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July 13, 2010 / Joe Osborne

Coffee Talk: You’re Such a Tease!

The first annual 3D Gaming Summit went down just last week. There is a convention for just about everything these days, even this. Joystiq’s Mike Schramm hosted a panel discussing the global 3D landscape, which “quickly spun off into a debate about whether 3D is really what we need as gamers.”

With Sony jumping the gun on 3D gaming tech (so much so that games can’t keep up with them), what makes the industry’s movers and shakers so sure that this is the next vista for gaming? More on this and a potentially practical application of 3D behind the cut.

Nvidia’s first stereoscopic 3D gaming offering costs more than an Xbox 360 Arcade

To explain why the industry wants to move into 3D gaming so badly — even before a majority of consumers are ready — is pretty simple (albeit long winded). Large corporations like Sony and Nvidia simply need to constantly create new products and technologies to open up new channels of revenue. Reiterating on the same technology or product over and over again becomes bad for profit when market penetration for one product plateaus.

In other words, you can only add or tweak so many features to an existing product or technology before it becomes stale, which then stagnates profits. Why do you think a new cell phone comes out every month, each with an increasingly better camera or processor (said upgrades are usually marginal at best)? Because if they didn’t, the corporations who develop these cell phones would be at a standstill on how to generate additional revenue. This is the exact problem the iPod has run into, especially considering the Touch generation, for all intents and purposes, has dropped the proverbial piano on it.

We are people of the future. We bring peace… and the third dimension!

Now, let’s take this same idea into the realm of gaming. We really can’t go much higher in terms of visual quality when it comes to gaming (lest we venture deeper into the uncanny valley). Not to mention I cannot possibly imagine that video quality clearer than 1080p will grace our televisions before the next generation of consoles begins. Console providers are pretty much scrambling to find new sources of revenue without entering the next generation because there isn’t much justification for it at the moment (at the very least they’re talking about it).

Considering that the core motive behind the past 20 years of consecutive console generations has been higher visual quality, this essentially kills any reason to attempt to move forward. Besides, if I see one of these again, I’ll stage a coup (somewhere). Which also explains to move to motion controls from all three major console providers.

Now that we have a pretty good idea as to why console providers might be looking at 3D, let’s ask that question again:

Why?

Sony entering the 3D gaming industry so hastily could potentially rank up there with Nintendo’s first venture into 3D. Why, you ask? The Sony Move hasn’t even released yet, that’s why.

Join us!

And that leads us to the meat of this week’s Coffee Talk (it was a slow burn): why even think about 3D gaming when not one of the world’s leading console providers has mastered motion control? Playing games in 3D without being able to at least feel like you’re participating directly in the experience is nothing more than a tease. It’s only logical that we master feeling like we’re in the game world before making the visual leap.

The number one disconnect between the player and the game world is that pesky piece of plastic. Why should we continue the pointless game of “How Long Can You Suspend Your Disbelief?!” in the 3D landscape when it’s obvious that the controller is the thing that is first and foremost keeping us from full immersion (if that’s even the point, anyway)?

The first thing I would want to do when confronted with a full 3D game is to walk around and touch things, not remotely move my character via buttons and joysticks like I have been for the past 15 years. Which raises another point. After seeing some off-screen photos of 3D tech demos of games like Assassin’s Creed 2 in 3D, I can’t help but wonder why the hell would we want to play a game in the third person if it were in three dimensions. Silly me thought the point of 3D was to remove the middle man (note: stop thinking so damned much).

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