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Five Reasons 3D Display ISN'T Doomed (A Rebuttal)
by Neil Schneider on 08/01/10 08:17:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I'd like to respond to a blog written by Steve Peterson on Gamasutra.com.  In it, he lists "5 Reasons 3D Display is Doomed".  It's a very fixed position, and I feel compelled to share some insight of my own.

First, Mr. Peterson's article begins with the statement "I realize that a great deal of enthusiasm has been expressed about its prospects, but that's mostly by executives with a vested interest in seeing it succeed. What are the real chances?"

I will first remark that this "3D executive" took an interest long before 3D was popular.  mtbs3D.com started as an idea posted in the early Nvidia 3D gamers' forum (I'm "Chopper") over four years ago, and grew from there.  Much of MTBS is put together by volunteers who invest their personal time because they love 3D gaming and want to see it succeed.  This gamer driven movement is what later made The S-3D Gaming Alliance possible.

If I have a vested interest in 3D, it's because I'm a customer first.  Now to respond to Mr. Peterson's remarks:


1. 3D Is Expensive

"The new generation of consoles helped catalyze the purchase of HDTVs, and now we ask customers to drop at least $2000 on a new set so they can play 3D titles?"

Over ten years ago, the first traditional HDTVs were sold in 1998 for between $5,000 to $10,000 US - and the dollar was valued higher back then.  Looking at a current Best Buy online listing, the most expensive 3D HDTV featured is the Samsung 55" unit going for about $5,000 US (Model UN55C9000).   The Samsung 46" 3D Plasma is going for about $1,400 US (Model LN46C750).

In the 2D market, Samsung's 65" (Model UN65C6500) is going for over $4,000 US, and the majority of mid-range units are going for about $2,000 a piece.  Not so far off from the 3D world, if you ask me.  I only focused on Samsung for consistency, but it's a very diverse market including Sony, LG Electronics, Panasonic, and more.

A leading criticism Mr. Peterson uses against 3D is that people won't buy a second set, let alone make a purchase like this in the current economy.  According to DisplaySearch, LCD TV sales saw a 50% increase in 2009.  According to ISuppli, even during a recession, 2009 saw a first quarter flat panel sales increase of 7.8 million units, or 17 percent.  This was attributed to cocooning, or cutting back on travel in favour of a great home entertainment system.

We have to remember that these tail-end buyers aren't the early adopters, they are the bargain hunters.  If indeed people want the 3D benefits, and all the customer data we have to work with says they do, then it's a brand new product cycle for the early adopters looking to upgrade their living room experience - which is justification for a second HDTV in their home.

While I admit that $1,400 is very reasonable for a 3D HDTV, the 3D market is clearly targeting the early adopters now, with the mass market to follow - similar to HDTV.


2. It's Nauseating

"Headaches, dizziness, nausea... not exactly the effects you want your game to induce."

If we look at the 3D cinema world, there is a lot of repeat business happening with masses of people going to 3D movies.  Unfortunately, cinema has a handicap that forces them to come up with a single 3D experience for everyone.  Despite this, the papers have not been strewn with claims of Avatar 3D nausea - just sales.

In the gaming space, we have a double-edged sword.  You can customize the 3D experience individually, right down to the level of depth, and how much of that depth is inside and outside the screen.  Very exciting stuff!  Unfortunately, it can be an uncomfortable experience if gamers don't choose their settings properly.  There is a small learning curve here.

It's unfortunate that Samsung's warning label was blasted across the media the way it was.  MTBS has countless members who have been happily gaming in 3D for a very long time, and see this as a protective corporate measure - not a warning of things to come.


3. Resolution/frame rate loss

"3D requires you to give up half the frame rate, or give up resolution, in order to display twice as many frames as normal. Many processes result in lower brightness (a big problem with 3D movies)."

I'm going to let you in on a dirty gaming industry secret.  While the console spec encourages 60 frames per second game play, many top game developers render at 30 frames per second.  So while the expected drop in frames is getting its share of media coverage, most gamers won't notice.

As far as resolution is concerned, only a handful of console games render at 1080P.  720P is closer to 2D standard than most realize.  Using traditional 2D gaming as the standard, this drop of resolution and performance isn't a big deal at all.

The brightness aspect has to do with the choice of 3D television and glasses more so than anything else.  Similar to HDTV progress, 3D displays are getting brighter to compensate, and there are future 3D innovations to come, I'm sure!


4. No New Gameplay

"So far it's not clear what 3D display brings to the game design table in terms of enabling new forms of play. The Wii showed that relatively simple and cheap technology could bring innovative new gameplay modes; so did the DS with its two screens. I have yet to hear how 3D display will enable new game play, or even refine current gameplay. Without something new to offer, will customers buy into it?"

It's not about the game play - it never was.  According to The 2009 U-Decide Initiative, the number one reason for gamers to regularly buy updated equipment (e.g. GPUs, CPUs, Sound Cards, better displays, etc.) is game immersion - the desire to feel part of the game.  3D ties into that perfectly, which is why so much interest has developed around it.

