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Nintendo 3DS won’t reach U.S. until March

Nintendo has announced official launch dates for its upcoming Nintendo 3DS handheld—and they won’t be available in time for the end-of-year holiday season. Nintendo plans to launch the 3DS in Japan on February 26, 2011 at a suggested price of ¥25,000 (just under US$300). Nintendo has not revealed suggested pricing for the United States, but says the device will not be available in the United States and Europe until March of 2011.

During a conference call with analysts, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata indicated that the company had planned to ship the 3DS this year, but it became clear the company would not be able to manufacture enough units to meet demand. The delay will be a painful one for Nintendo: the company has lowered its projections for sales of existing Nintendo DS sales from 30 million units this year to 23.5 million units; the company also cut its forecasts of Nintendo Wii sales from 18 million to 17.5 million. Overall, the company cut its annual profit forecast from $2.4 billion to about $1 billion. Nintendo’s original profit forecasts for its 2010 fiscal year had included sales of 30 million 3DS units.

The Nintendo 3DS’s primary claim to fame will be the ability to play 3D games and display some 3D content without the use of awkward 3D glasses. However, at a press event in Japan the company also demonstrated a number of new features that will come on the Wi-Fi enabled 3DS handhelds, including the ability to create a Mii avatar using a picture taken with the 3DS’s front-facing camera, along with a game-suspending capability to suspend games to do other things (like Web browsing) then pick up the game again exactly where it was left off.

The Nintendo 3DS will also include a books application, writing/diary software, and a new Mii Plaza that will enable users to collect and view Miis from other Nintendo 3DS owners they encounter nearby throughout the day—even if the 3DS is sleeping. Nintendo also demonstrated augmented reality gaming: six AR title will be pre-installed on the machine, and the box will include six special paper cards that can be used to interact with the games and the 3DS’s camera: players will be able to use the camera to “read” the cards to bring new items from the real world into the 3DS games.

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