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Game fans snap up Nintendo's 3DS at Japan launch

posted 26 Feb 2011, 02:42 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 26 Feb 2011, 02:44 ]

Japanese video-game lovers line up before electronic store from the crack of dawn to be among the first to get their hands on Nintendo's new 3D-capable game player.

TOKYO, JAPAN (FEBRUARY 26, 2011) REUTERS - Game fans hit Japanese stores early on Saturday (January 26) to be among the first to get their hands on Nintendo's new 3D-capable game player, but the gadget's sales may be squeezed in the longer term by competition from smartphones and tablets.

The 3DS, set to launch in the United States and Europe in a month, has sparked excitement as the first games device to offer glasses-free 3D gaming, and it has the advantage of launching 10 months ahead of Sony's rival Next Generation Portable.

Nintendo expects no less than 4 million units of the 3DS to fly off the shelves in the five weeks to March 31. The original DS sold 145 million units worldwide to December last year.

On Saturday, more than a dozen customers lined up at the Bic Camera electronics store in Yurakucho, central Tokyo, despite the fact that initial stocks of the new gadget sold out in a single day of pre-orders on January 20 and the 25,000 yen ($305) price tag.

Some said they had to look at the new Nintendo with their own eyes before they call it "3D."

"They say it's 3D game player, and I want to see how well the 3D is actualized. I'm excited," a 34-year-old script writer Kentaro Nishihara told Reuters as he was waiting on the queue.

"It's quite chilly, but I'm being patient because I've been waiting for it," said 9-year-old Natsumi Miyasaka.

The launch is expected to hike Nintendo's sagging sales and anticipation has helped push the company's shares up more than 20 percent since they hit a 10-month closing low on October 15, two weeks after Nintendo revised down its annual profit and sales forecasts.

The new gadget at least satisfied the Nintendo fans on Saturday.

"I'm very happy. I want to play it as soon as possible," said a 43-year-old computer engineer Toyohisa Ichiahara, who pulled out the brand new gadget from the box and started playing it in front of the store.

Miyasaka, with her hands on the new toy, said "I'm thrilled," smiling happily.

Nintendo, based in Japan's ancient former capital of Kyoto, is sticking to a tried and trusted formula -- a dedicated portable games device with software available on cartridges that cost $30 or more.

Nintendo's share price hit dizzying heights over 70,000 yen in 2007, amid excitement over the then unbeatable Wii and DS. Operating profit peaked at more than 555 billion yen ($6.78 billion) in the year to March 2009.

The company is targeting an operating profit for the full year to March 31 of 210 billion yen, the lowest since the year ending in March 2006 and, despite new products, analysts' consensus has growth remaining sluggish for the following two years.