The future of gaming? It's too early to call 3D TV a disappointment, but given the hype surrounding it and the accompanying marketing push, it certainly hasn't lived up to expectations.
The price of the sets is partially to blame (and those wonky, dorktacular glasses aren't doing the industry a lot of favors, either.)
But what it really comes down to is a lack of content -- and that's where
television manufacturers are counting on video games to come to the rescue.
With the exception of a few special events, 3D TV
programming has hardly taken the world by storm. Even 3D Blu-ray versions of
recent films - of which only a handful deserves the treatment -- only fill a
couple of hours. With games, though, you can get dozens of hours of 3D viewing,
and often visual effects that are more impressive than what Hollywood has to offer.
No console is under more pressure to make 3D popular than
the PlayStation 3. As a television manufacturer, Sony is relying heavily on its
gaming arm to help give fence sitters a nudge. That's why the year's biggest
PS3 games - including Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and Resistance 3 - are
being presented in 3D whenever they're shown.
That's also why Sony is introducing a PlayStation branded 3D set later this fall. For
$499, the company will offer a 24-inch 3D TV that comes with a set of active 3D
glasses, an HDMI cable and a copy of Resistance 3. And to really interest
gamers, the set will allow two people playing on the same TV to see full screen
images, instead of the truncated, split-screen view players have become
The set is aimed squarely at college students and people who
want to dip their toes into the 3D waters. Combined with the lineup of games
featuring the technology, Sony is pretty confident that demand is about to
spike for these sorts of titles.
"3D gaming is on the verge of completely taking
off," says Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment
America. "I think it's a very similar analogy to HD. ... Content will drive
To date, there hasn't been a lot of evidence supporting his
claim that 3D is about to "take off." Nintendo
bet big on glasses-free 3D with the 3DS, but sales haven't been particularly
robust (something that, admittedly, may change when games like Mario Kart and
Super Mario hit the platform). And even in titles whose 3D optimization was
heavily highlighted in the months leading up to release - such as EA's Crysis 2
-- reviews and online chatter rarely mention the technology.
That's why not everyone is entirely convinced that gaming
and 3D is a match made in heaven.
"I think it's a good addition to gaming, but I don't
think it's a complete revolution," says Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft -
which led the industry's modern 3D gaming push with the underwhelming video
game version of James Cameron's Avatar. "We have to learn how to take
advantage of depth with 3D so we can have a different way to do things."
In fact, the biggest 3D push in gaming is happening less on
consoles and more on the PC these days. Graphics card company nVidia has been
promoting 3D gaming since 2009 with its 3D Vision kit. Capable of upconverting
games that weren't developed with the technology in mind -- and in pretty
convincing fashion -- the system offers over 500 titles in stereoscopic 3D,
ranging from World of Warcraft to Portal 2.
Certainly no one in the 3D television industry is voicing
strong opposition to gaming. After all, like movies, the bump to 3D could
eventually be an excuse to raise retail prices (even though the process of
making a game 3D adds very little to development costs). And everyone knows
that when it comes to early adoption of the latest gadgets, there's no better
test audience than gamers.
"Gamers are usually technology adopters," says
Tretton. "They're the first to go out and buy new tech. They played a big
role in the adoption of Blu-ray. They played a big role in the adoption of high
definition. And they will play a big role in the adoption of in 3D."