Hot Topic: 3D Or Not 3D? That Is The Question...
Written Saturday, July 31, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
If you were to believe the industry execs on the whole 3D gaming issue and judge your opinion based entirely on their comments, you’d be right to insinuate that 3D gaming is to take/or is taking the world by storm. Ubisoft have said they expect every home to have a 3D TV by the end of 2013; Sony last year said that they fully expect that every home will have a 3D TV by the end of 2010; and market researcher, Insight Media and their recent survey, predicts that there will be an audience of over 40 million 3D TV gamers by the end of 2014. That’s the pretty picture that the execs paint, but I can tell you from down here on planet earth, that things look a hell of a lot different. It seems that the only ones who don’t really see the fascination with this 3D gaming craze are the ones who buy the games: the gamers themselves.
3D specs with a pic of Faith in the background? Is this a sign?
So why aren’t gamers going head over heels for 3D gaming? According to Microsoft's Director of Product Management for the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, Aaron Greenberg, he reckons there just isn’t the consumer demand for it, something that is a result of such a high price-point on the technology; “I think it's unclear how much demand there is for that. I think it's clear that the technology is here, and I think we're seeing a lot of that, but it's a pretty big investment to buy a 3D TV. I mean, it's exciting technology, but when it will ever reach mainstream adoption is unclear to us.”
Jesse Divnich, EEDAR analyst, seems to agree with Greenberg’s insinuation that there is no consumer demand for it at present; “With the slow adoption rate for 3D televisions, EEDAR does not expect 3D gaming to be a significant driver of revenue and health for the industry over the short-term.” In other words: “Analyst says something that is expensive and people aren’t buying won’t impact video game sales until they start buying it.” How profound.
What’s even more interesting is what Divnich follows that quote up with; “[But] as consumers naturally replace their televisions and adopt 3D television, 3D gaming will play an ever increasing role in driving revenue for the sector.” Naturally? That’s a little presumptuous don’t you think? In order for something to be “naturally” adopted, there has to be a worthy reason for them to do it; and with 3D TVs, I personally don’t see that reason as gaming itself – this is coming from someone who’s had the chance to check out the 3D titles on the frontline.
To anyone who says it’s the technology and its implementation that’s the problem, not just the price; they respond with the same argument again and again; and that’s that HD TVs had to overcome the same obstacles. Sony’s Chief Exec, Sir Howard Stringer – the same one who said that there would be a 3D TV in every home by the end of 2010 – used that very analogy; “As with high-definition a few years back, there are a variety of issues yet to be addressed,” said Stringer, “But the 3D train is on the track, and we at Sony are ready to drive it home."
Are you ready to don these shades for every gaming session?
Even Ubisoft’s UK Marketing Director, Murray Pannell, suggested that its sales could be likened to that of the HD TV; “The truth is I think it is a technology that's coming. We can't ignore it. It'll start slowly this year. But like HDTV I wouldn't rule out the fact that this will be installed in everyone's living room in three year's time.”
So why did high-definition TVs triumph in the gaming world and where is 3D going wrong? If it’s not the price-point, what is it?
I’ve always said, and will until proved otherwise, that even if I was given a 3D TV, I would still game in the standard HD resolutions. That to me says that the price has nothing to do with it and after reading countless message boards, our comments on the site, etc, I know I’m not alone. This is coming from a fairly early adopter of a HD TV as well. Why is that though?
Well, high-definition gaming’s selling point was that it was all about impacting and enhancing the experience; and I’m not sure that 3D can do that over long periods. After spending some time with Killzone 3, Motorstorm: Apocalypse and Gran Turismo 5 in 3D yesterday, I must say that it was an interesting experience that proved to me that 3D was great in ultra short bursts, but otherwise, it was rather uncomfortable and restricting. And at the end of the day, when all is said and done, the games looked a lot better and more jaw-dropping in their standard HD resolutions, thus rendering 3D as an awkward sideways, almost backwards step.
Once a business man, now "internet celebrity" *facepalm*
I don’t often quote the inane ramblings of Michael Pachter, Wedbush Morgan Securities’ Research Analyst, around here anymore, but even he echoes my sentiments here; “I think that 3D television adoption is going to take a long time. The biggest impediment to 3D gaming is that you have to wear glasses, and you're not going to buy a 3D TV that requires glasses just to play games. Some will, but the masses won't.” Following on from that further, I’d personally say that you won’t buy a 3D TV and have to wear uncomfortable glasses, when the only enjoyment you’ll get out of them will play second fiddle to your standard HD gaming time. If you’re going to adopt, the experience needs to “wow” you, like it did in the transition from standard-definition to high-definition.