There have been some experiments around treating depth as part of the game; like catching fireflies in a net.  However, immersion is the big motivator right now.


5. 3D is Dying in Theaters

"The highly anticipated wave of 3D movies has washed over the theaters and pulled away, leaving the beaches exposed. Avatar did great business, but successive movies had lower audiences."

A source wasn't quoted for this remark, so I'm going to take an educated guess.  The Wrap ran an article featuring a chart of 3D movies, and their declining 3D to 2D revenue share.  What The Wrap failed to mention was that each listed movie had fewer and fewer screens to work with.  When Avatar was released, they had virtually no 3D competition.  Now that multiple 3D movies have to share the limited 3D screen space at the same time, the audience numbers look very different - artificially so.

We also have to remember that Avatar was the biggest selling movie of all time with a 15 year development history - not a 2D/3D afterthought conversion.  Not even Steven Spielberg can shatter movie sales records week after week after week.  If life were like that!

I will conclude by saying that while 3D has a committed and exciting future, the whole industry is going through a learning curve.  Several organizations including The S-3D Gaming Alliance, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Panasonic, Blitz Games Studios, Steelseries, Zalman, and more, are doing a study of what gamers think about 3D and which experiences excite them the most.  It is hoped that what is learned from The 2010 U-Decide Initiative will help shape video games to come.

Once the study is complete, over fifty prizes will be drawn including a 3D HDTV, gaming headsets, a 3D monitor, and over 40 console and PC video games.  The preliminary results will be revealed at GDC Online (formerly GDC Austin) in October.

Both traditional 2D and experienced stereoscopic 3D gamers are welcome to participate...even Steve Peterson!

Thanks for reading!


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Comments


Steve Peterson
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I appreciate your counter-positions, and you make some interesting points. I'll deal with them in order.



You make the point that 3D TV prices will continue to drop, which is true. But whatever price drops occur for 3D TVs will also occur for non-3D TVs, and there will continue to be a price differential. The differential will probably shrink, but right now it's about $1,000 or more. Which is a lot to pay for an additional feature unless you are really, really sure you want it. You say there's customer data that says people want 3D... I'd love to see it, and examine the methodology of the studies. Right now I think it's pretty early to say with any degree of certainty just how much people would be interested in 3D display for gaming, before the technology has even been shown to more than a handful of people (relative to the market size).



My point about nausea and headaches still stands; it's a problem, and it's unclear how much it will affect the market. Much will depend on implementation, both on the hardware side and the software side, and then on how individual gamers deal with the games. Uncertainty breeds hesitation, especially when making major purchase decisions. This is something the industry will have to work to overcome, not just shrug and ignore.



I'm well aware of frame rates in console games, and I'm also aware that frame rates are a major aspect of reviews of graphics cards aimed at hardcore PC gamers. Certainly there's a lot of awareness of frame rates out there among the hardcore, and those are exactly the early adopters you'd expect to want to spend thousands of dollars on a new technology. So you'd better have a good argument to overcome their concerns... even though there may not be much of a perceptual difference between 30 and 60 fps in a given game, hardcore gamers are often annoyed to think they're getting fewer frames than possible. Again, this is a problem that needs to be overcome.



The updated equipment you're referring to gamers buying is for PC gamers; console gamers don't upgrade until a new console comes along, for the most part. Their TV and sound system decisions are made only partially on the basis of gaming; that equipment is used for other purposes. Immersion is an element of good game play, not necessarily tied to equipment. Typically console gamers have bought add-on hardware (like guitar controllers and band instruments) because it specifically enables game play they want (like Guitar Hero or Rock Band). I think 3D display needs to show gamers what they get out of it that's worth an investment of over $1,000... you can buy a lot of software for that (or much better screens or a sound system). New gameplay modes are a compelling reason to buy ("This Rock Band thing is really different and cool!"); "greater immersion" is vague and hard to use to get people to open their wallets.



There have been many critics of the 3D process being used now (among them Roger Ebert and Christopher Nolan), and it's certainly true that nothing is doing business like Avatar. Jim Cameron was using the process he created, and doing it well, as opposed to many of the latest movies which have done a 3D conversion in post-production (with bad-to-awful results for non-animated features, e.g. Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender). Hoping that success of 3D in movie theaters will drive adoption of 3D TVs and 3D Blu-ray players seems chancy unless Hollywood starts doing a much better job creating 3D movies. Right now, success for 3D in the theaters is anything but assured, which adds to the risk for the gaming market.



I look forward for the opportunity to try a number of different 3D systems. I'd sure like to see 3D display technology become a major driver of game industry sales of both hardware and software; I just remain deeply skeptical of its chances.

Neil Schneider
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Hi Steve,



Ok, let me answer as best I can.





