Nintendo says 3D hand-held delayed till next year, lowers forecast

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In a setback for Nintendo and a windfall for Apple, Nintendo cut its profit forecast by more than half and announced that the release of its 3D gaming hand-held has been pushed back until next year.

The announcement, which was made at a Nintendo product event Wednesday and reported by The Wall Street Journal, is further evidence that Apple is cannibalizing substantial portions of Nintendo's profits.

At the event, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said that the Kyoto, Japan-based company had hoped to release its 3DS hand-held by year-end, but realized it wouldn't be able to supply enough units this year, the report noted. The 3DS, which features glasses-free 3D gaming, will launch on Feb. 26 in Japan and arrive in the U.S. and Europe the following month. The device will retail for 25,000 yen ($299), compared to Apple Japan's 20,900 yen ($250) price tag for the 8gb iPod touch.

The 3DS was announced in March as part of an effort by Nintendo to differentiate itself from Apple and its iOS offerings. Last year, Iwata predicted a "dark" future for Nintendo if it remained unable to do so.

A 3D Nintendo hand-held might not differentiate itself for long. Patent filings reveal that Apple has also been looking into 3D display options for several years now.

Earlier this year, Iwata reportedly told other Nintendo executives that Apple is now the "enemy of the future."

Last year, Nintendo's profits fell sharply, in part due to competition from iOS. According to the Journal, Nintendo had posted five impressive years of growth until earnings slipped last year.

This year's results still appear bleak, as sales of the Wii and DS have dropped off. Nintendo's profit warning Wednesday lowered the company's profit forecast for the fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2011, from 200 billion yen ($2.39 billion) to 90 billion yen ($1.07 billion), the report. Nintendo stock fell in response to the news.

With Nintendo backing out of the competition for this holiday season's "must-have" gadget, Apple is well-positioned to continue making gains in the mobile gaming market.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs boasted in September that the iPod touch is "the number one game player in the world," a title that has traditionally been claimed by Nintendo and its offerings. "The iPod touch outsells Nintendo and Sony portable game players combined," said Jobs. Although the figures have been called into question, it's clear that Apple's foray into the gaming market has been remarkably successful.

A recent survey described Apple as having entered the "major league" of the portable gaming market, with over 40 million iOS gamers in the U.S. In comparison, Nintendo DS and DSi gamers total 41 million and Sony has just 19 million PSP gamers.