GDC Online: 5-Point Takeaway: Experts Debate: Stereoscopic 3D Gaming Here To Stay?

Andrew Oliver of Blitz Games led a round-table that was much less the titled debate as it was an apologist session for supporters of 3D. Probably to be expected as each of the panelists — Andrew Fear of NVIDIA, David Coombes of SCEA, Keith Leonard of Schell Games, and Neil Schnider of The S-3D Gaming Alliance — have a vested interest in the technology succeeding. The panel did however spend time addressing some of the biggest issues facing the goal of keeping 3D from being just considered once again just another passing fad.

1. The largest common thread throughout the panel’s session was the assertion that the proponents of stereoscopic 3D technology feel the public are misinformed about it. The panel spent time refuting a study citing the drop-off in percentages of people attending 3D movies since Avatar as unfair for not taking into account factors such as theatre space, issues with glasses fitting people, the problems with taking children to 3D movies. That and it probably is a little unreasonable to compare the likes of Piranha 3D to the highest grossing movie of all-time.

2. Despite speculation the Nintendo 3DS might be to the detriment of S-3D using glasses, the panel felt the 3DS can only help. Fear says quality 3D in any space help in it other spaces. He said once consumers see it in the 3DS, they’ll be asking why don’t they have it on their phone, TV and other places. Schneider likes what he sees in the 3DS, but feels the press praises it for the wrong reasons. He claims where the 3DS will do best for the technology is be its viral nature. It, along with phones enabled with the technology, will be the tip of the iceberg of it’s spread Schneider predicted.

3. Issues with the glasses seem to be an issue for developers and consumers alike. Coombs spoke from his position as an engineer of people in his shoes not being happy with so many technologies being used for them. Fear recalled his wife’s confusion of why the glasses she used to watch Clash of the Titans in the theatre were different than the ones being used to work with NVIDIA’s technology. Schneider pointed to the unlikely collaborative effort the film industry used to get behind Blu-Ray as a model that could help video game S-3D moving forward. He said the proprietary nature of the video game industry creates consumer confusion that hurts the technology.

4. Quality content, next to educating the public, may be the greatest tool to fight consumer reluctance to embrace the S-3D technology. That being the biggest challenge Fear said was an understatement. People feeling burned by gimmicky and low-quality 3D creates a reluctance experience with quality content in Shell’s playtesting seemed to erase Leonard said. Fear acknowledged that there will be always be gimmicky games and movies, but designers should follow James Cameron’s advice on treating S-3D as a tool like one would use color. This he feels would improve the quality of what we see.

5. Schneider, easily the most expressively passionate proponent of S-3D of the group, refuted the notion of adopting 3D technology as a risk countering that non-adopters are taking the business risk. Citing the early adopter nature of gamers in general, he feels the gamers are willing to pay a premium for the technology as a market that values immersion as part of their experience in a game.

My Takeaway: I walked away still with lingering doubts. Not that I don’t think S-3D can survive. It can and there is a market for it. But I came away from the non-debate feeling a little oversold. Eventually, the technology has to reach an audience massive enough for the price across the board of using and experiencing the tech to drop. And while many technology enthusiasts are willing to jump on board almost any hot new technology, I wonder how many and quickly will those people come running with their wallets to embrace it with enthusiasm. With proper quality and education, the tech does have a brighter future than the 3D of decades ago. At this point, it still feels like investing much for a niche within a niche.

Author: Gerren Fisher