Console Post Of The Week (with a little DS thrown in)I may start sneaking in a little Nintendo 3DS news into the console post, because it interests me, and it's the first mass market device to create glasses-free 3D, which I've always considered the point at which 3D becomes utterly irresistible.
The issue, of course, is that it's Nintendo, which has historically been behind the hardware curve for more than a decade. The Wiimote was ass-kicking and sold about fifty billion consoles galaxy-wide, but the core hardware in the Wii is somewhere south of nothing special.
So it was with some curiously that I saw an article at Engadget last week that talked about the display allegedly being used in the 3DS. Here's an excerpt:
...according to early leaks from Japan, the special Nintendo 3DS display is supposedly built by Hitachi and Sharp using a parallax barrier system. So guess where this new 3.4-inch, 480 x 854 pixel display is likely headed? While Sharp doesn't say for sure, it's a good bet that this parallax barrier 3D LCD will be fronting the user interface on the 3DS.
1,000 to 1 contrast ratio and 500 nit brightness as well, and combined, that's a relatively ass-kicking spec. Here's an article from Akihabara News with more follow-up, including hands-on impressions of the panel (not in a 3DS, please note). Included in the article is a mention that the 3D effect is primarily due to the perception of increased depth inside the screen, not effects protruding from the screen.
That's perfect for a handheld. Could you imagine playing an RPG that felt look you were looking into a diorama?
If this is actually the panel, it's is a big, big win for Nintendo. Remember the lines at E3 when the Wii debuted? Same deal this year, if the handheld is there.
Look, 3D without glasses is magic. It's a kind of sorcery, so powerful that some part of our brains don't even believe it's possible. It's a gift, not from the near future, but the distant future.
On the console side, Microsoft has quietly been doing some interesting things with pricing. Sam Veilleux sent me this e-mail two weeks ago:
I noticed something going on when I was up north of the border this past week.. The 360 arcade model is currently on sale for $130 in Canada. it looks to be a weeklong sale up there, and it's advertised all over TV there right now.
Weirdest thing of all? it's not just one store selling them at $130 this week. from what I can tell, it's direct from Microsoft pushing that price on TV.
Hmm. The regular price is $199, so that's a massive, 35% discount. That is a huge markdown, even a temporary one, for console hardware.
If I'm Microsoft, there's only one reason I'd do this, and that would be as a test bed for a future price decrease. Follow the same advertising plan and measure response to obtain an estimate of the amount of capacity increase needed to service demand if this is made permanent.
This dovetails relatively well with the persistent rumor that a "360 Slim" (with a $149 price point) is going to be announced at or near E3. Alternatively, Microsoft could be trying to drain the channel in advance of the new units.
Again, the standard clue is generally the draining of inventory, so if 360s are in short supply by mid/late May, something is definitely up.
Also, from a source who wishes to remain anonymous (who I've known for a long time and trust 100%), I received this information about Natal:
I know two persons who attended some of Microsoft's developer briefings. They didn't say too much because of strict NDAs, but they were quite impressed with and inspired by what they saw. They assume that Microsoft/Rare still have a number of kinks to iron out. They also said that Microsoft is telling everyone that they really need to abandon the idea of simply porting their concepts and trying to 'Natal' them. Sort of: "We've toyed around with stuff from FPS to RTS, and we know what doesn't work." They definitely encourage everyone to come up with software that's different.
One more thing: Apparently, Natal, at this point, does not work well when people sit. From what I understand, Microsoft tells developers to create their games with the player standing rather than sitting in mind. This issue likely will be addressed with some update later on, but for now most games probably will require the player to stand. Think about that and the implications for the software for a second.
I think we'll definitely be able to tell from the pre-launch advertising done by Microsoft. If this is still an issue, they won't be showing anyone sitting on a couch. Well, to play the games, at least. As always in the world of advertising, there will be an admiring group of friends around to watch the coolest person in the world play video games.