Nintendo's upcoming handheld, the 3DS, will let players see 3D graphics without special glasses, and a positive response to the new tech at 2010's E3 means anticipation for the device is building rapidly. As it turns out, though, Nintendo started experimenting with 3D long before.
It was technically possible on the clamshell-designed Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata reveals as part of the latest official 'Iwata Asks' Q&A session
. "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," he tells renowned writer and Earthbound
designer Shigesato Itoi.
"But the resolution of LCD was low then, so it didn't look that great and it never made it to being a product," Iwata continues.
"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," he adds. "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."
Further, Nintendo tried out 3D as far back as its GameCube home console, which the company very nearly decided to make 3D-ready. "To go back a little further, the Nintendo GameCube system actually had 3D-compatible circuitry built in," Iwata says. "If you fit it with a certain accessory, it could display 3D images."
"We'd been thinking about 3D for a long time even back then," Iwata reflects.
3D graphics could be enabled on the GameCube by attaching a special LCD screen, Iwata explains. "But that special liquid crystal was really expensive back then... We couldn't have done it without selling it for a price far above that of the Nintendo GameCube system, itself!"
Yet a working version of GameCube launch title Luigi's Mansion
was readied, explains the exec: "We had a functional version of that in 3D," Iwata says. It was never released.
Nintendo did previously release commercial gaming hardware with a 3D component -- 1995's Virtual Boy, the monochromatic 3D gaming device that was on the market for less than a year in North America and Japan before being discontinued.