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5 Reasons 3D Display is Doomed

Why 3D display technology will not save the game industry.

Does 3D display really have a chance to revitalize the game industry (or, at least, sales of traditional console titles)?

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 think it's doomed to be a mere blip in the sales charts, and here's 5 reasons why:

  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?

    We don't even have complete penetration of HDTV yet, and asking for a major upgrade when the economy is still recovering seems a bit much. Then there are the 3D glasses, which are $150 to $199 a pair right now. Yes, those prices will drop, but it's not going to happen until numbers get very much higher... which may not ever happen.
  2. It's Nauseating. Some games with fast motion, like Wipeout, can induce motion sickiness in susceptible people even without 3D. A 3D display exacerbates the problem; some estimates have 15% of the population affected. Headaches, dizziness, nausea... not exactly the effects you want your game to induce. Samsung even warns users on its web site about 3D. (See some other articles here and here.)

    Now, this effect may get less over time as developers learn how to properly use 3D, and perhaps Nintendo's 3D slider might help if it gets used on other hardware (though the very fact they felt it necessary to include it should tell you something).
  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).

    Some developers have looked at the 3DS and said that they may just want to use the higher resolution and frame rate and not even implement the 3D effect. Many hardcore gamers are annoyed at low frame rates, especially with FPS play. Will they really opt for 3D and watch their framerate get halved?
  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?
  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 movie had lower audiences.

    Critics have complained about the process and the higher prices, and it looks like the fad is fading. This does not portend well for 3D display in gaming, especially since the 3D movies were supposed to help drive adoption of the 3D TVs necessary for 3D gaming.

These problems could, I suppose, be overcome, but it's hard to see how 3D gaming will be the Next Big Thing.

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