Nintendo's Big, Pricey Bet on 3D

Would you pay $250 for 3D gaming, movie watching and picture taking you can carry in your pocket?

That's the question Nintendo is gambling on this spring when it rolls out its latest in a long a series of what has been traditionally incredible popular portable gaming consoles.

The 3DS hits the U.S. on March 27 for $250, the same price that Nintendo launched their incredibly popular Wii console for in 2006.

That $250 price tag puts it in direct competition with the current line-up of consoles, with the Wii and Xbox 360 both now selling for $200 and the Playstation 3 selling for $300.

The 3DS also faces some stiff competition among other portable gaming systems. The iPod Touch, an increasingly popular gaming device for tween and teens, starts at $229 and Sony's Playstation Portable sells for $170. And later this week at an event in Tokyo, Sony is expected to announce details for their Playstation Portable 2, a device rumored to have a touch surface, 3G connectivity, and more power than an Xbox 360.

Fortunately, the 3DS seems to have something no other portable handheld, or home console can deliver: The ability to play games, look at pictures and watch movies in 3D with out the need to wear glasses.

The first time I saw the technology in person it was an almost magical experience, leaving me with a feeling that I needed to remove the glasses I wasn't wearing when I was done.

The 3D gaming options that Nintendo is offering up on the device so far, though, aren't that impressive. With just eight or so weeks until the pricey device hits, no single game seems to be standing out as a must-own, must-buy title.

But I think that won't be a problem in the short run. The biggest selling point for the 3DS early on could easily be the non-gaming things you can do with the device in 3D and some of its other bells and whistles.

While the ability to watch Hollywood movies in 3D on a handheld is a huge plus for the system, Nintendo still hasn't announced any movies that will be available when the system hits in the U.S.

But what 3DS owners will be able to do is take pictures in 3D with the device and then view them instantly on their screen. While I don't see people picking up the 3DS just for this ability, I think it's the sort of gee-wiz technology that could help buoy the launch of the portable as Nintendo works to line up their top-tier titles and movies in the months leading away from the 3DS hitting.

It will be Nintendo's ability to attract top games from top developers and to deliver their own big name originals to the platform that will eventually make or break the console.

While I'm sure it will sell out when it hits stores on March 27, in many ways this early launch of the device is aimed at early adopters and those willing to pay a premium for the latest gadgets and toys.

Come this holiday season I expect to see a much broader game and movie line-up for the device and hope for a more reasonable price.

Well Played is a weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.