D games and other content without the use of special glasses.

That wow factor, making it the first consumer 3-D-without-glasses application, is expected to make the system hard to find, even though retailers such as Best Buy and Game Stop plan to host midnight launch events.

Prices already have hit $500 for some 3DS systems on eBay.

“Consumers are going to have to expect for at least the first year that possibly finding a 3DS might be difficult,” says analyst Jesse Divnich.

Nintendo aims to ship 4 million 3DS systems globally by the end of March. On Feb. 26, the first day it was available in Japan, consumers bought more than 400,000 units.

In addition to Nintendo’s own titles, such as submarine game “Steel Diver,” there are more than 15 others, including Electronic Arts’ “Madden Football,” Capcom’s “Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition,” and Ubisoft’s “Rayman 3D.” Games cost about $40 each.

“We think that the 3DS is an awesome machine,” says Tony Key of Ubisoft, which has three other 3DS games out Sunday and more than 15 in development. “It has a lot of features, including an accelerometer and gyroscope [to sense motion and speed] and the 3-D, that really make it a unique piece of hardware.”

Built into the system are several games as well as other features, including three cameras (a 3-D pair and a single one) that let you take 3-D photos and create Mii avatars. Face Raiders puts a viewer’s face or that of another person onto flying enemies that attack from all sides; you move the system left, right, up and down to target them.

Also included is “augmented reality” games that spawn characters and enemies as you aim the 3DS lens at cards placed on a table. In an augmented-reality archery game, “looking down into your table, it looks like there is a pit,” says Brian Crecente of game news site “You actually have to walk around to see all sides of this pit because there is an underground chamber from which targets emerge.”

A built-in pedometer rewards players with virtual coins for walking with the 3DS; the device’s StreetPass mode exchanges information between two 3DS systems and adds new game data.

“They have done this great job of intertwining the physicality of this new type of gaming with their games,” Crecente says. “It speaks to [the 3DS’] potential.”

Nintendo recommends children ages 6 and under not play in 3-D mode (the display has a depth slider that adjusts the effects, with a low setting of standard 2-D). “That non-3-D option is very smart,” Divnich says. “I think Nintendo is just being cautious. But we don’t really know what the short-term or long-term effects of watching 3-D are, not just games but movies, as well.”

Shoppers who get the early 3DS systems will play a critical part in the product’s future, says Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime.

“As they show off content like the [augmented-reality] games and the Mii Maker, I do think that will get non-gamers to say, ‘Wow, I need to give this a look.’”

Gannett News Service

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