Editorial: 3D Is Another Dead-End For Sony

by Matthew Kato on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:48 PM


At the E3 industry convention in 2010, Sony signaled its unwavering commitment to 3D for the PS3 system. A year later at the expo, the company declared that the console had over 100 games featuring 3D. It was therefore conspicuous at E3 2012 when Sony made no mention of 3D at all.

"3D was the new thing two years ago, it's not the new thing anymore – it's just part of the bedrock of content development and publishing." Sony Computer Entertainment Europe CEO, Jim Ryan, told CVG after E3 in June. While Ryan may be correct that 3D is now considered just another checkbox on the back of the box, the fact that it's so quietly moved into the background can be construed as a quiet death for a feature that even Sony would have to agree has yet to transform the gaming landscape as it likely hoped.

While 3D TVs are selling more than ever (NPD estimates that 3D TVs accounted for 11 percent of flat-panel TVs sold in the U.S., twice that of last year), NPD also found that among the consumers it surveyed, 3D is not a feature that drives purchases. Moreover, there are still the impediments of wearing the 3D glasses and having enough compelling 3D content.

Games certainly fall in the category of compelling content, but judging by Sony's own PlayStation.com game listings, the number of third-party titles supporting 3D is dwindling. The site's list of future third-party games supporting 3D only contains Assassin's Creed III, BioShock: Infinite, Crysis 3, and Epic Mickey: The Power of Two. This is a much smaller roster of 3D titles than in previous years. I also find it telling that series that have included 3D in the past, such as Madden and NBA 2K, will not be doing so in upcoming installments.

For its part, Sony is forging ahead with 3D support in first-party titles like God of War: Ascension, The Last Guardian, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. It won't be in The Last of Us or Beyond: Two Souls, so at least Sony is not mandating its usage. However, this just underscores how unnecessary 3D is for developers. We've seen time and time again when it comes to secondary functionality – whether it be 3D, SixAxis movement, Move support, dual-screen gaming, or Kinect functionality – developers don't spent a lot of time and resources on periphery features.

Gaming has yet to deliver an Avatar experience where 3D is one of the main driving factors behind its success. Even though blockbuster titles like Uncharted 3 and Batman: Arkham City featured 3D, the functionality had nothing to do with those games being hits.

It's probably not skin off a lot of gamers' teeth that 3D hasn't been fruitful for Sony and the PlayStation 3, but in a time when there often isn't a lot that separates one console from another (and with the next-generation of systems looming), the company can ill-afford to waste time with roads to nowhere.