How do you promote a product that has to be seen in person to be believed? If you know, you might want to give Nintendo a phone call.

Pretty much everyone who got a chance to check out Nintendo’s 3DS handheld at E3 2010 came away with glowing, baffled reports. It seemed like Nintendo had something absolutely golden on its hands, something that would almost surely fly off shelves and sell a million bazillion copies.

But wait: Its big feature is that its special screen provides a 3D image without the use of clunky glasses. How do you demonstrate the system’s 3D capabilities in media that still remains prominently two-dimensional – or that can display 3D, but only with the same 3D glasses that Nintendo is tossing by the wayside?

“We are constantly discussing how to market the product,” 3DS producer Hideki Konno told Edge in an interview. “Our internal PR departments are saying that we should use cinema advertising, because cinemas are capable of showing 3D movies. But our key point with 3DS is that you don’t need glasses, which you obviously need to use in cinemas. So we think regular marketing and promotional activities will be very tricky for us.”

Nintendo is hoping, he said, that once the system starts getting into peoples’ hands, word of mouth will do the rest. In fact, even within Nintendo itself there were many doubters who weren’t on board the 3DS train until they saw the technology for themselves, said Konno. “We weren’t completely successfully with Virtual Boy so there was a suspicious tone within the company. First, I introduced the latest technology – the 3D panel – attached it to the Wii and showed a demo showing Mario Kart Wii and Animal Crossing.”

Since saying that Nintendo “wasn’t completely successful” with the Virtual Boy feels like saying that the Chernobyl reactor “wasn’t performing up to expectations,” it’s understandable that Nintendo’s higherups might have seemed a bit wary over jumping into the 3D pool again.

Luckily, the 3DS tech won them over. “In Japan there’s a maxim: a glance is better than a hundred words,” said Konno. “Even with words I wasn’t able to convince anyone. So I presented the demo to Miyamoto and Iwata and they were stunned and agreed to take it in that direction.”

So far, the gamble seems to have paid off for Nintendo, with the buzz for the system being overwhelmingly positive. But the problem still remains – can word-of-mouth alone sell a console?


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