updated 01:55 am EST, Sat February 26, 2011
Nintendo 3DS official in Japan
(Update: day one a complete sellout) Nintendo launched into a new generation of handhelds on Saturday with the official release of the 3DS in its home nation of Japan. The launch this morning saw lineups more comparable to an iPhone launch. Yodobashi Camera, one of the best-known stores in Tokyo's Akihabara district, had about 600 people in line by the store opening and had completely sold out of its 2,000 3DS units by 9:30AM, less than an hour and a half after the first sales.
Bic Camera in Tokyo's Ikebukuro area didn't have as much stock and had to start telling those past the first 400 in line that it had already sold out. Other stores are known to have faced similar queues, even among stores that had sold out of their pre-orders. Tokyo resident Toyohisa Ishihara has been credited as being the first buyer in the world, although that hasn't been confirmed so far.
Many of those in line were buying Nintendogs + Cats. Other games in the initial launch wave included mostly core video games adapted to the platform, such as Ridge Racer 3D and Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. Most of these will cost $40 each in the US.
Although lineups aren't likely to be as long in the US, they could be an indication of a strong reception as a whole and a vital recovery for Nintendo. It has seen rapidly falling revenues and system sales, both owing to the relative age of the DSi and to Apple's effect on handheld gaming. The iPod touch and iPhone are known to have been luring customers away from the DSi through both a combination of much newer hardware, games costing $10 or less, as well as consolidation from gamers looking to reduce the number of devices they carry. Nintendo has said Apple is more of a risk than Microsoft in the gaming space.
The 3DS is Nintendo's most expensive handheld in recent memory, costing the equivalent of $300 in Japan and $250 for its March 27 release date in the US, but its design is counting on features unique to Nintendo as well as catching up in a few weak points. The glasses-free 3D screen is its most conspicuous, but its use of automatic, device-to-device Wi-Fi is also rare. Two 3DS users can automatically, passively share game data between each other just by being close, and many games will have the option of auto-updating with new content even while the 3DS isn't fully active. [via Impress and Reuters]
Update: Nintendo is now said to have run out of its entire 400,000-unit 3DS supply for day one. A translation of Nikkei content is crude but has Nintendo selling about 1.5 million 3DS systems in Japan by the end of March and about four million worldwide by the end of its fiscal 2010, which should be at the same time.
Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara