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3D Gaming is an Industry, Not a Product…Treat it That Way.

By June 30, 2009Editorial

By Neil Schneider

I’d like to share some developments which have left me feeling a bit troubled. For two years, MTBS has been working to draw attention to stereoscopic 3D gaming. For two years, we have spoken at just about ever conference, we have built an active and growing community, and we have worked hard to promote the benefits of stereoscopic 3D gaming to consumers and industry alike.

How does the industry respond to this? Instead of working to make S-3D gaming successful as a platform, fifth best has suddenly become acceptable. Instead of working to promote and develop quality S-3D that both industry and consumers can enjoy, developers are choosing to jump on the gaming bandwagon for the hype, and are falsely declaring first dibs with pseudo-3D products. Worst yet, some game developers who are after the quality product, are putting themselves on the chopping block because they are treating S-3D as a gaming product, and not a gaming industry. There is nothing to be gained by these mindsets for anyone.

Let me share some working examples. While the media regularly associates S-3D with cheesy red/blue anaglyph glasses, only 8% of 2D respondents in the U-DECIDE Report raised anaglyph as a leading concern for stereoscopic 3D gaming. According to 49% of the sample, the leading deterrent to stereoscopic 3D is expense. This is very good news because it means the biggest hurdle we need to overcome is price, rather than technology.

How does the market respond to this? G-Force and Toy Story 3 are much anticipated 3D films coming to market from Disney. What better way to help spread the word than release S-3D games in anaglyph? NOT. While many think anaglyph is an opportunity to up-sell to a modern stereoscopic 3D solution, this is only true if anaglyph isn’t treated as the final option.

I think the filmmakers would be horrified if Disney’s distribution team chased the quick buck with their top movies, and forced anaglyph in all the movie theaters around the world. How does it make sense to have high quality expectations in a relatively dwarfed market like cinema, and low requirements for the titanic and much more profitable gaming industry? Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animation, said 3D in the home would be lead by gamers. I think it is critical for our industry to treat gamers as quality hungry consumers, because they are far more sophisticated than they are given credit for.

I know what industry readers are going to say: “Neil! We need standards!”

This is what I say: “You need to stop futzing around with 2D thinking in 3D cinema, and start thinking like a game developer.”

Blitz Games Studios, who arguably is the first developer to release a stereoscopic 3D game on console, has diligently worked to earn their place. They reached out to all the display manufacturers, they tested and customized their game to look its best on several solutions, and they implemented native support in their BlitzTech game engine. If standards didn’t get in the way of Blitz releasing a visually attractive S-3D game, why should a behemoth like Disney be dependent on something as distant as standards to put out quality products? Where would Walt Disney be had he waited for amusement park “standards” before moving on his dream? Equally deceased, yes, but completely forgotten as well.

I also don’t buy into the “everything to push 3D forward is good” theory. This is the same as saying “it’s ok to cook the worst food possible because it will help our restaurant succeed!”

If the means are there, and they are, either put out a gaming product we can all be proud of, or don’t do it at all.

The second problem is companies who are on the right track, but seem to want to bend it with all their might to fly off the bridge, rather than across it. Capcom Games is a working example of this.

Resident Evil 5 is a highly anticipated game expected out in July of this year. However, they have been putting out press releases that they are only compatible with NVIDIA’s GeForce 3D Vision. First, this just isn’t true. To my knowledge, there is no such thing as native S-3D support via NVIDIA. They may have a software bridge to add a 3D interface of some kind, but all the work is still being done by the driver. In fact, whatever enhancements or optimizations they are doing to the game will equally benefit the additional driver developers.

For consumers, NVIDIA, iZ3D, and DDD, this is all good! Everyone is excited that Capcom is taking measures to make a leading title S-3D compatible. However, this begs the question: with seemingly everyone standing to benefit from Capcom’s hard work on Resident Evil 5, why is it necessary for this pioneering game developer to voluntarily slash their sales? It’s like Microsoft announcing their OS will only work on Dell, when it is really designed to run on everything.

What’s the moral of the story?

First, treat gaming the same way you would cinema. If you are serious about 3D and want to be known for putting out quality products, don’t release anaglyph only games so you can claim to be the first at something (you aren’t, by the way). S-3D gaming and cinema are finally crawling out of that red/blue 3D gimmick stigma. There is no need to reinvigorate it with marketing ploys and knee jerk game development.

Second, from the beginning, no matter who has sponsored our work, MTBS has always recognized multiple S-3D gaming solutions. I have spoken with top game developers who have entire labs devoted to making sure their title works on countless hardware solutions and configurations. It is completely unnatural and unprofitable to design games around any one solution – especially one as increasingly diverse as stereoscopic 3D gaming. To do otherwise is a poor business move for everyone.

In summary, stereoscopic 3D gaming is an industry, not a product…treat it that way.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in our discussion forums!

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