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Gaming will secure 3D TV’s success, like it or not

Nintendo 3DS

3D TV is seen by many as another technological gimmick that’ll soon pass. But then they said the same about HD didn’t they? What made the difference? Gaming – and it’ll prove decisive once again.

In 1995, Nintendo released the Virtual Boy, its first 3D handheld console. Following on from its massively popular Gameboy, it looked like Nintendo could do no wrong.

But the Virtual Boy proved a massive flop and was withdrawn from the market within 6 months. It didn’t even reach European shores.

15 years on and I find myself attending a press event for Nintendo’s latest handheld – the 3DS. The buzz from the assembled journalists was palpable, with a genuine sense of excitement at getting their hands on with the new 3D device.

So, will the 3DS succeed where the Virtual Boy failed? I’d put money on it.

The timing’s right for the 3DS

This is the year of 3D, with compatible TVs and Blu-ray players coming from all major manufacturers, and the film industry continues with its apparent aim to release everything in 3D.

Sony’s PlayStation 3 has received a firmware update for 3D gaming, and two of its most anticipated titles will be 3D enabled (Gran Turismo 5 and Killzone 3). There’s also another update planned for the playback of 3D Blu-rays.

That’s almost 40 million 3D players in people’s homes worldwide and it’s a great benefit for existing PS3 owners, even if they’ll need to buy a new pricey 3D TV and some of those clunky glasses.

Throw away those glasses

Ah, the glasses. Ask anyone about the drawbacks of 3D and they’ll inevitably mention the glasses, possibly rolling their eyes and grimacing as they do so. In our 3D lab test, the panel commented that the glasses were heavy and uncomfortable – they can certainly be a barrier to the immersive experience 3D is meant to be.

Here’s where Nintendo has cracked it. The 3D doesn’t use glasses. All the work is done by its parallax screen, allowing you to get on with jumping over pipes and stomping on Goombas, uninhibited. The tech works, it looks great, and it really does add to the gaming experience.

Gaming is 3D TV’s saviour

There’s been a lot of talk about 3D, including here on this site. My colleague Mike told you that he thought 3D would prove a failure. Well, sorry Mike, but I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one.

It might not happen overnight, but 3D will take off, and the gaming community will play the biggest part.

The 3DS will mark the first mainstream 3D gaming device, and consumers will demand similar experiences on their home consoles. With video games outselling movies in the UK last year, the success of 3D will be decided by the gamepad, not the TV remote.


I don’t know what a parallax screen is – sounds like those little dual fixed image gimmicks you get from cheap kids shops where you wiggle it (a ruler, postcard, etc) and two slightly different images swap about. Often found in tourists shops along with attraction-named embedded pencils and erasers. Perhaps we will need to rock our heads side-to-side whilst sitting on the sofa and watching the a 3D remake of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Somehow apt…

Seriously, I don’t think 3D viewing or gaming (hornbeam glasses or other techo-magic) will really cut it for the mass audience or the home market in my lifetime. I place it along with the holographic trickery we saw in Star Wars where Princess Leia wiggled her stuff for Sir Alec Guinness. What, me a sceptic???

ziggy says:
1 August 2010

Well you can hardly have a coherent view if you don’t know what it is. It has similarities to what you’re talking about – but they never resulted in real 3D images that popped out. You don’t have to move your head from side to side – you just game as normal and it looks 3D. Jack’s tried it and said it’s good…so why doubt him when you haven’t played it?

Animation films and gaming yes

Anything and everything else is a big NO.

I’ve tried them and they are an expensive gimmick.
Real life photos are doctored and very artificial, not worth the effort.

Yes, this was the argument I made with Mike on his 3DTV article. Though to be fair to him, he did say gaming was another issue altogether. Early adopters (gamers) will bring the price down – and you’ll find them on the streets. Much easier to sell a 3DTV with a game than with a nature programme.

dave says:
3 August 2010

It’s not "things popping out of the screen" that is the best bit about 3D. It’s the illusion of depth into the picture that it creates. For games this is going to be amazing. You will feel more like you are peering down those creepy dark corridors, enemies hiding in battlefields will seem more reallistic, and in driving games it will become easier to judge distances.
I can’t wait. Once the TVs become cheaper I’ll be getting one. I just wish I was 10 years old again so I could spend more time gaming over the next few years! It’s going to be great.

The problem with a lot of the 3D movies I’ve seen is they seem to be made on the cheap and you see a pop-up book affect with 3D where you get just a few crude layers of depth. Avatar seems to have been an exception to this (which is probably why it cost so much to make).

So while the gaming industry may be about to drive the growth of 3D, unfortunately the movie industry look to be trying their hardest to kill it by churning out cheap 3D effects on every movie they can.

Sorry Mike but have to disagree with you. Some nature programmes are brilliant in 3d. Close up shots are superb but at present wide panoramas are not so well defined. Its early days for the latest incarnation of 3d but from what I’ve seen so far 3d is good and can only get better now the likes of Sony, Panasonic etc are behind it. We often think of these companies as selling televisions and games consoles but dont forget they are also the ones producing the Hollywood films, games and 3d cameras. Sky are also backing 3d with a new channel. You dont very often see companies of this calibre backing a loser. (well there was betamax – but that failure in the public realm as opposed to professional certainly wasn’t based on quality). Also, what’s the beef about wearing glasses, I wear glasses every day of my life.

I agree, they might look fantastic – but in a store it’ll be much easier to sell the concept with video games. In my view, anyway.

Companies back lots of losing technology – HD-DVD was a long run one. But you’re right, most TV companies are backing them – but they need to in order to get away with charging so much for an HDTV now.

Patrick (also known as Mike…)

Correction. Sorry Mike I meant Patrick

Jeremy says:
3 August 2010

There are a lot of clunky technical issues to be overcome in home 3D. By chance, I’ll be getting a 2010 model DLP set in a couple of weeks, and it is "3D ready", but I still have to go find a 3D-glasses-emitter, the glasses themselves, and then deal with the issue of "checkerboard" vs. "sequential" 3D compatibility for my PS3 (which, frankly, I’d never heard before).

The technical stuff can be a huge barrier for people, especially when people are still having trouble figuring out why their HD set doesn’t look any better if they forgot to use component/DVI/HDMI cables. It’s just more than the average person wants to think about.

To me, the werid thing about 3D is that it’s been an industry-driven innovation, as opposed to a more organic consumer-driven change. The content producers all decided that they’re going 3D and are working hard to convince the public that they want it too. They could very well be successful, but I believe more exposure is required.

Video games will end up playing a large part in this, but only inasmuch as giving home 3D more publicity and making it more acceptable in your own living room.

I think 3D is an eventuality if we want electronic entertainment to evolve. Everyone wants the Holodeck, which is "games". This is probably the clearest step down that path. And, one difference that I’ve observed between 3D games and movies is that folks are still dodging 3D movie slots at the theater, but people in the gaming press who have seen Sony and Nintendo at E3 have said "This made me a believer."

It’s still quite a row to hoe, for better or worse.