The Nintendo 3DS (Japanese: ニンテンドー3DS Hepburn: Nintendō Surī Dī Esu?, abbreviated to 3DS) is a portable game console produced by Nintendo. It is capable of displaying stereoscopic 3D effects without the use of 3D glasses or additional accessories. Nintendo announced the device in March 2010 and officially unveiled it at E3 2010 on June 15, 2010. The console succeeds the Nintendo DS, featuring backward compatibility with older Nintendo DS and Nintendo DSi video games. The Nintendo 3DS’ main competitor is Sony’s PlayStation Vita system.
The handheld offers new features such as the StreetPass and SpotPass tag modes, powered by Nintendo Network; augmented reality, using its 3D cameras; and Virtual Console, which allows owners to download and play games originally released on older video game systems. It is also pre-loaded with various applications including these: an online distribution store called Nintendo eShop, a social networking service called Miiverse; an Internet Browser; the Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube streaming video services; Nintendo Video; a messaging application called Swapnote (known as Nintendo Letter Box in Europe and Australia); and Mii Maker.
The Nintendo 3DS was first released in Japan on February 26, 2011, and worldwide beginning in March 2011. Less than six months later on July 28, 2011, Nintendo announced a significant price reduction from US$249 to US$169 amid disappointing launch sales. The company offered ten free Nintendo Entertainment System games and ten free Game Boy Advance games from the Nintendo eShop to consumers who bought the system at the original launch price. This strategy was considered a major success, and the console has gone on to become one of Nintendo’s most successfully sold handheld consoles in the first two years of its release. As of March 31, 2016, the Nintendo 3DS line of systems combined have sold 58.85 million units.
Several redesigns have been made since; the Nintendo 3DS XL, a larger model, first released in Japan and Europe in July 2012, featuring a 90% larger screen. An “entry-level” version of the console, the Nintendo 2DS, with a fixed “slate” form factor and lacking autostereoscopic (3D) functionality, was released in Western markets in October 2013. The New Nintendo 3DS (and XL) features a more powerful CPU, a second analog stick called the C-Stick, additional buttons and other changes, and was first released in Japan in October 2014.
Nintendo began experimenting with stereoscopic 3D video game technology in the 1980s. The Famicom 3D System, an accessory consisting of liquid crystal shutter glasses, was Nintendo’s first product that enabled stereoscopic 3D effects. Although very few titles were released, Nintendo helped design one—called Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally—which was co-developed by Nintendo and HAL Laboratory and released in 1988. The Famicom 3D System failed to garner market interest and was never released outside Japan.
Despite the limited success, Nintendo would press ahead with 3D development into the 1990s. Gunpei Yokoi, creator of the Game Boy handheld device and popular Metroid video game, developed a new 3D device for Nintendo called the Virtual Boy. It was a portable table-top system consisting of goggles and a controller that used a spinning disc to achieve full stereoscopic monochrome 3D. Released in 1995, the Virtual Boy sold fewer than a million units, spawning only 22 compatible game titles, and was widely considered to be a commercial failure. Shigeru Miyamoto, known for his work on popular game franchises such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda, commented in a 2011 interview that he felt conflicted about Yokoi’s decision to use wire-frame models for 3D and suggested that the product may not have been marketed correctly. The failure of the Virtual Boy left many at Nintendo doubting the viability of 3D gaming. Despite this, Nintendo continued to investigate the incorporation of 3D technology into other products.
The GameCube, released in 2001, is another 3D-capable system. With an LCD attachment, it could display true stereoscopic 3D, though only the launch title Luigi’s Mansion was ever designed to utilize it. Due to the expensive nature of the requisite peripheral technology at the time, the GameCube’s 3D functionality was never marketed to the public. Nintendo later experimented with a 3D LCD during development of the Game Boy Advance SP, but the idea was shelved after it failed to achieve satisfactory results. Another attempt was made in preparation for a virtual navigation guide to be used on the Nintendo DS at Shigureden, an interactive museum in Japan. Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi encouraged additional 3D research in an effort to use the technology in the exhibition. Although the project fell short, Nintendo was able to collect valuable research on liquid crystal which would later aid in the development of the Nintendo 3DS.
