Nintendo's announcement confirming the Japanese price and worldwide launch window for their brand new 3DS handheld means that gamers can plan their hardware purchases with greater ease - while the PlayStation 3's motion controller is already out, and the Xbox 360's equivalent camera is due early November, the 3DS isn't hitting shelves until February to March 2011.
The portable touchscreen console with a 3D display is releasing in Japan on February 26 for ¥25,000 ($299/€220). Fret not, for though price points have not yet been verified for its March launch in North American and Europe, a slightly lower figure would be in keeping with the pricing of the Nintendo DS, DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL.
Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft have been busy catching up with the Nintendo Wii's phenomenal success as a family console. Sony brought out the PlayStation 3's Move controller in North America and European regions halfway through September, and Microsoft's hands-free Kinect camera for Xbox 360 is scheduled for worldwide release throughout November - starting with North America on November 4 and Europe on November 10.
Up to four Move controllers ($29/€49) can be used at once, and a PlayStation Eye camera ($39/€29) is also needed. A Move controller and Eye together with some software can be had for $99/€69 or as part of a PS3 console bundle for $399/€349.
Kinect can accomodate two players using full body tracking, though it's thought that up to six could take part if game developers make Kinect jump through the right hoops. The camera, bundled with a game, costs $149/€149, $299/€299 with a basic Xbox 360, $399/€349 for a 360 that contains a substantial hard drive for game data, music and video.
Of course, the 3DS's main rival won't be the 3D-capable PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360's hands-free Kinect. Mobile gaming has changed considerably since the DS's 2004, and while it is now the world's best selling handheld console, the 3DS may face an uphill battle against iPhones, Android handsets, and other smartphones.
Though the latest and greatest handsets from Apple, HTC, fetch from $500 to $1,000 when sold separately, customer costs are often subsidised by mobile phone networks and their immediate impact lessened when combined with a monthly line rental contract.
The difference is that the 3DS will be built for gaming from the ground up, so 3DS titles can be more indepth and involving.
There's also the small matter of Sony's PSP2, which is said to be already in the hands of game developers preparing a launch line-up. However, that's not likely to materialize until the end of 2011 at the earlierst, so there's time for Nintendo to get a headstart.