Historically, video game manufacturers have had it easy: roll out a snazzy new box every few years with more processing power and better graphics. But innovation was mainly limited to how many more sprites or polygons could be rendered on a single 2D screen at one time. Despite trends that are a comfortable blanket of predictability, the video game market is about to change in some radically new directions, from augmented reality to stereoscopic displays to motion control. But are gamers really ready for the transition to 3D displays? Is it a technology that we actually want?
Remember that this isn't the first time that manufacturers have experimented with 3D displays in gaming. Despite being widely ridiculed by the public, Nintendo's Virtual Boy showed that 3D depth was a viable way to push gaming in new directions, way back in 1995. Of course, the eye-strain and headaches caused by staring at red LEDs for any prolonged period of time didn't help the machine's fortunes.
Mario's Tennis was one of the very first home consumer stereoscopic games.
With the potential of 3D stereoscopic gaming to birth gold or smelly piles, developers are exploring this new direction with carefully calculated moves. The market for 3D is very fragile in its current state of flexing withered biceps on the "Kermit and Friends" digital masterpiece at Disney World. Always associated with holographic cereal box cards and childish picture shows, 3D needs to hit a major growth spurt before the public will accept the change as a fundamentally strong platform addition. What are the things that 3D will need to have before anyone will take it seriously?
First of all, throw out the glasses please! Having to wear glasses in order to view 3D images actually serves to remove one from the interactivity that the experience should offer. Game developers work tirelessly to offer the best play possible and it's almost certain the cumbersome face gear would be an unwelcome obstruction. Who would want to keep up with gear that's as awkward as a Burt Reynolds mustache anyway? Next, keep the games we expect to have as 2D with the option of 3D. There is nothing as potentially disappointing as a 3D only Final Fantasy or any other notoriously popular title. Finally, rather than an all or nothing move, it would be wise to straddle the line between a successful business model and a soon to be tried market experiment.
Jumping completely on the bandwagon for 3D will be a sure fire shot in the foot. 3D is just another strata on top of the layers of consumer possibilities, but doesn't quite yet have the maturity and diversity to stir the soil into a newer and healthier creation. If successful however, it could be a nudge in a completely new direction for gaming. Either that or adaptations of the technology could be inspired, similar to NASA and their memory foam that's now an overpriced slab shaped bed for folks susceptible to the effects of placebo. In any event it will be exciting to see what 3D morphs into during its development through more sophisticated iterations. Anyone that doesn't think so can go find a cooler dimension to fall into.