Friday, March 26, 2010

Nintendo returns to 3D gaming

The 3DS

By now, you will have read most details about the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo's return to 3D gaming after the failed Virtual Boy.

Since I am late to the party, reporting about this, I will concentrate on a few interesting details and aspects that have not been widely reported. First of all, the technology used is called a parallax barrier and will likely be provided by Sharp. You will find a pretty good description of this over on The Register.

Parallax barrier

I have used this tech before, in the form of a third party screen available for the iPhone. The results were very disappointing. However, a German exhibitor at this years's Game Developers Conference, which I attended, showed such a screen for a big monitor and the 3D visuals were pretty amazing. The only drawback was that you had to find a good position to perceive the effect from and stay put. In discussions over the last few days - including Nintendo employees - everyone agreed that Nintendo would only bring technology to market if it was perfected.

My chat with Miyamoto

Now, onto the timing. Some analysts suspect that Nintendo issued the news to prevent a news leak. Ironically, only days before the reveal, I was among a few lucky journalists who were able to interview Shigeru Miyamoto in London, ahead of his BAFTA award. And regarding a Wii successor, I asked him how Nintendo would try to innovate again, after being copied by both competitors. I suggested that 3D technology was the only route available. His answer was that while he could not talk about a Wii successor, I should wait for E3.

In fact, Miyamoto hyped E3 so much, that the official 3DS unveiling will most likely not be the main news at their press conference. There are a number of reasons. Of course, the timing and form of Nintendo's 3DS announcement appeared rushed. There are no images accompanying the news and the timing could cannibalise the launch of the DSi XL. But while most Nintendo employees I talk to were totally surprised about the hardware as well as the announcement, key people in all major territories knew that new hardware was coming. They may have been surprised at the 3D aspect. But they had been given advance warnings of such a revelation. In fact, a few have claimed that we can expect more. This must be why Nintendo blew the lid on the 3DS early. Because they will announce something far bigger at E3.

PlayStation Move update

Finally, just a quick note on PlayStation Move. My dear colleague Valentina posted a link on her blog (German) to the latest Engadget Show. In it (43:45 into the show), a number of videos illustrate the origin of PlayStation Move technology.

You may remember me writing about playing with early PlayStation Movbe tech back at the ECTS 2001. What you see in the video, labeled as 2004, is precisely what they publically showed three years prior to that. Lord knows why they do not give the correct date.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

PlayStation Move hands-on and more

Just a few hours ago, I was able to play at some length with Sony's PlayStation Move. The presentation was impressive. The hands-on session less so. I talked to some guys from Engadget and Joystiq and we were all in agreement that the lag was immense across all games. The Sony people at hand noted that it wasn't due to the Move hardware but due to the low framerate of the early demos. Most were pre-alpha versions. So the finished product should be much more responsive.

The range of games on display was pretty good. I played ´Socom 4´, ´Move Party´, ´The Shoot´ and a fighting simulation. ´Socom 4´ looked very good, while the one level I played of ´The Shoot´ was looking rather poor. All games displayed the lousy framerates mentioned above, though, and the high latency this entails.

I later interviewed Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter who joked that he finally got the Wii HD he predicted, only that it wasn't manufactured by Nintendo. He was impressed, but didn't think it would necessarily be a system seller. The console is still $300 and the Move hardware bundle will cost another $100. He did note that it was time for Nintendo to act, though.

I also interviewed Westwood founder Louis Castle, who is now building an exciting new delivery platform called InstantAction and - amazingly - remembered me from our last interview years ago. His service allows games like ´Monkey Island´ or ´Assassin's Creed´ to be offered via social networks like Facebook. You click on the demo button and the game downloads onto your hard-drive amazingly fast. You can then embed the banner which launches the game to your blog or any other site. It seems like a great idea and works a treat.

And I was also able to speak to Steve Perlman, CEO of OnLive. He showed an iPhone running Crysis and it looked pretty much unbelievable. We have a street date and a price (June 17th, $14,95 a month), so the critics who cried vapourware were silenced. That's it for now. Tommorrow we will interview Peter Molyneux and Sid Meier the day after. Stay tuned for more impressions from GDC.