Speculation on the development of a successor to the Nintendo DS began to ramp up in late 2009. At the time, Nintendo controlled as much as 68.3 percent of the handheld gaming market. In October 2009, tech tabloid Bright Side of News reported that Nvidia, a graphics processing unit (GPU) developer that recently made headway with its Tegra System-on-Chip processors, had been selected by Nintendo to develop hardware for their next generation portable game console. Later that month, speaking about the future for Nintendo’s portable consoles, company president Satoru Iwata mentioned that while mobile broadband connectivity via subscription “doesn’t fit Nintendo customers”, he was interested in exploring options like Amazon’s Whispernet found on the Amazon Kindle which provides free wireless connectivity to its customers for the sole purpose of browsing and purchasing content from the Kindle Store.
Nintendo has expressed interest in motion-sensing capabilities since the development of the original Nintendo DS, and an alleged comment by Satoru Iwata from a 2010 interview with Asahi Shimbun implied that the successor to the Nintendo DS would incorporate a motion sensor. The claim led to a minor dispute between the publication and Nintendo over its accuracy. In February 2010, video gaming website Computer and Video Games reported that a select “handful” of Japanese developers were in possession of software development kits for the Nintendo DS successor, with The Pokémon Company given special priority. According to their insider at an unspecified third-party development studio, the hardware features a “tilt” function that is similar to that of the iPhone, “but does a lot more”.
On March 23, 2010, Nintendo officially announced the Nintendo 3DS handheld console, successor to the Nintendo DS family. According to industry analysts, the timing of Nintendo’s original announcement, which had drawn attention away from the launch of the company’s still-new Nintendo DSi XL handheld, was likely intended to preempt impending news leaks about the product by the Japanese press. In April 2010, a picture of a possible development build of the internal components of the 3DS was released as part of a U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing by Mitsumi. An analysis of the image showed that it was likely genuine as it featured components known to be used in the Nintendo DS line along with features of the 3DS that had not been announced like a 5:3 top screen and a control nub similar to those used in Sony’s PlayStation Portable systems.
In June 2010, video gaming website IGN reported that according to “several developers who have experienced 3DS in its current form,” the system possesses processing power that “far exceed[s] the Nintendo Wii” and with 3D shaders, they could make games that “look close to current generation visuals on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3”. They also cited “several developer sources” as saying that the system does not use the Nvidia Tegra mobile chipset.
The system was officially revealed at Nintendo’s conference at E3 2010 on June 15, 2010. The first game revealed was Kid Icarus: Uprising, with several other titles from third parties also announced, including Square Enix with Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, Konami with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D, Warner Bros. Interactive with a Batman title, Ubisoft with Assassin’s Creed: Lost Legacy, Capcom with Resident Evil Revelations and Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, and Activision with DJ Hero. Other Nintendo titles were later revealed after the conference, such as Mario Kart 7, Animal Crossing, and remakes of Star Fox 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Nintendo also demoed 3D trailers for DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon, Warner Bros’ Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, and Disney’s film Tangled on the 3DS. The 3DS design shown at E3 was almost final, but subject to minor changes.
On September 29, 2010, Nintendo announced the release date of the Nintendo 3DS in Japan to be on February 26, 2011. Furthermore, several additional features were announced: the inclusion of a Mii Maker (similar to the Mii Channel on the Wii), Virtual Console (including Game Boy and Game Boy Color), 3D Classics, a cradle for recharging the system’s battery, multitasking, several included augmented reality games, an included 2 GB SD card, and stored game data, as well as the final names for the 3DS tag modes, StreetPass and SpotPass collectively. The colors available at launch were revealed to be Aqua Blue and Cosmos Black, and the launch price in Japan was revealed to be ¥25,000. The final physical design was also revealed at this event.
On January 19, 2011, Nintendo held two simultaneous press conferences in Amsterdam and New York City, where they revealed all of the features of the Nintendo 3DS. In North America, the release date was confirmed as March 27, 2011 with a retail price of $249.99. In Europe, the release date was announced as March 25, 2011, though Nintendo said that pricing would be up to retailers. Most retailers have priced the handheld between £219.99 and £229.99, though some retailers, such as Amazon, lowered the price following Sony’s announcement of the PSP’s successor on January 26, 2011, with some retailers pricing the handheld at around £200 in February.