3D supporter, Nvidia, and their spokesperson, Bryan Del Rizzo, was quick to respond to those claims regarding the glasses; “Well, I always point out that yeah, you don't want to wear the glasses, but you have no problem strapping on a nerdy guitar and playing Guitar Hero.” Again, I’m not sure that Del Rizzo sees why people do that and why they won’t do something similar for 3D gaming: it’s all about the experience. Pretending you’re playing a guitar whilst playing along to your favourite bands vs. something that can give you a headache over long periods, that involves wearing glasses when you normally wouldn’t and taking an experience that isn’t as awe-inspiring as the experiences it is trying to replace. Those, by the way, are not official findings by any means, but are my own personal experiences with the technology.
An unknown SCE UK Sales Director was quoted as saying, “We’ve seen this in action and I must admit that I think 3D gaming is much more compelling than 3D movies because once you’ve experienced a game in 3D you’ll want to buy a 3D TV. It certainly converted me. It’s much more compelling.” Well, Mr. Unknown Sales Director, I’m a little more neutral than you who’s looking to push Sony’s HD TVs and also get console sales out of it, and I can safely refute that claim by saying, “Sir, are you bloody mad? Are we talking about the same technology here?” But this is it. At the moment, it’s as if people are trying to tell you what to think and are desperately trying to get you to buy into the hype, rather than actually getting the technology to sell itself.
It may come as no surprise to hear Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg back the cautious side on the 3D movement; after all, they aren’t throwing a ridiculous amount of money behind it. “3D is great in the theater, but for the living room? I think we're a long way away from that,” he said. Is Microsoft purposely being awkward though because the Xbox 360 isn’t a 3D-futureproofed machine? Far from it. “We’re a fully 3D-capable console today. We support 3D games that are in the market today,” said Greenberg, before twisting the dagger on their console competitors, “We’re not a consumer electronics company that’s trying to sell 3D TVs, so we have the benefit of waiting until the market responds.”
Crysis 2 is bloody stunning in HD, why spoil it?
From my perspective, it’s all about the experience and 3D is a step sideways – if not backwards – from what I get to experience now. Trying to sell a new technology on that is always destined to fail and after you’ve seen Crysis 2 in 3D and standard HD this fall, I’m fairly sure all of you will come to the same conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just the glasses that pinched my nose and were uncomfortable for the whole time I was playing, or even the headache it gave me, it’s just that 3D doesn’t drop your jaw as much as the title in its native HD resolution.
There is however a potential in the technology for other uses, that we recently highlighted with a Sony patent in our news section. This innovative use of 3D gaming allowed for multiple people in one room to all see a different picture to what everyone else was seeing. With earphones built into the glasses themselves, they could even hear their own separate audio channel. Such uses of the technology could signal the end of split-screen gaming as we know it, if the patent is to be believed that is, and it could even potentially stop your friend from seeing where you were in a local multiplayer match too – the swine! But to sell a TV on this function alone? Or sell a game on this one use? I’m not sure the idea is that beneficial then. For instance, I see no need for that in my house, but I at least recognise the need in some homes, but then again, when you insert those earphones, you remove the social aspect of local multiplayer gaming.
So what does this mean for 3D? Will a massive 3D TV price-drop in the coming years fuel its flight to the top? Well, yes and no. Of course more people will purchase 3D TVs if they were much, much cheaper, but actually getting them to game on it is a different kettle of fish. Is it just as essential to remove the barriers though, like the glasses for instance? Nvidia’s Bryan Del Rizzo reckons that the glasses will soon be phased out by advancements in the technology; “Of course people would prefer not to put on a pair of glasses and we will definitely get to the point where they aren't needed.” From my perspective though, that still won’t be enough. The experience needs to 1-up the experience that it’s trying to replace, and at the moment, it doesn’t. Until they can deliver those jaw-dropping HD visuals, in a clear 3D environment without the obstacles, I fear that 3D is destined to be a fad.
Luckily though, as is always the case, no-one’s forcing you to buy into this technology or even believe the PR lines that the top execs are spouting, and so, while they attempt to get this out of their systems, I hear there’s some good HD games coming out... like Crysis 2. “It’s in 3D as well,” you say? Oh, well that’s nice for it.
Please share with us your experiences with 3D gaming in the comments if you’ve had the “pleasure” of testing it out. We’d love to hear whether you share our hesitancy in the technology or we’re just getting bitter and cynical in our old age.
Editor’s Note: Hot Topic is a monthly feature here on X360A, where we take one of the month’s talking points and discuss it until your eye-balls bleed through sheer delight. Now that's intense!