----- (Steve)

You make the point that 3D TV prices will continue to drop, which is true. But whatever price drops occur for 3D TVs will also occur for non-3D TVs, and there will continue to be a price differential. The differential will probably shrink, but right now it's about $1,000 or more. Which is a lot to pay for an additional feature unless you are really, really sure you want it. You say there's customer data that says people want 3D... I'd love to see it, and examine the methodology of the studies. Right now I think it's pretty early to say with any degree of certainty just how much people would be interested in 3D display for gaming, before the technology has even been shown to more than a handful of people (relative to the market size).

-----



I think it's a misnomer to label 3D as the price differential. 3D is being implemented as default technology in most premium grade HDTVs. With the exception of polarized solutions, laser TVs, or unannounced 3D technologies, most of the high-end units are adding 3D support as default technology through 120Hz panels (LCD shutter glasses compatibility). It's an easy default technology for the manufacturers because it's not too radical a change for the production lines.



I need to research this more, but I'm told the premium grade 2D televisions from last year, are closely priced to the 3D televisions available this year. Are we comparing premium to premium, or 2D to 3D?



Kakaku ran an online survey of almost nine thousand people, and found that over 30% are interested in buying a 3D HDTV this year. This is excellent (though this received criticism for some strange reason). NPD Group revealed findings that "3D Capable Home Entertainment Product" revenue exceeded $55 million dollars in the US in the first three months of their product launch. Again, this is very good news when thinking about the premium grade product market.



You are correct that there is limited consumer data to work with. We are hoping to get a clearer picture of the expected buying patterns as part of the current study.





---- (Steve)

My point about nausea and headaches still stands; it's a problem, and it's unclear how much it will affect the market. Much will depend on implementation, both on the hardware side and the software side, and then on how individual gamers deal with the games. Uncertainty breeds hesitation, especially when making major purchase decisions. This is something the industry will have to work to overcome, not just shrug and ignore.

-----



I completely agree with this. Properly (or improperly) authored content will make or break this industry for sure. I think the confidence will grow as the market matures and more diverse content is available.





----- (Steve)

I'm well aware of frame rates in console games, and I'm also aware that frame rates are a major aspect of reviews of graphics cards aimed at hardcore PC gamers. Certainly there's a lot of awareness of frame rates out there among the hardcore, and those are exactly the early adopters you'd expect to want to spend thousands of dollars on a new technology. So you'd better have a good argument to overcome their concerns... even though there may not be much of a perceptual difference between 30 and 60 fps in a given game, hardcore gamers are often annoyed to think they're getting fewer frames than possible. Again, this is a problem that needs to be overcome.

-----





I was referring to console gamers when I was talking about frame rate. PC gamers are a different animal, and I can agree with your logic. We did research in an earlier study about acceptable frame rates and under what circumstances. I can try to pull it up later.



I don't think the frame rate issue is a problem for console on condition that that 30 FPS is met. It's more challenging on PC, but they have the advantage (and now the justification) to buy multi-GPU systems.





----- (Steve)

The updated equipment you're referring to gamers buying is for PC gamers; console gamers don't upgrade until a new console comes along, for the most part. Their TV and sound system decisions are made only partially on the basis of gaming; that equipment is used for other purposes. Immersion is an element of good game play, not necessarily tied to equipment. Typically console gamers have bought add-on hardware (like guitar controllers and band instruments) because it specifically enables game play they want (like Guitar Hero or Rock Band). I think 3D display needs to show gamers what they get out of it that's worth an investment of over $1,000... you can buy a lot of software for that (or much better screens or a sound system). New gameplay modes are a compelling reason to buy ("This Rock Band thing is really different and cool!"); "greater immersion" is vague and hard to use to get people to open their wallets.

-----



I think it's very appealing for an existing console to do something it previously couldn't like show 3D Blu-Ray movies and play 3D video games. What matters most is if the 3D is appealing enough and there is enough content to support it.





----- (Steve)

There have been many critics of the 3D process being used now (among them Roger Ebert and Christopher Nolan), and it's certainly true that nothing is doing business like Avatar. Jim Cameron was using the process he created, and doing it well, as opposed to many of the latest movies which have done a 3D conversion in post-production (with bad-to-awful results for non-animated features, e.g. Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender). Hoping that success of 3D in movie theaters will drive adoption of 3D TVs and 3D Blu-ray players seems chancy unless Hollywood starts doing a much better job creating 3D movies. Right now, success for 3D in the theaters is anything but assured, which adds to the risk for the gaming market.

-----



It's much worse than that. You're being kind here! With the exception of a chosen few, the 3D display manufacturers literally sat on their hands around gaming. There was way too much focus on Blu-Ray and 3D sports, and now the industry is starting to pay for it.



On our vacation, I went to Best Buy to see the units on sale. Guess how many display manufacturers had gaming content to show? Just one. Everyone was so focused on Blu-Ray and 3D sports and 3D events, they didn't have basic license agreements with game developers to show their video games in 3D! So forget the 3D and the 3D quality for a moment. If you are a customer and you want to buy the TV that is right for you, are you going to buy the unit that can't show you the games you want to play?



