Taking a page from Apple’s recent iPad launch, Nintendo went all out for the release of its newest handheld, the Nintendo 3DS the other night. From noon on March 26th to 2 a.m. on the 27th, Nintendo held a small bash just outside Best Buy on Union Square in Manhattan, New York. I was able to stop by a couple times throughout the event to snap a few pictures and play some games. Nintendo had playable demo booths outside, along with food trucks (hot dogs, etc), a stage with live music, and a consistent line of 50-100. Big N reps were decked out in what appeared to be white snowsuits to celebrate.
Though I was not around precisely at midnight, the crowd was fairly small during the two times I visited, but the cramped event area (smashed between Best Buy and a busy street) was never dull. If Nintendo had planned the event in a larger venue area and released the 3DS at 5 p.m. like Apple did with its iPad 2, the crowds may have been much greater. Still, enthusiasm was rampant among the few in attendance. According to reports, one fan tried to start camping out for the 3DS six days before launch; he was escorted away by police.
Still, it was nice to see Nintendo give back and provide some entertainment and food to its most hardcore fans. I still remember waiting for 24 straight hours to get my Wii back when it launched. With live music and an appearance by Nintendo of America president Reginald Fils-Aime (a Nintendo celebrity), at least those who waited in the bitter cold got a bit more for their $250.
Waiting and demoing in the cold
At around 8pm, Nintendo’s long line and party area, which wrapped around the block, was about half full.
Right at midnight, Nintendo handed out old red & blue 3D glasses and had the entire crowd throw them up into the air, ceremoniously making the statement that thanks to the 3DS, they no longer need to wear cardboard 3D glasses. You can see the remnants of this celebration littering the ground below.
Well past midnight, Nintendo was still letting in packets of gamers in to get their 3DS. As new 3DS owners came down the escalator, a new starry-eyed gamer was let into the store.
Though I was generally disappointed in the lack of full-body Mario look-a-likes, face paint, and craziness there were a few very happy gamers in the crowd.
Finally, I couldn’t help but play a little Pilotwings before I left. It was my first time with the system and the 3D is pretty impressive, especially after spending a week trying out glasses-free 3D phones at CTIA.