Sony’s PS3 Can Play 3-D – All You Need Is a $3-5K TV to Go With It

It’s a 3-D world, at least according to Hollywood. All the new kids’ movies are doing it: the last in the “Shrek” series, “Alice in Wonderland” — you name it, you need glasses to watch it. And in the world of video gaming, 3-D is something of a Holy Grail. Gamers have been waiting for the rich, immersive experience promised by the third dimension for a very long time.

Now, Sony has made the first of what is likely to be many announcements of three-dimensional gaming on both living room and portable consoles. The PS3 will support 3-D games just as soon as …

It’s a minor hitch, really. The PS3 will indeed support 3-D games, but only if the gamer also is equipped with a 3-D TV. While these cutting-edge sets are trickling into retail outlets, few have made their way into consumers’ living rooms.

The PS3 firmware update was actually available in April, according to Sony, but the company has yet to ship its own high-end 3-D television sets. The Bravia HDTVs are available now for pre-sale, and they’ll appear at retailers later this month.

When they do, though, gamers will already have a variety of 3-D games from which to choose — including “WipEOut HD” and “Super Stardust HD” — with many more in the chute.

Sticker Shock

Sony’s announcement is the first of many, Barry Gilbert, analyst with Strategy Analytics, told TechNewsWorld.

“We’re going to be seeing a lot of these announcements next week from the E3 gaming show in L.A.,” he predicted. “Some of them will be directional, but some will have product.”

Although Sony’s Bravia line will be pricey, starting at a couple of thousand and topping out at about US$5,000, 3-D will go mainstream in the next few years, Gilbert stressed. When it does, the major market players must be there.

“It will drop in price over time,” he said, “but going out the gate, it’s clearly going at a premium.”

Generation Jump

It’s a premium that the general population won’t be willing to pay, according to Greg Sterling, founder and principal of Sterling Market Intelligence.

“The appeal of 3-D TV has to be broader to justify the cost,” Sterling told TechNewsworld. “A lot of people haven’t even upgraded to the HD flat panels.”

Perhaps those who haven’t will go directly to the next generation of HDTVs, which will include 3-D, but that’s a wait-and-see proposition.

There is one segment of the population likely to purchase the new TVs and thus utilize the PS3’s firmware upgrade — affluent adult males.

A fitting analogy to this market would be the Blu-ray launch, offered Sterling. Companies made the assumption that consumers would rush to replace their older-generation DVD players with Blu-ray players, but that just didn’t happen.

“At a certain point, you hit resistance — when the product is very expensive, in the general scheme of things,” he posited. In the case of Blu-ray, and now in the case of 3-D, “the case hasn’t been made convincingly yet to the public that they need to upgrade. This will be very much a novelty.”

Developers on Board

While the rest of the world catches up, the game developer community is flocking to 3-D, according to Strategy Analytics’ Gilbert.

“3-D is capturing tremendous interest and momentum among developers,” he observed, noting that Nintendo previously announced intentions to develop 3-D content for its portable gaming devices.

The key, though, is that 3-D will be attached to the content, not the platform, stressed Gilbert.

“This is trade-off in terms of experience,” he said of the price versus feature balance. “The market will wait to see if the games are as engaging and captivating as everyone anticipates. Then, the question is, will the gamer pay?”

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