Who are you going to trust? The TV that says it will work when you take it home, or the TV that has an active gaming demo? It's a serious problem. Fortunately, things are changing for the better.





----(Steve)

I look forward for the opportunity to try a number of different 3D systems. I'd sure like to see 3D display technology become a major driver of game industry sales of both hardware and software; I just remain deeply skeptical of its chances.

-----



Let's see how things progress.



Regards,

Neil

Germain Couët
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When mentioning Avatar, did anyone ever think about the fact that it was a good movie BEFORE being a 3d movie? It grossed millions because it was well made, not because it had a fancy new 3d technology, let's not forget that.

Richard Lawler
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whoa steve -



>>The differential will probably shrink, but right now it's about $1,000 or more.



This isn't even close to true. Comparing different models of TVs and claiming they have a $1,000 price differential for 3D is just wrong, since it has nothing to do with the price difference. comparing the same model of TV with and without 3D capability reveals a difference of a $150~ or so at retail, and many high end TVs are only available in 3D capable versions, and are cheaper than last year's 2D only models. The price premium for 3D is an unfortunately misunderstood thing that is mostly a myth.

Robert Green
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Neil, I think you've missed the real point about the framerate issue. In order to render a game in 3D, it has to do something different - either it has to render at half the framerate, or lower the resolution, or lower the detail levels, etc. This is simply stating the obvious - that you can't render twice as many frames for no cost. It's the implication that's more important - that we're asking if the kind of people willing to buy high end equipment at the early adopter phase are likely to be happy with these trade-offs, when they're exactly the kind of people who want the best audio-visual experience?



Your point about the TV's being premium models is vital though. Right now if you want a new, high end TV (for its 2D display quality), it'll almost certainly offer 3D as well. Next year, if the manufacturers want to keep pushing 3D, it'll be the high and mid-range TV's, and then the year after that it'll be almost everything. That's how 3D will become mainstream enough to justify developing enough content for it.

Julian Moschuering
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Concerning the resolution problem: I use a 3D monitor for playing games since a few months and in my opinion a game looks much better (and sharper) in 720p with 3D than in 1080p without 3D.

I guess the brain likes having two seperate different images and combines them pretty nicely.

Jake May
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I suspect that the Nintendo 3DS will have a much more significant impact upon HD 3D TV uptake than has been considered in either of these posts - it is a (comparatively) low cost product that will rapidly make its way into a massive number of households and give many consumers their first hands-on experience of 3D gaming, movies and content creation (through photos and home movies).



Whether or not you consider the handheld to be gimmick, the fact that the technology appears to work well (according to pretty much everyone who's tried it out) can surely only act as a driver of TV sales as gamers look to recreate the experience on bigger screens.

Giuseppe Navarria
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30 and 60 fps in any game where all the screen moves at the same time makes a HUGE and visible difference

Steve Peterson
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Don't forget that part of the cost differential for 3D display is the glasses, which currently run between $150 and $200 per pair. Every player will need a pair, so if you have 4 players that could be $600 to $800 all by itself.

Richard Lawler
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Exactly which games nowadays are four player couch affairs? Do you add $200~ to the cost of the xbox 360, ps3 or wii because everyone will need their own controller? No, no one does that.

Eric Kwan
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Hi Neil,



I just wanted to make the suggestion that you use a sans serif font in the future. I think your article is great, but it's also a tad hard on the eyes.



-Eric

David Clair
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"Exactly which games nowadays are four player couch affairs? Do you add $200~ to the cost of the xbox 360, ps3 or wii because everyone will need their own controller? No, no one does that"



But imagine have a group of people (4 or more) over to watch a movie at your house and either having to provide glasses for them or asking them to bring their own...



Heaven forbid you want to have a Super bowl party in 3D... instead of bring your own booze, your would have to instruct them to bring their own 3D glasses..



To me as a customer either of those options are simply not acceptable to me...



Which is why the 3DS and other galsses free 3D tech is really what has my interest.

Merc Hoffner
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@ Richard Lawler



That's patently missing an important point. Regardless of gaming, people want to watch movies and sports and tv shows on their nice new TV, and limiting it to two at a time viewing is not an option.



One thing I think everyone not trying to sell a TV agrees upon is that regardless of the future of 3D, the expensive active shutter glasses are not the vessel of that future. They're OK for once in a while showcase movie viewing, but day to day - um, no. And to emphasize the point, the 3DS is already putting the screws on all glasses solutions , and is out than less than a year - for less than the price of two SONY 3D glasses.

Neil Schneider
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Hi Eric,



I fixed up the font so it makes for easier reading. Thanks for the tip.



