A few weeks ago, a press release was put out discussing a stereoscopic 3D (S-3D) collaboration between EA and Samsung, but limited detail was available. Today we are joined by Byun Ji Hwan, Publishing Manager for Electronic Arts Korea, and Kevin Lee (Lee Kyung Sik), Vice President of the Visual Display Division for Samsung. They are here to set the record straight.
EDIT: For those unfamiliar, PDP refers to Plasma Display Panel, and in this case, Samsung’s new series of 3D HDTVs. Stereoscopic 3D refers to the same idea used in Hollywood 3D cinema. Examples include Beowulf 3D, Hannah Montana, U23D, etc. What is being discussed here is how stereoscopic 3D is and will be used in home video games. Go to mtbs3D.com to learn more.
Mark this date on your calendars, because you will never think of the stereoscopic 3D gaming industry the same way again after this interview (except me, of course!):
1. Your press release describes a partnership between Samsung and EA. What are your respective roles in this partnership and what are you trying to achieve?
Byun: You’re right. EA and Samsung agreed to create a new marketplace through our strategic collaboration. Samsung has integrated 3D technology to the newly launched PDP. Through this collaboration, Samsung will provide a variety of offerings to consumers and Electronic Arts will provide the most splendid games and premium products to present on the Samsung PDP.
Our goal is to offer new possibilities to gamers who are our consumers. This marketplace is just starting. Therefore EA and Samsung are aiming to expand the market size and provide customers with new content.
2. Why is this initiative taking off in Korea first and not the US? What makes Korea the perfect breeding ground?
Kevin: Generally, Samsung launches new models in Korea first because of the keen competition – and Korea has existing strong Infrastructure and a large consumer base who adopt new features very fast. Korean consumers are very progressive in terms of new technology and they provide a lot of valuable feedback. It prepares Samsung for launching the products in other marketplaces.
3. What made Samsung an appropriate partner? What did they have that made this relationship attractive?
Byun: Samsung is one of the top players in the TV market and EA is also the leader in the game industry. When we learned about Samsung’s cutting edge integrated technology, EA was confident that these two companies could work synergistically in Korea in this area. Of course, this would not have been possible without the tremendous support from Samsung.
4. Electronic Arts already has success beyond measure; what motivated you to plunge into stereoscopic 3D? What made this a critical business decision worth taking?
Byun: EA as the leader in this space constantly seeks to create enhanced consumer experiences for our gamers. Hence we recognize that the convergence and integration is necessary to continue to be at the forefront in the interactive digital entertainment industry.
5. For our industry to succeed, gamers need to want stereoscopic 3D in their home. What kind of gamer do you think this technology appeals to and why?
Byun: First of all, core gamers expect the best in gaming experience. Stereoscopic 3D extends this experience further to appeal to their families and friends, and this provides entertainment to not only core gamers but also to casual gamers. EA and Samsung intend to create cross demand of the game and PDP products.
6. Your announcement has been very much focused on Samsung’s new 3D PDP HDTVs. In addition to the software side, I understand EA had a role in making sure the television met certain specifications or criteria. Can you elaborate on what was important to you in Samsung’s 3D HDTV solution?
Byun: EA reviewed Samsung’s 3D PDP specs and are pleased by its feasibility to best present EA’s first rate content. EA will also work with Samsung going forward in providing technical input for their 3D TV and helping to expand the 3D market.
7. Your press release claims the Samsung 3D PDP HDTV has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. Is this correct or is this a typo? What is the correct specification?
Kevin: This is implemented through Samsung’s own unique technology, “Cell-light control”. Using Cell-light control, we can measure black color as 0 through digital signal. In addition, professional reviewers verified this fact along with the picture quality of Samsung’s PDP TV.
8. Your release describes starting off with demonstrations of your games with proper S-3D effects being included with the Samsung HDTVs. What titles do you plan on including demonstrations of?
Byun: Need For Speed ProStreet, Crysis, The Sims 2, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 and Madden NFL 08 are the titles that we have collaborated with from the beginning, and more content will be provided through the upcoming title lineup from EA.
