Should Sony Consider 3D Game SKUs Or Do We All Just Suffer the Consequences?

By Joel Taveras

March 21, 2011

This certainly isn’t a new idea, more of a thought that’s been lingering in my mind since the announcement of Sony’s support of 3D on the PlayStation 3. You see, Sony fanboys unleashed what sounded like an organized internet “squee” when word spread of a 3D update coming to their console of choice last summer…using it as another bullet point of ammunition to fire back at their Xbot counterparts. While all this joyous celebration was going on no one took the time to understand how 3D can actually affect some titles in a not so positive light.  I learned that recently during my review of MLB 11 The Show, and I’m pretty sure it’s only the beginning of what’s to come.

You may be wondering as to what happened during my play through of The Show that made me so upset that I had to write this. Here’s the short version. Last year’s iteration of Sony’s annual baseball franchise The Show had support for 1080p video. Albeit it was upscaled but at least the support was there. This year with the introduction of 3D to the series, it now tops out at 720p, and that’s whether you’re playing in 3D or not. Under normal circumstances something like this wouldn’t bother me, but under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have spent so much money on a set up just for one console to have it NOT perform to its full potential.

Since the PS3’s inception it has been all about a 1080p generation. Blu-Ray first and then the games would follow. Although it took a couple of years to reach that level of visual fidelity (in-game) with people scrambling for 1080p TV sets in preparation, it seems that due to the bandwidth limitations found in the PS3, 720p is pretty much where we’ll be topping out this generation if 3D is said in the same sentence.

The bandwidth limitation found in the PS3 is related to the actual hardware found on board. If you still own a PS3 Fat then you’re rocking an HDMI 1.3, if you own a slim like me then you have an HDMI 1.3a, the latter provides for bit-streaming (or external decoding) of the next-gen surround sound codecs (Dolby True HD and DTS MA) found on most Blu-Ray movies today. For proper 3DTV transmission, which includes two simultaneous streams of 1080p you need HDMI 1.4. And before you jump and say “Hey can’t Sony just make a soft—” no, they cannot. It’s hardware based and it will not be changed unless Sony releases a new hardware SKU – PS3D anyone?

This is what brings me back to my question and why Sony should at the very minimum consider separate 3D game SKUs for the PS3.

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Let’s face the facts, although the economy is somewhat making a comeback (in some parts of the world faster than others), 3DTV will not be seeing the same adoption rate and growth that HDTV has seen in the last decade. And while I will shy away from the “is 3D gaming a gimmick?” topic, the fact of the matter is that as of right now, its still very much a niche market (almost feels like the laser disc all over again). And while 3DTV’s barely make up for 10% of all TV’s sold for 2010, it certainly shouldn’t be the crowd that’s catered to, especially when it comes to games.

Sure we all know Sony’s angle here. They’re a consumer electronics company first and foremost, and by having this bullet point on the front of the PS3 box I’m sure it’s helping them move plenty of their own 3DTV units and helping out that bottom line of theirs. And that’s perfectly fine, because after all they’re in business to make money just like everyone else. On the other hand though, to sacrifice quality for 90% of consumers just to turn it into a company dick-measuring-look-what-we-can-do-now contest, well then, that’s not showing much respect to the consumers who put them in that position to begin with.

The remedy is simple – Sony you need to make 3D specific versions of games…hell you can even charge more for it. Early adopters always seem to have money to burn anyway.

Obviously with third party developers there’s not much that Sony can control on that end because multi-plat titles can do pretty much whatever the hell they please. However, I don’t use my PS3 for multiplatform stuff, I use it for killer exclusives. So if this means that Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception and titles like it cannot deliver the best visuals possible because 3D’s on board, well then that just sucks. Make 3D game SKU’s for the people that can use it, and don’t water down titles for the rest of us.

Just to be clear, this isn’t meant as anti-Sony article, and I really hope it isn’t received that way. I think this article speaks to all of those fanboys who jump onto the “Lens of Truth” articles and flip out every time a 360 version of a highly anticipated game has a higher resolution than its PS3 equivalent. Or when companies like Crytek make promises of quality across the board and don’t deliver.

This is for the pixel-counters who paid for one thousand and eighty lines of resolution and want to see them used every single time. In 2006 we were promised a FULL HD future, not a 3D one. Hopefully Sony can keep their eyes on the prize.

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Joel Taveras

Joel Taveras is one of the founding members of DualShockers. He hails from New York City where he lives with his wife and two sons. During his tenure with the site, he's held every position from news writer to community manager to editor in chief. Currently he manages the behind the scenes and day-to-day operations at the publication.

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