Regards,

Neil

Jamie Mann
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3D displays aren't doomed - but neither are they going to take off like a rocket. Instead, I predict a slow and gradual switchover, as people replace their existing equipment and buy players/displays with the technology built in. Certainly, they're not going to catch on to any great degree while people still need to wear glasses to view the action!



Beyond that though, there's a few points which I'd like to pick up:



1: 3D is expensive

The numbers given in the article aren't directly comparable - a 65" HDTV carries a far higher premium, thanks to both additional manufacturing costs and a smaller market. As such, it seems a little unfair to use the price of a 65" HDTV when arguing that the price of a 46" 3D TV is reasonable. Also, early HDTV costs aren't directly comparable to current 3DTV costs: the cost of early HDTVs was in part due to the fact that the industry was switching from CRT to LCD/plasma, so the hardware and manufacturing processes hadn't yet been commoditised. Conversely, the HDTV and 3DTV displays share far more in common - one article I saw (and then sadly misplaced) estimated that adding 3D technology to a HDTV only costs around 15% more. So, to compare apples to apples...



In the UK, a quick look at www.comet.co.uk (UK retail chain, equivalent to Bestbuy) shows the following:

40" Samsung HDTV: 449 GBP

40" Samsung 3DTV: 1199 GBP (w/four sets of glasses included)



Therefore, you're looking at paying nearly *triple* to get 3D enabled - and you then have to pay an extra 60 GBP per person for additional glasses, if more than four people want to watch the action, or if the glasses are lost/broken/scratched.



(back in the US, Bestbuy has a 46" 3DTV at $1399 and a 46" HDTV at $597. So the price differential is still over 250%!)



In any case, the argument being made in the article seems a little confused. According to the stats listed, lots of people have now bought a HDTV display. As such, why would they immediately turn around and spend three times as much on a new 3D-capable screen? Equally, how many households need/want a second HDTV in the 46" size range?



All told, we're very much still in the early-adopters stage - and said trailblazers are paying through the nose for the privilege.



(personally, I bought a 36" 1080p HDTV two years ago. And until/unless it dies, I'm sticking with it - the living room is only around 14' square, so anything over 40" would completely dominate the room!)



3: resolution/frame-rate loss

As the article states, a lot of games are currently running at 720p *and* often run at 30FPS. In other words, the visuals for current gaming consoles are still very much bottlenecked by processing power. So, given that 3D support requires rendering the game at double the framerate, it's therefore logical to assume that games will have to either significantly reduce the amount of on-screen detail or drop to a lower resolution. So, just how good will 3D games look when they're being rendered at 480p?



Realistically, we're going to have to wait for the next generation of consoles before high-resolution 3D gaming is practical.



5: 3D is dying in theatres

Personally, I think it's too early to tell - though I'd also note that the recent spate of poor quality 2D-3D conversions (e.g. Clash of the Titans, Alice, The Last Airbender) isn't doing 3D's reputation any favours! It'd actually be interesting to see how the ongoing numbers look for the UK market - we're fortunate in that a lot of cinemas were converted to 3D via grants from the Film Council, with around 500 screens enabled by the end of 2009 (http://www.bsac.uk.com/files/uk%20_movie_market_update_2010.pdf) - roughly 1/6 of all the screens in the UK. As such, 3D films in the UK aren't as constrained by a limited screen count - though we'll have to wait for a while before any sensible numbers can be pulled out, as June/July figures were negatively impacted by football World Cup fever...

Neil Schneider
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Hi Jamie,



Thanks for sharing your opinions.



If we separate the 3D for a moment, I think it's important to recognize that there is a wide range of values for 2D televisions of the same size depending on quality, brand, and choice of features. I'm at a disadvantage because current premium grade televisions include the 3D feature. If we rewind a year or two, it would not be 2D versus 3D, it would be bargain grade versus premium grade. This is what I was trying to convey.



I can't dispute with your current cost model because the traditional 2D premium option is being wiped off the map in favour of premium HDTVs that include 3D functionality. So it's not a case of spending three times as much. If a customer already bought a premium grade television, then this is about buying another one. The $450 units described in your comments are not what they are shopping for.



The argument against buying a second HDTV never made sense to me. How many computers do people have in their home? How many CRT televisions do they have in their home? Like anything else, people move the old TV to their bedroom, and put the new shiny one in their living room. TVs and TV buying patterns have been around for a very long time. If 3D was never invented, would people stop buying televisions? Would LG, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and everybody else just vanish? I have trouble believing that.



As for the frame rate remarks, you are correct. You can't break the laws of physics! ;=)



Avatar: The Game (Ubisoft) demonstrated without a doubt that complex video games are very much possible on modern console. There are some tricks and trade-offs to make this work, but the trade-offs are mild when you have the advantage of a true 3D display. A lot of this stuff was added in because true 3D visual cues were not possible until recently. Have any reviews of available 3D games complained about shoddy resolution or poor graphics? Is it something they noticed, or something they were told?



