Nintendo’s Been 3D Capable for a Decade

And Luigi's Mansion was the game that could actually do it...

Joey Davidsonby Joey Davidson

Nintendo's Been 3D Capable for a Decade

One of the reasons I’ve come to love Nintendo over the past few years stems from their creation of a regularly featured article that runs on “Iwata Asks” is this brilliant, revealing and well done series that pits Iwata (Nintendo President) with some of the biggest names from around the company. He, go figure, asks them questions about their work; past, present and future. The result is always anecdotal and always quite intriguing.

The most recent interview pit Satoru Iwata with Shigeru Miyamoto and Shigesato Itoi. Tip of the cap to my good friend Matthew Green for plucking out this little bit of the wonderful discussion and publishing it on his site, (a wonderful project, if I’ve ever seen one). The three Nintendo execs discuss their foray into 3D gaming and how it all really started for them with the GameCube and Luigi’s Mansion back in 2001.

Yes. You read that right. Luigi’s Mansion ran in 3D. Here’s the snippet:

Iwata: To go back a little further, the Nintendo GameCube system actually had 3D-compatible circuitry built in.

Itoi: Huh?

Iwata: It had the potential for such functions.

GameCube Did 3DItoi: Nintendo GameCube did? And all the Nintendo GameCubes systems around the world?

Iwata: Yeah. If you fit it with a certain accessory, it could display 3D images.

Itoi: What a secret!

Iwata: Nintendo GameCube was released in 2001, exactly ten years ago. We’d been thinking about 3D for a long time even back then.

Itoi: Why didn’t anyone ever know?

Iwata: The liquid crystal for it was still expensive. Simply put, Nintendo GameCube could display 3D images if you attached a special LCD, but that special liquid crystal was really expensive back then.

Itoi: Yeah, we’re talking about ten years ago.

Iwata: We couldn’t have done it without selling it for a price far above that of the Nintendo GameCube system, itself! We already had a game for it, though—Luigi’s Mansion, simultaneously released with Nintendo GameCube.

Itoi: The one in which Luigi shoulders a vacuum cleaner?

Iwata: Yeah, that one. We had a functional version of that in 3D.

Itoi: That was 3D?

Miyamoto: It would jump out at you pretty nicely.

Iwata: Even without special glasses, the 3D looked pretty good. But we considered how much the liquid crystal would cost, and it was just too expensive. We figured the market just wasn’t there for it.

Itoi: So you gave up. Whew! And now you’ve done it. I see! You never give up!

Iwata: Yeah. We never give up. (laughs)


3D tech that would have cost consumers more than the system it worked with? I’m glad Nintendo shelved the concept until the hardware became more affordable. The 3DS has been, apparently, a long time coming for the big N. And while I’m a staunch critic of all things 3D, I know for a fact that this handheld is truly outstanding.

I, luckily, fall into the fortunate pack of writers that got some time with the 3DS during E3 (both after the Nintendo presser and during the show itself). It’s gorgeous. Seriously. Believe the hype. The technology there is wonderful. And this great little story we’re able to share with you today serves as evidence that Nintendo has been plugging away at 3D for more than a decade.

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