[This might just be me beating a dead horse, but the comments on Neil Schneider's blog spent so much time on the COST of 3D, both in dollars and processing power, and largely missed the impact of the glasses themselves on the overall gaming experience.]
The push to 'mainstream' stereoscopic 3-D displays for gaming puts me in an unusual position: a Nintendo advocate. As someone who swore that the Wii would fail and hasn't played a single Nintendo title since the N64, this is. . . odd. But before we get to the 3DS, let's focus on why auto-shutter glasses are the poison pill of 'standard' 3-D displays.
My head hurts just looking at this picture. Source.
The obvious problems
I'm not going to go off on the price issue. As someone who broke down for a 46" Samsung 2 years ago (which was a steal then for $1500), I can't complain about the fact that the same amount now nets a premium HDTV with 3-D capability built in. What I am going to complain about is the glasses.
People who don't have glasses aren't going to wear these for more than a couple hours at a time, due to eye strain (a bigger problem for some than others) but especially because of weight. Compared to regular prescription or sun-glasses, these suckers are heavy. And that weight matters after a couple hours. In other words, a feature film is O.K., but the future equivalent of a Halo 3 Double EXP weekend binges are out of the question.
For people who already have prescription glasses, this is a deal breaker. I'm not going to wear two pairs of glasses. Forget 'four eyes'--now we'd be talking 'six eyes'. Done. That's it.
The less obvious consequence
Most of the debate to date has focused on these problems. For a taste, look at this Gamasutra article (especially the comments) that inspired me to weigh (no pun intended) in. What does the glasses requirement do to the gaming experience?
First, it means that anyone walking through the room (be it my gamer wife or my curious kids) would be looking at a painful gibberish on the screen. Heck, even with glasses, my wife wouldn't be able to watch me play while working at her desk (which is in the same room) because the glasses would make looking at anything else painful. Plus, as I understand it, the 3-D effect only works across a narrow field of vision--kind of like the very early LCD displays. The lack of ability for anyone in the room not actively playing the game (and thus not wearing glasses) to share in the experience (aside from sound) is another deal-breaker.
Three Brief Reasons the 3DS Wins
- No glasses. That's an easy one, right?
- Content should be great--or at least a significant percentange will be--because 100% of the install base is 3-D capable. How many developers will put huge resources into, for instance, the PS3's 3-D when they know the return on investment will be small, because of low install bases?
- Glasses-free 3D is the show-stopper detail (as well it should be) but the 3DS is also a radically more powerful piece of hardware compared to the current model. Powerful enough to get a life-long Sony and Microsoft devotee like myself to get excited about a hand-held system--and a Nintendo one to boot.
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**This is a re-post from my column over at the Milwaukee Video Game Examiner**