The 2D/3D conversion business has been getting a bad wrap. It's like being told sugar is bad for you - people forget to say "in excess". There is some excellent conversion work out there, but when it's done as an afterthought in the production cycle...yes, very damaging.



Regards,

Neil

Kris Morness
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I've always been an early adopter, but 3D TV just doesn't call to me. I usually buy consoles on launch day, and purchased my 1080p display back in 2006. I see it as a gimmick, and not a very compelling one. I'm sure most people considering a new TV will probably go for the 3D if the price is equivalent to a 2D one, and I'm sure it's cool -- but it definitely doesn't seem like it is an evolution that can be compared to the SD to HD evolution.



As far as game developers are concerned, supporting 3D looks to be a fairly substantial undertaking, especially if you want to get it right -- factoring in performance, quality, and game-play mechanics. I actually think that's going to be the bigger challenge, getting developers to support it, rather than getting 3DTVs into households.



3DTV does not feel natural to me and being forced to wear specialized glasses feels really wrong to me and even more unnatural.

Jon Brown
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When it comes to games, we should be hoping that 3D becomes common, it will help developers immensely.



http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JonBrown/20100622/5413/3D_Me.php

Rafael Brown
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Neil,



I think the framerate issue needs to be underscored since you glossed over it so brazenly. Why? Because framerate alone can delay 3D until the next console generation, which most analysts feel is still 3-5 years away. And to use the old addage: software (content) drives sales NOT hardware.



Very simple, few games run at 60fps. Yes some do, I work on ones that do. But most console games are running at 30fps and hoping for 720p. Some are doing better, yes. But look 3D has been around for years. I remember running 3D versions of gaming apps back in 1998 and back then it required dual 3Dfx cards way before ATI's Crossfire and Nividia's SLI made that seem even remotely normal. 3D doubles the number of frames needed, so a 60fps game drops to 30 and a 30fps game drops to 15fps. Consoles of this generation and the vast majority of PC users cannot afford to double their frame requests. Look at the most popular PC games and you'll find a spectrum of games that can run on 5 year old PC systems.



Game developers are mostly focused on getting games to run at 60fps and/or at 720p-1080p. Adding 3D on top means you butcher your framerate or you cut back on content rendered. This as games are trying to burst into open worlds wand online with more content needs than ever before. SHould we stragke our games just to push 3D sales? Yes there wil be experiments, but for most devs, 3D does not need to be the focal point.



And keep in mind that segmenting the PC & console markets as you've suggested is increasingly ludicrous when most major developers (Blizzard aside) now do cross platform releases using the same engine. Count the number of PC exclusive releases (other than MMOs) and then ask yourself how many of these sold over a million copies? How about in the 5-10 miilion range? How about 10-15 million?. And MMos aren't going to go 3D. They tend to run on a lower spec due to needing to appeal to as large an audience (lowest common hardware denominator) as they can. And their focus is latency, not high end graphics.



So my point is that game developers have flirted with 3D for much longer than Hollywood, but we've also seen that it takes time for the mainstream audience to adopt it. Consumers who've just bought a TV in the last few years are not going to buy a new TV specifically for 3D content that is largely yet to be demonstrated. One good 3D movie and a several desperate attempts to retrofit 2D movies into 3D to jump on a bandwagon does not count as a library of compelling content. Be realistic. Give it time!



Many consumers are still getting over buying 'HD' Tvs that run at 720p or 1080i. Most consumers do not re-buy TVs every 3-5 years. They buy TVs every 10-15 years. Sometimes they buy additional TVs, but they don't throw out the TV they just got. And they expect all their devices to run all their content. Early adopters will buy anything, but be realistic about adoption rates. Movie theatres have a comfortable lifetime of exclusivity on 3D over at least the next 5 years while film, tv, games, and other media make a case for 3D to see if we can convince consumers to jump again in 5-10 years. Push the market too early with a weak offering and the opportunity may pass us by for another 10 years.



And don't get me started on broadcast TV. I have friends in TV and they're still getting over the shift to HD, 3D TV, yes, but in time.

Cody Kostiuk
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Fast forward to what we really want: a holodeck.



Where are we now? Moving pop-up books.



I'm all for 3D technology, but it's just not quite there yet enough for me to become an advocate. (If Avatar was not released in 3D, we wouldn't even be talking about this.)



However, will this new 3D technology succeed? Oddly enough, I think it hinges on what news outlets report on as the effects of prolonged 3DTV viewing are further studied. 3DTV manufacturers say they are aware of the extra strain on the eyes and are working on solutions, but it's all speculative at this point.



I think the Nintendo 3DS is the best implementation for this new 3D technology though. As a casual gaming device, the 3D gimmick won't overstay its welcome and the eye strain will most likely be tolerable due to naturally shorter gaming sessions. Plus, you don't have to wear goofy glasses.



Of course, it would take just one negligent gamer on a 48-hour 3D gaming session to become temporarily blind and a Fox News team to scare the masses... so I guess we'll just have to wait and see. ;-)

Jamie Mann
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@Neil: thanks for responding in detail!

