3D gaming: The revolution is here

Opinion: TechRadar editor Patrick Goss reckons 2010 could be a watershed year...

There are times when it feels like 3D has been the 'next big thing' ever since Jaws leapt out of the silver screen back in 1983.

But with a deluge of 3D televisions making an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Avatar aiding James Cameron's hunt for another Oscar and a bigger wallet, and Sky promising us a dedicated 3D channel by the end of 2010, this time 3D might just have a chance.

And gaming may well be the Trojan horse that brings it to a living room near you.

You'd have had to have been hiding under a rock not to see that third dimension creeping inexorably into the gaming landscape in 2009, starting with an Nvidia showcase of Guitar Hero in Las Vegas just over a year ago.

That was a precursor to Nvidia releasing a 3D graphics card which, along with a still-pricey 3D monitor and games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, provided a fantastic showcase for exactly how cool 3D gaming can be.

By December 2009 analysts Insight Media were boldly proclaiming that 40 million 3D monitors and televisions would be in use for gaming by 2014.

Why gaming?

So why exactly are so many people with a vested interest in 3D claiming that it will be gaming, more than 3D Blu-ray or sports broadcasts, for instance, which will encourage millions of us to go out and by a 3D-enabled display - be it a telly or a monitor?

Primarily, gamers have shown that they are keen early adopters of technology. Consoles have been a massive factor in the take-up of HD-Ready televisions in the past few years, partly because you don't have to pay any kind of HD subscription.

Although you didn't need an HD television to enjoy the likes of PS3 and Xbox 360, it became a powerful reason to upgrade so that you could see the quality that your humble games console was capable of creating.

Gamers, it is fair to say, see a new peripheral or feature as a cool addition that makes their experience more fun rather than an expensive addition. You could even suggest that innovation drives gamers to new purchases in a way that traditional media is still struggling to manage.

Of peripheral importance

That ties in with the second reason that gamers will find their way to 3D first, namely the acceptance of peripherals.

The average person when confronted by an oversized pair of 3D glasses gets a little sneery about needing, not only a special television and special source of content, but also something to see it with.

But gamers often have a different reaction because they are used to peripherals. The 30 and 40 year-old-gamers fondly remember the joysticks and Duck Hunt guns of old; the younger ones have calluses the consistency of concrete from all that Guitar Hero and Wii playing.

Let's put this in context, it's unlikely that gamers will go out and buy a 3D display for the third dimension's sake, but if they have 10 games that are also 3D capable and that new TV or monitor has a 3D-Ready label, then they might well be prepared to pay the extra needed.

As prices come down, as availability of 3D gaming goes up, the entire technology certainly becomes more tenable.

The PS3 is already in line for a 3D firmware upgrade in 2010, and it seems that some publishers have got 3D games running on an Xbox 360 as well. Plus, the PC is traditionally always an early adopter of the latest tech so you can expect more and more titles on several platforms that take advantage of a little extra depth.

Is 2010 the year for 3D to take hold? Perhaps not entirely, but you may see the green shoots of a whole new dimension coming to a game near you in the coming months.

Patrick Goss is editor of CVG's rather wonderful sister site, TechRadar. We heartily recommend you go check it out.