The current success of 3D in movies, games, even television is really only due to one man. With James Cameron’s Avatar giving a brand new definition to the term ‘blockbuster,’ the 3D technology used to deliver the film ushered in a new age of technology for customers and manufacturers alike. While television makers may be trying to convince consumers to embrace the power of 3D in their own living rooms, Cameron has recently spoken out on the subject, voicing his own opinion that the future of the technology doesn’t lie with electronics companies. According to the filmmaker, the future of 3D will depend a great deal on the next few years of video game development.
Before you get too excited for a sequel to Avatar: The Game, we should elaborate. 3D is nothing new to the movie business, with the basic technology having been used for decades, but with Avatar came the realization that the technology could be more than a gimmick, an in the right hands could even add to a visual experience. Even if Avatar‘s tie-in video game didn’t meet the same levels of success, the bar had been set at a new height.
Once the games industry caught wind of the improved potential for immersion – and most likely, the increased revenues – possible through 3D integration, there was no going back. Major titles like Killzone 3 have given a taste of the onslaught of 3D promotion that’s on its way, but there is no denying that the release of the Nintendo 3DS managed to make the biggest splash in the field since Cameron’s Oscar-nominated epic.
While some might expect the director of Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgement Day to embrace 3D in gaming based on the types of adrenaline-fueled gameplay that might come as a result, but that’s not the case. While speaking this week at the NABSHOW tech conference in Las Vegas, Cameron explained that the glasses-free technology displayed by the 3DS will have a far larger impact on the 3D market than we may think:
“Videogames are going to help propel the autostereoscopic (glasses free) play because that’s going to be the entry level for most people,” said Cameron. “These single-viewing devices that are engaging the person to play these video games will drive a lot of investment in autostereoscopic displays for that very reason. That technology will trickle up to the larger 3D displays that will be used for home viewing and gaming.
“Videogames are going to be the drivers, but they haven’t done so today because the cycle creation has lagged behind…”The consumer electronics companies introduced these screens last year, so we’re a year into this and it takes 18 months to two years to author a high quality video game. So you’re going to see a stampede of video games and then that, in turn, is just going to catalyze more broad scale adoption in the home of these big 3D screens.”
It’s always nice to hear a respected filmmaker lend more than a passing reference to the video game industry, and while some may have seen 3D gaming as just as promising as 3D films, Cameron’s words do come as a bit of a shock. Any chance that the excitement over 3D would die down in Hollywood has come and gone, but is it possible that consumers will really be more likely to bring 3D into their homes for gaming over movies?
Standard stereoscopic 3D is still an expensive proposition, even if the gaming community is more than used to dishing out hundreds of dollars regularly for the newest level of console technology. Movie theater glasses are inexpensive enough, considering that most viewers will be sitting in one spot for a few hours at most. But to bring that same tech into your own house is just as problematic as it is costly, and our biggest objection to 3D gaming.
Cameron sees the differences between home viewing and theaters as a chance to tailor the technology better for both, and while the challenge is a daunting one, it’s far from impossible:
“One of the big barriers to 3D right now is that you have to wear glasses in the home,” said Cameron. “Home viewing is very different than movie theater viewing. I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of the glasses in movie theaters. Not in my lifetime, anyway, but we’re going to get rid of them at home because it’s a different viewing model type. You’re distracted at home. You’re doing other things. You’re pausing a game or a movie and going to get pizza or whatever it is. It’s not the same very-dedicated sort of consciousness that you have in a movie theater, so getting rid of the glasses will be a big deal.”
The argument is a simple one, with the single largest barrier to entry for home 3D being price. 3D television sets and glasses aren’t looking to come down in price any time soon, but Nintendo proved that you don’t need anything on your face to enjoy the optical illusion. So who knows how fast that particular technology could advance in coming years?
But are compelling video games all it will take to convince the public that 3D is more than just a fad? Only time will tell if Nintendo‘s innovation will reshape the industry, and if Cameron’s expertise on 3D extends to video games as well.
What do you think about the future of 3D gaming? Will it always remain optional, or are we only a few decades away from living room holo-decks? Let us know in the comments.