Regarding hardware costs: I'm happy to agree that the early-adopter market will be happy to buy a new 3DTV, but with such a steep price differential, I don't think the same applies to the mass market - and without the mass market, there isn't a big enough userbase to drive towards commoditisation and encourage content creation.



Also, with the HDTV market being so commoditised, the difference between bargain and premium HDTVs is becoming increasingly blurred - especially when the high-end and low-end models tend to have share a significant number of components. For instance, referring back to the Comet website: the only real difference between a "bargain" 40" HDTV and a "premium" 40" HDTV is the fact that the premium model has a freeview HD decoder built in and the ability to access internet-based video-sharing sites (e.g. Youtube). These additional features carry a 350 GBP premium - however, the buyer could opt to pick up a separate Freeview HD box and a Nintendo Wii from the same shop for just 270 GBP (90 and 180, respectively), thereby getting much more functionality for less.



Also, the argument against getting a second HDTV is simple: it duplicates functionality (unlike a PS3/Xbox/Wii, where there's exclusive content) and there's also issues with physical space. At least in the UK, houses and apartments tend to be much smaller than in the US - thanks to an overpressured property market, new-build homes in the UK are the smallest in Europe! The average room is just 13 foot square (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8201900.stm)!



All told, people willing to splash out significant amounts on high-end technology (i.e. 20-30 young professionals) are liable to be living in areas of high population density (e.g. London, New York, Paris, etc) and therefore live in properties where there is minimal space for physically large displays.



Regarding game quality, there's a nice article here which goes into great detail on the compromises which have had to be made for the first wave of true-3D PS3 games:

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-making-of-ps3-3d
-article?page=1



Things may improve as developers integrate true-3D technology into their game engines - though if I was feeling cynical, I'd just suggest that many games will only have a single set of assets tuned for 3DTV and therefore will look relatively poor when viewed on a 1080p HDTV.



3DTV isn't going anywhere: it'll soon be impossible to buy a display which doesn't include 3DTV technology, in much the same way as even budget mobile phone models have a built-in camera, MP3 player and internet access. However, there are distinct parallels with the transition between VHS-DVD-Blu-ray. The switch between VHS and DVD brought with it some clear and compelling benefits even on a CRT display: sharper pictures, physically smaller media, instant seeking. However, the benefits of upgrading to Blu-ray weren't as compelling: not only is the equipment and media more expensive than DVD, but the only real difference is in the visuals, so much of the benefits are negated for people with smaller displays (or if they sit more than a few feet away from the display).



Similarly, the switch between CRT and HDTV brought significant benefits: the displays offer significantly more detail, consume less power and are physically thinner and lighter - they can even be wall mounted! Meanwhile, 3DTV is significantly more expensive, has minimal content available and in it's current state (i.e. the need to wear glasses) distinctly less convenient.



In five years time, things may be different. We'll have a new generation of consoles and game engines designed for true-3D rendering. The HDTV manufacturers will have stopped price-gouging customers as the technology has become commoditised - and possibly, we'll no longer have to wear glasses to watch the action. There'll be a decently sized media library built up.



Once all that's in place, 3D displays will make a bigger impact in the mainstream. Though by then, the industry will have probably moved onto the next big thing - 1600p 3D XHD displays with built-in IR cameras to track viewer head movements, anyone?

Glenn Sturgeon
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Great blog! I enjoyed reading it.

Its nice to see some one post a bit of positive perspective on the industry for a change.

The industry in general seems to get close to nothing but harsh flack these days.



As for my perspective im not totaly sure 3D will be a massive hit with this gens consoles but i do hope it ends up being an important step towords the next gen systems.

As with all tech it has to start somewhere & having good looking 30fps, 720P with glasses is not a bad start for this gen.imo

Matthieu Poujade
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Very nice discussion here. I will voice my main concern, because I haven't really seen it being addressed. It sums up as:



Technology-induced "WOW!" effects have a tendency to detract designers from core design, which ultimately results in poorer game experience.



Here is why: the buzz around it causes market analysts to say "the market wants it", the investors react accordingly, so studios react accordingly. Because "for each thing you focus on, you're leaving one behind", before you know it, you have a bunch of titles going to market with mediocre story, average game mechanics, no innovation in anything but "in-your-face-new-technology-of-the-decade".



I see people pointing at Avatar as the way to go. I'm sorry if that sounds elitist... but I really don't think it was a great movie at all. I had a good time watching it, yes. Did it change me? No. Did it make me better in any way? No. Have I ever seen more entertaining movies? Yes. Tons.



My apologies in advance if I sound like a cynic. I really am not. I sincerely hope 3D can bring an additional "little something" to the gaming experience. But as a gamer I want great games. Not digital jewelry.

Neil Schneider
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Hi Guys,



This is great discussion. It's good to see this out in the open.