In February 2011, Nintendo held four hands-on events in the UK named “Believe Your Eyes”. February 5 and 6 saw simultaneous events in London and Manchester, while the 12th and 13th saw events in Glasgow and Bristol. Invitations to the events were offered first to Club Nintendo members, then later to members of the public via an online registration form. Guests watched two brief performances and trailers, then were given time to play a selection of games on 3DS devices. Attendees were then allowed into a second room, containing further games to play (mainly augmented reality-based) and in-device videos. In March, Nintendo held a few events in Australia at selected Westfield stores for people to try out the console, with a number of demos available.
The Nintendo 3DS launched in Japan on February 26, 2011, priced at ¥25,000. On March 25, 2011, the system launched in Europe, with pricing set by individual retailers. On March 27, 2011 the Nintendo 3DS launched in North America, priced at US$249.99. On March 31, 2011, the system launched in Australia and New Zealand, priced at A$349.95. The system originally launched in all regions in both Aqua Blue and Cosmo Black color variations.
On July 28, 2011, Nintendo announced the Nintendo 3DS would be getting a price cut of almost a third of the console’s original price, from $249.99 to $169.99 in North America, 25,000¥ to 15,000¥ in Japan, and $349.95 to $249.95 in Australia. Although in Europe, pricing is up to retailers, the system also received a substantial price cut. In an effort to compensate those who had paid the original price, the company introduced the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program, through which existing 3DS owners were eligible (conditional that they must have accessed the Nintendo eShop at least once prior to August 21) to download ten Nintendo Entertainment System games and ten Game Boy Advance games at no extra cost. Nintendo further stated that the NES Ambassador titles would see future release to the general public on the Nintendo eShop, while there were no plans to make the Game Boy Advance Ambassador titles available. The ten NES games were released in North America on August 31 and in Europe on September 1, 2011. These include: Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong Jr., Ice Climber, Metroid, NES Open Tournament Golf, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Wrecking Crew, Yoshi (North America) / Mario & Yoshi (Europe & Australia) and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The ten Game Boy Advance games were released in North America on December 16, 2011. These include: F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, Kirby & The Amazing Mirror, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Metroid Fusion, Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Wario Land 4 and WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! 
On April 28, 2012, the Nintendo 3DS launched in South Korea, in Cosmos Black, Misty Pink and Cobalt Blue color variations. On September 28, 2012, the system launched in two other regions, Hong Kong and Taiwan, in Cerulean Blue and Shimmer Pink.
Rumors of a larger model of the Nintendo 3DS being in production appeared during June 2012, when Japanese publication Nikkei wrote an article stating that the system was initially scheduled to be unveiled at E3 2012. However, Nintendo responded that these rumors were false and that the article was “entire speculation”, but refrained from further commenting on the subject. Finally, on June 21, 2012, the system was announced during a Nintendo Direct presentation. Featuring 90% larger screens than the original Nintendo 3DS, the system was set to launch on all major regions during the middle of the year.
The Nintendo 3DS XL (Nintendo 3DS LL in Japan) was released on July 28, 2012 in Japan, priced at ¥18,900, and was available in Silver + Black, Red + Black and White color variations. In Europe, the system launched on the same day but in Silver + Black, Blue + Black and Red + Black color variations. On August 19, the Nintendo 3DS XL launched in North America, priced at US$199.99, and available in Red + Black and Blue + Black. On August 23, 2012, Australia and New Zealand saw the launch of the new handheld, priced at AU$249.95, and available in the same color variations as in Europe, Silver + Black, Blue + Black and Red + Black. The launch of the Nintendo 3DS XL coincided with the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2, the first Nintendo 3DS game to be available in both retail and downloadable versions.
On September 20, 2012, the Nintendo 3DS XL launched in South Korea, in Silver + Black, Red + Black and White color variations. On September 28, 2012 the system launched in two other regions, Hong Kong and Taiwan, in Blue + Black and White color variations. In December 2012, Nintendo Chinese distribution partner, iQue, launched the iQue 3DS XL in three special editions, one featuring a Mario decal while the other two feature both Mario and Luigi