LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Japan’s Nintendo Co Ltd on Tuesday took the wraps off a new version of its DS handheld device that can play games and show movies in 3D without glasses, as the hardware wars with Microsoft Corp and Sony Corp heat up.
The trio that rules the market for gaming devices unveiled at the E3 expo this week nifty new gadgets aimed at widening the global gaming population by drawing in more casual gamers, just as the industry is beginning to recover from a two-year slump.
On Tuesday, the creator of Super Mario games and the Wii offered a peek at its 3DS. The device comes with two screens — one a touch screen — and three built-in cameras, enabling the machine to snap digital photos in 3D.
Nintendo, which has seen growth in sales of its industry-leading Wii slow as rivals slash prices, did not say when sales begin or give a retail price, except that it will hit store shelves sometime before March 2011.
Electronics makers have high hopes that growing interest in 3D — sparked in part by the sci-fi blockbuster “Avatar” — will power a new era of growth for an industry still recovering from the 2008-2009 downturn. Nintendo executives are pondering a number of newfangled options for the 3DS.
“We have not decided on a specific business model regarding 3D movies running on 3DS. However, for Nintendo and movie studios it can provide a unique business opportunity,” President Satoru Iwata said through a translator.
“3DS is expecting to sell a lot in a relatively short time period after the launch, and it will be a unique machine.”
Nintendo is not alone in taking the wraps off a hot new gizmo. The world’s leading gaming hardware makers, hoping to reignite the slumping $60 billion industry, have unveiled a plethora of futuristic gadgets this week.
On Monday, Microsoft said it will begin selling its “Kinect” motion-sensing game system on November 4.
And on Tuesday, Sony announced that its Move motion-sensing platform — which will compete with the Wii and Kinect — will begin selling on September 15.
The rush of technology comes just as the video game industry, which dwarfs the $10 billion domestic movie box office, needs it. U.S. industry sales — hardware, software and accessories — are down more than 10 percent at $4.7 billion this year through April, according to research firm NPD Group.
New technology is expected to drive spending on games. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates the overall games market — excluding hardware — climbing 6.5 percent annually on average to $20.7 billion in 2014, from $15.1 billion in 2009.
Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime sought to refute the perception that sales of the Wii console are softening, and that the Wii — which pioneered motion-sensing gaming via an all-purpose controller — has lost its luster as rival platforms gain momentum.
Calling these notions “false perceptions,” Fils-Aime said more software was sold for the Wii in 43 months on the market than on any platform over the same time frame.
“The Wii has established sales records, yet people say there has been slowing momentum,” Iwata said. “I just cannot understand why.”
The 3DS comes one month after Nintendo forecast a second straight year of smaller profits, as sales of its Wii console slow.
Nintendo rode strong demand for the Wii and DS handheld game player to three straight years of record profits through March 2009, but growth slowed last year after Sony and Microsoft cut console prices and beefed up their software offerings.
Growing competition from Apple Inc’s iPhone, smartphones and social networks is also starting to pose a threat to Nintendo’s DS portable player, analysts say.
Editing by Edwin Chan, Steve Orlofsky, Matthew Lewis and Richard Chang