We Almost Got Glasses-Free 3D Gaming Last Decade

We'll get a chance to play video games in 3D without wearing special glasses in the coming months, as Nintendo releases its 3DS system... but Nintendo already had glasses-free 3D gaming two machines ago. We just didn't know about it.

In an interview posted on Nintendo's website, company boss Satoru Iwata talks about how the house of Mario had created a special attachable screen on Nintendo's clamshell Game Boy Advance SP that would show 3D imagery. The GBA SP was the world's dominant way to play portable games for much of the middle of last decade.

Iwata doesn't show pictures of the GBA's glasses-free tech, but he explains the problems the system had with it:

Making three-dimensional images that can be seen by the naked eye requires a special liquid crystal, so we tested it out by putting it in the Game Boy Advance SP. But the resolution of LCD was low then, so it didn't look that great and it never made it to being a product.

In order to make images look three-dimensional without special glasses, you display the images for the left and right eyes separately, and deliver each one separately. To do that you need high resolution and high-precision technology. We didn't have that to a sufficient degree back then, so the stereoscopic effect wasn't very sharp.

The GBA SP was a pretty terrific video game machine without any fancy 3D screen. It ran greats from Advance Wars to The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Would glasses-free 3D have made it better? Apparently not.

Iwata explains that Nintendo's been trying to do 3D for a long time and even had a 3D version of 2001 GameCube game Luigi's Mansion up and running for that system.

Credit former Nintendo boss Hiroshi Yamauchi for the 3D obsession. In the same interview, Nintendo's top game creator Shigeru Miyamoto says of Yamauchi: [3D] was a theme (Hiroshi) Yamauchi-san always focused on...Whenever he had the chance, he would say, 'What about 3D?'"

We get glasses-free 3D in our portable games this year. The 3DS is slated for a February release in Japan and a March debut in North America. Expect more 3DS coverage this month as Nintendo showcases the system in Tokyo this weekend and in New York City (press only) in two weeks.

Iwata Asks : Nintendo 3DS [Nintendo.com]