Rafael:



I don't see this as PC versus console, and 3D cannot be exclusive to one market or the other. More likely than not, the living room 3D HDTV will be connected to a gaming console, so this is the opportunity we have to work with.



Flirting with 3D and committing to 3D are two different things. The gaming industry never had a committed display industry until now. The gaming industry never had a marketing engine (thanks to content-hungry manufacturers) to help promote their 3D titles until now. This isn't about experimenting, it's about selling product and preparing for the near future.



If most analysts predict 3-5 years, does it not take about two to three years to put out an AAA title? When premium customers buy their 3D HDTVs, which titles will appeal to them first? At what point should a game developer begin their learning curve relative to their competition?



The assumption I'm reading is that 3D games need to be programmed with the same graphics quality to work in 3D, and this isn't the case. Modern televisions have special scaling features that make the software equivalent unnecessary, several special effects are redundant in 3D mode, and even matters of resolution are less critical.



There are over 20 games slated for 3D, not including work by Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. This should give us a good sampling of what we have to work with visually.





Matthieu:



We gave Avatar an eight on ten, though we did acknowledge most of its flaws. Some of that dialogue was terrible ("I see you!")! Would you like to know which movie got our top review? Despicable Me! Out of all the 3D movies we have seen, that got the 10 on 10. Eat your heart out, Jim Cameron!



http://www.mtbs3d.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&i
d=11597&Itemid=77



What I would do for some minions of my own!





Jamie:



You raise some valid points. I don't live in Europe, so I can't appreciate the space limitations the same way. Part of the U-Decide study we are doing is to determine the likelihood of people buying an additional set in relation to a number of different factors, and 3D is just one of them. I can't reveal all just yet as we don't want to tarnish the results.



We really need as many participants as possible, so whether you are for, against, or mixed towards 3D - it doesn't matter. Every opinion is important.



Regards,

Neil

Dan Felder
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From a business perspective... 3D simply sells. It taps directly into that drive players have to want a more awesome experience - and the prohibitive cost may actually drive the elitist faction of gamers. They are the people who would take pride in knowing that they have the "ultimate" gaming rig.



From a personal perspective... I'm really very sick of all these 3D things. It draws me out of the movie and reminds me I'm watching a screen - not experiencing something real. I enjoyed Avatar vastly more in 2D than in 3D or even the 3D iMax version. The brighter colors made a tremendous difference in creating a lush, beautiful world... And the 3D aspects DID give me headaches.



... But in games, these principles are far more suited. The shoot-em-up non-emotional games won't mind at all if players remember they're playing a game. The eye-popping jolts can add viscerally to the gaming experience and simply adding a softer color palette will go a long way to minimizing those issues.



In short - 3D should do very well for games. But I doubt I'll be embracing them anytime soon.

Boto Gatas
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The comments are even more interesting than the article. Excellent discussion. Congrats to all!

Michael Dowling
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Sorry I'm a little late to the party, but I've really enjoyed the discussion/debate. One thing is clear, 3D is a hot topic and will be for sometime to come, especially given the enormous bets being made by manufacturers, distributors and content companies. Since the topic of better consumer data was raised, I thought I would answer with some data. We did a study of US consumers to look at perceptions, attitudes and experiences with 3D technologies. We presented it at the 3D Gaming Summit in April. The study found that those who have experienced 3D (whether through movies, games or television) showed relatively high satisfaction with it. However, we also found that there is a lot of confusion among consumers about 3D. In fact, 33% of respondents believed they could watch 3D visual effects on a 2D TV! The Kakaku study that claimed 30% of people answering their survey would buy a 3D TV later this year is flawed. I don't doubt that 30% made that claim, but Kakaku's study was not among a representative population, so it's misleading and is why it probably got criticized. That doesn't mean there isn't purchase interest. We found that over 4 million expressed "definite" interest in buying a 3D TV in the next 12 months. Those that weren't interested cited price and inconvenience of wearing the glasses as major impediments. In terms of price, consumers who show any positive interest in buying a 3D TV report a willingness, on average, to pay approximately a 7-10% premium. To answer those that say it isn't a matter of "if" but "when" here is some useful data. Consumers report replacing their primary television on average once every 4.5 years (48% report 6 or more years). Interestingly, of the 54% of consumers who now own a High-Definition television (HDTV), the average time since their last purchase is only 1.7 years (45% of those having only bought a HDTV set in the last 12 months!). So, unless the value proposition is extremely compelling - meaning content - the time to critical mass is likely protracted. I'm happy to share the report with anyone who is interested.

Daniel Green
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In regards to the glasses.

As 3DTV becomes more accepted and mainstream I doubt it will be long before the price of the glasses themselves come down and/ or they are just thrown I. For free whenever you buy a 3DTV/ 3Dconsole/ 3Dbluray

I'm not sure but can you use the same glasses from the cinemafor 3DTV at home? If so then why bother paying for them?


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