My hands-on impressions of the Nintendo 3DS at this morning's New York press event were largely positive, at least from a hardware standpoint. I'd never seen 3D on the device before, and it's undeniably crisp and sharp. Unfortunately, it also requires your eyes and the device to be held in a relatively stable position to work.
All of this makes me wonder about a potential Achilles' heel in the design of the 3DS, one so obvious yet difficult to solve that I'm curious to see what will become of it. Namely, this: the 3DS is a portable device that's bound to move around in your hands--a lot.
I'm not even talking about the inevitable jostling that occurs during any session of button-mashing gameplay. The few games I played suffered from a bit of 3D in-and-out, but resting one's arms on a table or lap could easily help. No, the issue I'm talking about revolves around the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope in the Nintendo 3DS, which theoretically encourage motion-controlled gaming.
Several launch games show off the motion-control capabilities of the 3DS, none more so than the built-in AR Gaming app on the 3DS. The demo was impressive: laying down a coded card on a table triggered a set of 3D archery targets to sprout up, and my 3DS unit became a moving turret to shoot these targets full of arrows. I was able to tilt around the actual table, even raise up the 3DS and look down on the targets from below, in a nearly seamless augmented reality.
Seamless, that is, except for the 3D effect. Straight-on, the effect was excellent, but the moment I had to tilt and turn the unit, the image broke back into 2D again. The effect's slightly jarring. Will games find their way around this, or is this merely a small price to pay for the technical innovations in the Nintendo 3DS design?
Unfortunately, we just won't know until the final 3DS launch on March 27.