The Nintendo 3DS -a 3D version of Nintendo's DS handheld gaming console - could hit shelves by October.

According to gaming website CVG a senior publishing source has revealed the launch date of the highly anticipated console, which is earlier than originally expected.

"It's a surprise - we were expecting it much closer to Christmas. But I suppose it gives Nintendo the opportunity to get it front and centre in people's minds nice and early," said the source.

The Nintendo 3DS is thought to have screens the same size as its predecessor , the Nintendo DSi

"In my experience, you don't launch a product that early to Christmas unless you're confident in it - and going to spend a lot of money on it. We're reassured that Nintendo is going to give it some decent backing in Q4."

In March, Nintendo revealed it was working on the 3DS, which offers 3D graphics without the need for special glasses.

The games company is expected to officially announce the console at the E3 Expo, which will take place in the US in June.

At the time, it was thought the console would hit shelves some time before March 2011.

Tech fans have predicted the console will have screens no larger than those in the Nintendo DSi XL and also feature a force-feedback system that vibrates at certain points during games

See also: Nintendo 3DS to support glasses-free 3D