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Nintendo shows off 3D portable game device

Japan's Nintendo on Tuesday took the wraps off a new version of its DS handheld device that can play games and show movies in 3D without glasses, as the hardware wars with Microsoft and Sony heat up.

The trio that rules the market for gaming devices unveiled at the E3 expo this week nifty new gadgets aimed at widening the global gaming population by drawing in more casual gamers, just as the industry is beginning to recover from a two-year slump.

On Tuesday, the creator of Super Mario games and the Wii offered a peek at its 3DS. The device comes with two screens - one a touch screen - and three built-in cameras, enabling the machine to snap digital photos in 3D.

Nintendo, which has seen growth in sales of its industry-leading Wii slow as rivals slash prices, did not say when sales begin or give a retail price, except that it will hit store shelves sometime before March 2011.

Electronics makers have high hopes that growing interest in 3D - sparked in part by the sci-fi blockbuster "Avatar" - will power a new era of growth for an industry still recovering from the 2008-2009 downturn. Nintendo executives are pondering a number of newfangled options for the 3DS.

"We have not decided on a specific business model regarding 3D movies running on 3DS. However, for Nintendo and movie studios it can provide a unique business opportunity," President Satoru Iwata said through a translator.

"3DS is expecting to sell a lot in a relatively short time period after the launch, and it will be a unique machine."

Nintendo is not alone in taking the wraps off a hot new gizmo. The world's leading gaming hardware makers, hoping to reignite the slumping gaming industry, have unveiled a plethora of futuristic gadgets this week.

On Monday, Microsoft said it will begin selling its "Kinect" motion-sensing game system on November 4.

And on Tuesday, Sony announced that its Move motion-sensing platform - which will compete with the Wii and Kinect - will begin selling on 15 September.