Haven't posted here since my PoP review way back when, but the 3DS has really got my thinking about the 3D industry as a whole and the success the handheld could bring to the presence of 3D in the home, rather than just in the cinema or indeed on the 3DS. The 'forbidden land', if you will.
Here it is - see whether you agree/disagree.
The 3DS - Can Nintendo’s handheld be a success and usher 3D into the mainstream?
I remember whenthe DS launched back in 2004. Critics and consumers alike were blown away by its maverick approach to gaming. By imposing the DS with hardware that was already somewhat archaic, Nintendo fought against the murmurs of discontent from tech-savvy elitists who claimed that a handheld platform without adequate hardware in the modern day would not attract enough core gamers. After all, without the ability to render vast expanses, buffer stunningly detailed textures and provide a clear sense of gaming progression in aesthetic terms, the DS was seemingly a limp and ineffective opponent to Sony’s PSP.
Yet, as we all know, Nintendo have had the last laugh. It’s launch was met with mass media attention and massive market-shares. Over 6 million were sold in North America and Japan a mere eight months after this.
What brought the DS to such consumer attention and to the forefront of handheld gaming was not a processor of immense power, nor indeed a GPU capable of providing spectacular visuals, but rather the vision of Nintendo to create an immersive experience using a simple touch-screen. To describe it as intuitive is perhaps disregarding the work done by various cell phone conglomerates of the time whom developed and honed the technology. To disregard it as simplistic and gimmicky however is to ignore the clever production designers and risk-takers at Nintendo whom strove to eradicate the idea that the industry could only move forward with behemoths of computerized power and technical nuance.
Fast forward to 2010 (and most likely 2011 given Nintendo’s ambiguous release date references) and the 3DS has much in common with its predecessor. It has arrived at a time where blockbuster franchises such as Uncharted, Killzone and Crysis are demonstrating the incredible power of modern day hardware and proving that hardware limitations on the imagination are becoming less and less prevalent. There’s no denying that these games are pristine blockbusters in their own right - to do so would be to adopt an increasingly anachronistic ‘gameplay-above-all-else’ perception of games when the entire ethos, atmosphere and mechanics of a title are often defined by its visual styling.
Yet Nintendo have once again torn up the rulebook. By adopting 3D into their new platform, Nintendo have taken a risk. Akin to touch-screen technology in 2003, 3D is still somewhat of a niche. Whilst it is the new darling of film, 3D as a consumable experience is still relatively obscure and unattainable for the majority of people.
There’s no denying however, that 3D in the modern-day has become solidified into something that works effectively and enhances your media experience - a far cry from its general ineffectiveness of the 50s and 80s. With this resurgence in both its popularity and presentability, Nintendo have sought to capitalize on the format with a new format of their own.
That isn’t to say that Nintendo have forgotten about the hardware however. Tech demos such as those of Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid that were demonstrated at E3 evidence the increased power of the platform over the DS. Indeed, with Japanese company digi3D incorporating their GPU into it, and with Ninty head honcho Satoru Iwata rather cryptically stating that the 3DS will have ‘increased processor performance’, it’s fair to say that the 3DS is a vast technical improvement over its predecessor.
But, as we know, the main selling point of the handheld is its ability to convey an imitation of stereoscopic 3D (that’s a transfer of light into both eyes which allows the brain to see a projected image) without the need for those cumbersome and awkward 3D glasses. In a day where ease of use is perhaps best typified by the iPhone, Nintendo’s 3DS follows suit with a powerful 3D experience that can be accessed with nonchalant effort.
The question of whether the 3DS will become a success is almost a non-starter. Industry experts and financial forecasters have almost unanimously agreed that the 3DS could well outstrip the some 120 million sales of the DS franchise within a few years. With the cost of manufacturing relatively low for Nintendo given their reliance on already existing technology - rather than building their own from the ground up ala the Cell in the PS3 - it’s also safe to assume that they will rake in a healthy profit on each device.
Perhaps the most pertinent questions about the 3DS is whether it can both work in a gaming-sense and propel 3D itself into something that isn’t just accessed by movie-goers, but something that can be sustained in homes up and down the country.
In a gaming-sense, 3D can often add much to the entire experience of a title. Depth perception and an augmented sense of reality are two things that Sony are quick to marquee when discussing their console support for 3D, and with numerous impressions emerging all the time about the 3DS capabilities to render a very convincing 3D-imitation, it can be said that 3D could become a staple of gaming once the handheld launches.
What about 3D in the living-room though? Can Nintendo’s console propel that to new heights?
It’s a difficult question to answer because right now, 3D as a living-room experience is fragmented and unconvincing. Having experienced a 3DTV myself, I can safely say that the format still has a long way to go.
Whilst 3D in film has evolved for the better through an experiential process, 3D in the home is still in pre-school. For one, 3DTVs are not mass market products. They are incredibly expensive, and given that only high-end manufacturers such as Sony, Samsung and LG are pumping out TVs of this kind, 3DTV is even more unattainable unless you have large disposable income because no middle-ground manufacturers are willing to invest in the technology and offer those bargain alternatives to brand-names.
Moreover, the effect of 3D within the home is still in its infancy. There are numerous ghosting problems, interference of natural light on the screen etc, and all these severely diminish the effect to the extent that the 3D ironically becomes a facet that takes you back into reality, rather than out of it.
If we’ve learned anything about Nintendo over the past few years however it’s that they love broadening audiences and evolving the industry. The launches of the DS and Wii have brought gaming to brand new markets and to people from cultures and affiliations whom might never have even considered playing games. They, more than anyone, have propelled gaming to a comparable footing with film and music over the past few years.
If anything, the will likely 3DS prove that mass consumption of 3D can be achieved. Indeed, perhaps the toughest question asked of 3D when it rose from the ashes in film just a few years ago was whether it could be turned from a fun but gimmicky and somewhat costly experience into a format that could be accessed by anyone at any time. Nintendo, even before the launch of the 3DS, have answered that with an emphatic affirmative.
The answer to whether the 3DS can turn 3D into a attainable format in the living room ala HD is perhaps then ‘yes’. It’s extremely ironic that the launch of the 3DS could push 3D into a prime position to become the new sweetheart of the home given that critics (most notably one Mr. Roger Ebert) have often lambasted the gaming industry's inability to penetrate the market like the film industry does so effectively. Indeed, the 3DS could do something that film has yet to achieve, and that is to persuade people to experience 3D not only from the cinema, or even from the device in their pocket, but from the hub of their home.