The Nintendo 3DS will have a 3D camera, two differently-designed screens, a tilt sensor and will be significantly more powerful than current handhelds, according to sources familiar with the system's development kit.
A sketch of the 3DS by a Chinese blogger who claims to have a 3DS development kit matches other reports and information Kotaku has heard from people familiar with Nintendo's next handheld. All together they form what is Kotaku's best guess of what Nintendo's next major gaming device will offer players.
The sketch presents a 3DS that shares the clamshell two-screen design of the original 2004 DS, an expected set-up given that Nintendo has confirmed that the 3DS will play DS games. But the new 3DS sports a bigger top screen, presumably a Sharp-manufactured display capable of showing game graphics in screen-popping 3D. The 3DS' lower screen is built to the specifications of the original DS' lower touchscreen. These screen ratios match those seen in a DS circuit board filed by Nintendo to the FCC.
In his report, the Chinese blogger says that "the effect of the [3D]screen is amazing". The blogger mentions some features, including an MP3/AAC hardware decode function and a media player of some sort.
Reached for comment about these features, a Nintendo spokesperson told us the company "does not comment on rumours and speculation".
Kotaku contacted Sharp as well but did not hear back by press time.
But the numerous details out there remind us that in this era of lost iPhones, company hardware secrets are harder to keep than ever. As official announcements loom, details tend to trickle out, as they did with the Xbox 360 in 2005.
A Camera Surprise
The Chinese sketch strengthens our belief that the 3DS will include cameras, as do the DSi and DSiXL variants of the DS product line. A rectangle near the d-pad of the 3DS in the sketch could represent the Sharp-designed 3D camera that was rumoured last month to be on its way to the new Nintendo handheld. Such a camera might be used to capture images in 3D dimensions or detect motions of the player.
In a May press release, Sharp said of the camera:
In the future, Sharp will be opening up new 3D markets based on 3D display technologies, including small/medium-size and large-size 3D LCDs, as well as on 3D input device technologies such as 3D camera modules.
The Nintendo 3DS, we're told, will use a second, proprietary medium for games specific to the portable. We understand that the new 3DS games will fit on a card about the size of a Compact Flash card and that the system is designed to accept both these new games and DS games, possibly in the same slot.
We don't believe the 3DS will include an analogue stick, leaving character control to the machine's d-pad and/or touch screen.
Update: Since confirming the details of the upcoming Nintendo 3DS, Kotaku has heard from a number of other sources about another exciting feature for the portable. It turns out that the white nub in the circuit board photo is an analogue stick, one we're told is a real (short) stick, not a PSP-like nub. (This ties in with an earlier report that the 3DS would have some sort of "3D joystick.") The 3DS will have this stick and a d-pad.
We've also learned that the rumoured 3D slider, a feature described on an IGN podcast as means to "toggle the strength of the 3D effect" is included in development versions of the 3DS hardware, though we don't know if this slider will be made available to gamers. End update.
We do expect the 3DS to have a tilt sensor or accelerometer of some sort, a fact that was all but confirmed by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata himself despite the company's attempt to distance themselves from the statement after it was published in a major Japanese newspaper.
The official specs for the 3DS will be revealed on Tuesday during Nintendo's E3 media briefing.
Reports about the machine's horsepower, rumored earlier this week to be in the league of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 may be an overstatement, but game industry sources familiar with the project have acknowledged to Kotaku that the system is an extremely capable device. It may be as powerful as a Wii.
The Improved Buzz
Buzz on the system has been unusually strong of late. Earlier this week, EA boss John Riccitiello was quoted in the gaming press saying that he had seen the 3DS and that "it's cool". While that type of praise might be easily dismissed as pre-E3 hype, Riccitiello's general praise for the 3DS has been echoed by multiple enthusiastic gaming industry sources in touch with Kotaku. They won't reveal what the machine can do, but they attest that Nintendo has something special in the works. That's a different kind of buzz than the one that preceded the DS six years ago, a machine that was preceded by scepticism by many game creators, confusion about the device's features and an underwhelmed impression of the system's power when compared to it's looming rival, the PlayStation Portable. Six years later, it appears that Nintendo's next handheld hardware is closer to the cutting edge, more impressive than odd.
E3 2010 was expected to be the Xbox 360 Project Natal and PlayStation 3 Move resurgence of motion control gaming. But the 3DS, with a surprise packed in, just might steal the show.
Please note: The image atop this post is a mock-up based on our best assessment of which features will be in the Nintendo's 3DS.