• The Associated Press

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Nintendo’s latest game machine, offering glasses-free 3-D images, went on sale Saturday ahead of a global rollout, and analysts say it promises to be the world’s first 3-D mass-market product.

“I’m so excited,” said 9-year-old Natsumi Miyasaka, clutching her brand new blue 3DS portable that her father bought for her.

Lines formed outside Tokyo electronics stores, although they were not as long as some previous gadget launches, as Nintendo offered purchase reservations in advance.

The Nintendo 3DS, which costs ¥25,000, goes on sale in Europe on March 25 for 250 euro, and will arrive in the U.S. on March 27 priced at $250.

Kyoto-based Nintendo Co. is banking on the 3-D technology as sales momentum gradually fades for earlier hits such as the Wii home console and predecessor DS models.

Nintendo expects to sell 4 million 3DS machines through the end of March — 1.5 million in Japan and the rest overseas. The company is expected to have no problems meeting that target.

“It is the most comprehensive hand-held gaming device from Nintendo to date, with high-quality graphics and online features,” said Hiroshi Kamide, an analyst with J.P. Morgan.

“I believe the 3DS will be the first mass-market 3-D device.”

While 3-D technology for TVs has created a buzz, and 3-D camcorders are also gaining some attention, such products have not sold in big numbers so far, accounting for a tiny fraction of overall TV and camcorder sales. So selling 4 million 3DS machines in a month will be significant for a 3-D product.

The 3DS looks much like older DS machines, and has two panels. The top panel shows 3-D imagery, giving players an illusion of virtual reality, such as a puppy licking the screen from inside the machine. The bottom screen is a touch panel.

The device also comes with three cameras, and allows the user to take 3-D photos. It does not require the special glasses needed for 3-D theater movies or 3-D game consoles like rival Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3, and it also does not require a 3-D TV set.

On the downside are growing fears about the health effects of too much 3-D. Some people have become sick by watching 3-D movies or playing 3-D games.

Although more game software is expected to be ready by the Europe and U.S. launch dates, only eight games were ready for the Japan launch. But the machine comes with several built-in games and other features.

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