The vast landscape graphics, the details of each race car, and the special effects, as well as the perception of space for Need For Speed ProStreet is presented in glorious sophistication on Samsung’s 3D TVs.
You can also look forward to new 2008 EA titles with Samsung’s 3D PDP TV.
9. This development that you are doing – is it native stereoscopic 3D support from the game engine itself, or is it in conjunction with a stereoscopic 3D driver developer like DDD, NVIDIA, or iZ3D? Can you elaborate?
Kevin: DDD is the closest partner that has been collaborating with us to implement technology with us for many years now. Also, we are currently under deliberation for a 3-D stereo property solution with NVIDIA. Samsung will expand 3-D partnerships with 3-D technology companies and content providers but we haven’t worked together with iZ3D yet.
10. Our members are huge fans of your work. Many are addicted to Battlefield 2, Team Fortress 2, and Crysis just to name a few. What titles will be available in a stereoscopic 3D format? Will current or past titles be upgradeable to official S-3D status?
Byun: I’m pleased to hear that you are a fan of our games! Battlefield series and Crysis are already verified as 3D PDP content. Currently all titles of EA’s recent titles are technically compatible with the 3D PDP chipset. More of EA’s upcoming lineup will be promoted with most of Samsung’s new TV products.
11. To date, nearly 100% of the games in the stereoscopic 3D market have been PC based. Is Electronic Arts actively developing new S-3D titles for the PC market, the console market, or both? If you are developing for consoles, which models?
Byun: Yes, the current implementation is for PC games. Early discussion is underway for console products, which is hugely dependent on the demand from the console market.
12. While Samsung is one of the stereoscopic 3D HDTV manufacturers, there are similar offerings by Mitsubishi and soon to be released units from Spectron IQ. Will your games work equally well on those 3D HDTV solutions?
Byun: We work very closely with Samsung to ensure that the sophistication of EA’s products are best presented on Samsung’s 3D HDTV.
13. In the stereoscopic 3D industry, the PC market has proven critical because they are the early adopters and are the ones spreading the word about S-3D. With 3D HDTV best suited for the living room, are you also exploring additional PC desktop monitor solutions like iZ3D and Zalman 3D monitors?
Byun: You are right about that. Once the word is spread through early adopters such as gamers, we expect the buzz will continue to reach out to the masses. However, there are no plans on our end with regards to PC desktop monitor solutions yet.
14. I am personally very excited about your work because you obviously get it. You understand how exciting this technology is and how limitless the potential is. How would you respond to a game developer who says “the S-3D market is too niche market for us and we will only get involved when there are millions of units in peoples’ homes?”
Kevin: I understand the market is not verified yet. However, the PC game title is made available through this collaboration with EA providing the content. Many developers are also keen in the console segment. Most game development companies release 3D PC/Console game titles and they are developing great 3D graphics to make users feel the authenticity.
If users play 3D game titles with 3D HDTV, they can certainly feel its realism. It is built for a great experience to the game users. In addition, the 3D movie market is expanding rapidly. For example, Hollywood movie studios are riding on the success with 3D movies like “Meet the Robinsons”, “Beowulf”, and “Hannah Montana”. They also have plans to release 3D BD/DVD titles through standardization of the 3D format. So I expect the 3D market will ultimately have mass market appeal in the near future.
15. I think video games are as much about story telling as they are about fun. How has stereoscopic 3D impacted EA’s ability to tell stories? What does S-3D offer that traditional 2D game-play can’t achieve?
Byun: From our point of view, if gamers enjoy the gaming experience in 2D, we can just imagine how much their experience will be heightened in 3D. The potential is immense.
16. What is your favorite EA game in stereoscopic 3D and why?
Byun: I like Need For Speed ProStreet and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 because the details and spatial perceptions of these games are optimally authenticated in stereoscopic 3D.
17. If readers could walk away with one message from this interview, what would it be?
Byun: Content is King.
Thanks for the heads up, Electronic Arts & Samsung! Looks like this is a promising start to the mass market industry we are all working for. I am told that they would be happy to make a second appearance if the demand is there. Post your thoughts and questions HERE, and we can set up a follow-up interview.