Videogame Publishers Push 3D for Home

Videogame publishers are launching their first high-profile stereoscopic 3D titles, Resident Evil and Avatar, even though few consumers own the equipment to enjoy such advanced eye-popping effects at home.

About 2% to 3% of U.S. households own a 3D-enabled TV, which is required to enjoy the same 3D technology used in theatrical movies. Many DVD studios have been forced to downgrade big-screen stereoscopic 3D projects to lesser-quality anaglyph imagery to fit the majority of consumers’ TV display equipment. Paramount Home Entertainment is not releasing DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D on DVD or Blu-ray Disc because it would be inferior to the theatrical version.

However, publishers think gamers are uniquely primed to adopt advanced 3D for their homes sooner rather than later, especially due to the increasing prevalence of 3D-capable PC display screens. For that reason, Capcom is introducing Resident Evil stereoscopic 3D solely for PCs this fall. Manufacturers began launching such displays, with necessary 120HZ refresh rates, in a big way starting this year.

“This is the first major PC release developed with 3D in mind,” said Chris Kramer, Capcom senior director of communications. “There are more 120HZ computer screens out there than 3D-enabled TVs.”

To play Resident Evil in 3D, viewers need this type of high-speed display plus the Nvidia 3D Vision software kit. People will be able to buy Resident Evil, with both 2D and 3D playback options, on disc or as a download.

Nvidia 3D software has enabled advanced 3D gaming on a number of PC titles, but Capcom insists that Resident Evil represents a major step up in stereoscopic technology.

“This is one of the first games to really support out-of-screen experiences throughout, where arms, hands, everything, literally jumps out,” said Kramer.

Ubisoft is so confident that advanced 3D at home is the future, it will debut a stereoscopic Avatar for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, which are connected to TVs, later this year. This version also can be played in 2D on the consoles. The Avatar game, likely hitting a few weeks before James Cameron’s film of the same name bows in theaters on Dec. 18, also will be available on advanced 3D for PCs.

“We need to prove to everyone that it’s possible to do a great 3D game right now,” said Patrick Naud, Ubisoft executive producer. “People expect 3D to be those basic red and blue [anaglyph] glasses. We want to take that risk and go all in to break that perception.”

Like Capcom, Ubisoft sees benefits in cornering the stereoscopic 3D game business early. Ubisoft has no formal plans to develop additional advanced 3D console games after Avatar, but will be using the title to gauge consumer interest in the technology.

“We want to build technology capital with Avatar,” said Naud. “We’ll be the first ones to have [stereoscopic] 3D for consoles. And if 3D is the next big thing, then we will be a few years ahead of everyone.”

Disney Interactive also is throwing its support behind 3D, albeit with baby steps, by launching the company’s first anaglyph titles with G-Force and Toy Story Mania. Both G-Force (due July 21 for PS3 and Xbox 360 in 3D) and Toy Story Mania (coming Sept. 15 exclusively for the Wii) will contain glasses that can access 3D effects with any current TV display. Titles also will include a 2D playback option.

The publisher recognizes the resulting imagery is not up to theatrical, stereoscopic standards. But Disney Interactive similarly wants to bow its first 3D game titles at the same time that consumers are viewing 3D content on the big screen.

Walt Disney will bow the 3D G-Force feature film on July 24. The studio is expected to launch 3D versions of the two Toy Story theatricals in October.

“We’re obviously very aware of what’s going on in the theaters,” said Brian Leake, VP of technology at Disney Interactive. “It’s early days for that display technology in homes today. But if you want to reach the mass market consumer today, the easiest way to experience it straight out of the box is through anaglyph technology.”

By Susanne Ault, Video Business