3DS Can Harm Children’s Eyes, Nintendo Warns

Nintendo is banking on 3-D to keep its DS portable gaming system on top in an increasingly crowded field that now includes smartphones as well as Sony’s PlayStation Portable. But when the new no-glasses-required 3DS premieres next month at Nintendo World 2011 in Japan, it will come with a potentially troublesome disclaimer: Using the device can harm the vision of children under six.

Children under that age may face difficulty training their brains to focus their eyes after too much strain caused by the 3-D viewing, Nintendo fears, evidently heeding the advice of doctors.

As of Wednesday midday, there was no cautionary note posted under “safety warnings” or “info for parents” on Nintendo’s U.S. products web site, but a message posted on its Japanese site, widely translated by media, warns that “Vision of children under the age of six has been said [to be in the] developmental stage. [The 3DS] delivers 3D images with different left and right images, [which] has a potential impact on the growth of children’s eyes.”

High Stakes

The DS is the most successful handheld gaming device in history, having sold more than 128 million units since its debut in 2004, although sales dropped last year to around 27 million from more than 31 million in 2008.

In June, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimee, speaking at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles, promised that the 3DS would raise the bar for gamers with its double 3.5-inch wide-screen lenses on the outside that can also display movies and photos in 3-D. “No more glasses!” he exclaimed.

A slider lets users determine the depth of the effect or turn it off completely to watch in one-dimensional mode. The U.S. price hasn’t been announced, but it is said to be priced at the equivalent of $300 in Japan.

Consumer-devices analyst Avi Greengart of Current…

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