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When will YOU get to see the Nintendo 3DS?

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3DS, coming soon. - Nintendo

It's no secret that Nintendo is trying to shake up the gaming world with the 3DS -- and if history is any indication, it's probably going to have plenty of initial success. Gamers and mass-market consumers have shown an extraordinary level of interest in innovative gaming advances over the past few years.

The problem is, Nintendo devices tend to fly off the shelves at a rapid clip. And even if you manage to find one, spending $250 on blind faith is a pretty daunting task these days. So how can you find out if the 3DS -- a handheld gaming device that allows users to play games in stereoscopic 3D without the need for special glasses -- is something that should be on your "must-have" list?

The good news is that Nintendo will be taking the 3DS to the streets when it goes on sale March 27. And it's doing so in a big way.

The 3DS, in fact, will be supported by a marketing campaign that's nearly on par with what Microsoft threw at their hit Kinect motion sensor.

Nintendo plans to have 5,000 units in retail stores to let consumers experience the 3DS firsthand. It will also have people demonstrating mobile units on the streets of major cities to boost awareness. The company hopes to get the 3DS in front of 400,000 people in the device's first eight weeks on shelves.

"You have to see Nintendo 3DS to believe it," Reggie Fils-Aime, president and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America, said Wednesday. "And it's like nothing you've ever seen before."

Those unique qualities are both the appeal and the stumbling block of the 3DS. Playing games in glasses-free 3D is a brand new experience. No matter how much the media writes about it, it's something you can't truly comprehend until you've tried it yourself.

To its credit, Nintendo knows this.

"The features of 3DS have to be tried; they don't lend themselves to traditional marketing media such as TV and Internet," said company president Satoru Iwata in an interview with Business Week.

The push will be strong during the system's launch window,
in this case defined as the period from when the 3DS hits shelves until June
and E3, the video game industry's annual trade show. But it won't end there.
Nintendo will continue to get the 3DS out and about -- and into people's hands.

"We intend to have more than a million people experience the
Nintendo 3DS this summer," said Fils-Aime.

The problem, in fact, may not be actually getting some
hands-on time with the 3DS. The problem may be finding one you can take home.

While $250 for a handheld is a significant increase over the
price of current generation DS machines, it's still less than the $300 many
people were expecting the 3DS to cost. That could be mean sell-outs at retail,
much like the Wii faced after its launch.

"It's going to sell out and they're leaving money on the
table," Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told
. "I think the biggest problem they'll have is that you'll never
see one in stores in 2011. It'll be sold out forever. We'll get like a million
or 1.25 million, and so will Europe, and those
will be gone in weeks. Let's hope they can make 2 million a month and ship
800,000 a month to the U.S.
so consumers have a prayer of getting one by Christmas."


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