The top five unanswered questions about the Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS is real — we know that. The 3D works well — we know that, too. But that’s where our 3DS knowledge stops. Nintendo isn’t talking-up 3DS details right now and we have so many questions about the handheld 3D gaming.

1. Price

This is the obvious one along with the release date. Nintendo conveniently didn’t mention anything about the 3DS’s price at today’s press conference. It doesn’t matter how great the 3DS works or how many publishers are already on board if the 3DS has a high starting price.

The PSP is a great example. It was worlds past Nintendo’s offering when it launched a few years back. The graphics were amazing and it was a true portable media device with the capability to playback all sorts of media. But yet it came to market at $249 and had a rough start while the cheaper and less-capable Nintendo DS took off like a rocket. Nintendo has a slight advantage with the 3DS this time around as the major game publishers are fully backing the device. That’sĀ important, but not as much as a the price.

Hopefully Nintendo is targeting the $200 price point. $199 would be great, but something about how Nintendo didn’t mention it at all during the presser makes you wonder if it’s going to be more like $249 or even higher.

2. Hardware

Nintendo has never, ever been one to talk about hardware capability. It’s like they think the whole world doesn’t care, and while it might be a smart move right out of Apple’s playbook, some of us really do care. We might understand that the user experience is more important than getting into a pissing match over hardware numbers, but we still want to know what’s driving the graphics.

It was clear within the first few second of playing with the 3DS that the system is more powerful than the current Nintendo portables. The graphics are nearly on par with early Wii games. That said, it doesn’t take much to best the DSi’s ARM9 133 MHz CPU and 16 MB of RAM. It would just be nice to know what’s pushing those nice graphics in the 3DS.

3. Battery Life

Okay, so, how long will the lithium-ion battery power the 3DS? The DSi is a champ in this department, easily getting more than 10 hours of life on a single charge. We would expect nothing less from the next-gen model. Nothing less, Nintendo. Did you get that?

4. Hollywood’sĀ involvement

There’s a slight twist about the 3DS. It can playback 3D movies on its 3D glassless screen. The company mentioned a couple quick details like there is a few deals with a Hollywood studios in the works, but we wanna know more. How are we going to get these movies on the device? Is is going to be through a digital download to an SD card? Will it require a special cartridge in the name of anti-piracy? What type of cost is involved? What does James Cameron think of watching Avatar on a 3.52-inch screen?

5. What about the DSi and DSi XL?

No matter how much we wish, chances are the 3DS isn’t going to be inexpensive at first. It will likely be a premium product for a while which means Nintendo will likely keep around both the $169 DSi and few months old $189 DSi XL. That said, the 3DS might not come out until 2011 meaning the DSi and DSi XL have plenty of time to increase their profit margin and drop in price. By that time one of the current models might be phased out.

The 3DS media coverage is really just beginning. Nintendo carefully releases its products and times the media coverage to make the biggest impact. They knew what they were doing by announcing these items. Nintendo knows we would have baulked at the price, made fun of the CPU and battery life, talked-down the 3D movie stuff and then complained that the beloved DSi and DSi XL’s death. Maybe, just maybe, Nintendo wanted people to enjoy the 3DS for what it is and so only announced the strong points today.