3D on Xbox 360 was a "science experiment," says Spencer

Microsoft exec believes 3D has a role in gaming, but isn't significant yet

Microsoft's Phil Spencer has put his cards firmly on the table with a stinging yet indirect assault on Sony's 3D business model, telling press that current 3D technology isn't mainstream enough to become successful.

Speaking to CNN, Spencer made it clear that he doesn't believe that expensive 3D televisions and glasses will break the 3D market in the home, although he did admit to liking the glasses-less concept of Nintendo's 3DS.

"For better or for worse, people just don't really have TVs in their house right now that are going to do 3D in a way that's going to work," Spencer told CNN. "I like the 3DS, you don't have to wear the glasses."

Spencer's views seem to be firmly focused on upsetting the plans of Sony, who have invested heavily in the 3D market with films, PS3 3D support and 3D televisions themselves.

"As a corporate mandate, I don't need to sell you a new TV, that's not part of my business model. Other companies maybe have that part of their business model. I don't."

Recent NPD figures showed a significant increase in sales for the Xbox 360 compared to the same month for last year, whilst PS3 figures were down considerably. The market penetration of 3D televisions has been far lower than many interested parties had predicted.

Microsoft's only console experience with 3D so far has been the stereoscopic 3D release of Batman: Arkham Asylum as part of a game of the year special edition.

"It felt a little more like a science experiment than something that's going to go touch millions of people," Spencer remarked in reference to Arkham. "Clearly, we're not going to ignore 3D. I think it is something that will play a role in entertainment."

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Latest comments (23)

Michael Armer Studying Games Development National Diploma Level 3, Lancaster and Morecambe College7 years ago
that man has got a few brain cells, to wait for 3d to not need glasses at all
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David Rider Publisher, Hustler UK7 years ago
And suddenly a sane voice cuts through the din. I'm with Spencer. The uptake on HD has been slow enough. 3D is, in my opinion, an expensive mistake which Sony will one day regret pursuing so aggressively.
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 7 years ago
Sony is embedded in 3D through its Movie Studio and TV arms so its going to also be a focus for the SCE boys as well.

I feel its too early, its bad enough we have this massive push to make all cinema releases in 3D yet I still think its still too much of a gimic.

From a technical standpoint I have to say I think its very cool and would love a 3D ready TV but I am not about to go pay for it right now.
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Show all comments (23)
Ryan Locke Lecturer in Media Design, University of Abertay Dundee7 years ago
Sony pursuing new technology is one of thier strenghts. When it dosent payoff, then oh well, but when it does, then bingo, massive rewards. CD's payed off, DvD's payed off, Blu-Ray payed off - not chasing online tech with the ps2, didnt payoff. Chasing tech is a gamble, anf if it can be afforded, then brilliant. Imagine the difference the online ps3 would be if the experience with an online console had started early in ps2's life.
If the 3D Gamble pays off - they are already ahead of the game on experience with that - regardless if the TV needs specs or not.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 7 years ago
I pretty much agree with Spencer's comments, as I'm sure many do - it's only been a couple of years since I bought an HD TV, so I'm not about to rush out and upgrade again to a very expensive 3D TV.

Maybe when the tech no longer needs glasses to work it'll hit mass market adoption, but until then I think 3D technology in the home will take only a tiny percentage of the market.
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University7 years ago
3D technology in gaming will be a big deal next year and over the next few years if 3DS takes off-as for 3D in the home, it won't take off for several years. Prices need to come down and glasses free 3D needs to hit the living room.
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Wesley Williams Quality Assurance 7 years ago
As long as Sony doesn't divert it's attention too much on 3D it's really just an added bonus of the system. If they start driving some 3D focussed gaming agenda it'll be a huge misstep. When 3D in the home goes glasses free, that's the time to start really pushing it. Until then it's an expensive gimmick that the vast majority of us can do without.
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Private Industry 7 years ago
Glasses free 3D TV`s that can be enjoyed by several people at the same time without loosing any 3D effect quality depending on your eyesight and angle you look at the TV is still far away.

Better to start early with it than too late.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 20th October 2010 1:26pm

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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 7 years ago
I'm really happy to hear Spencers comments which for the most part I agree with. One day but not now.
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Emilio Josť Molina Cazorla Human Protocol Interface, Ninja Fever7 years ago
Ninja Fever also launched recently his first 3D stereo game "Avatar: Fly!" for the XBLIG platform (so there are at least 2 3D games), and it's true that this feature doesn't suppose any difference in selling numbers. But for several titles, 3D immersion is (or would be) a stunning capability.

I suppose that both systems will live together when 3D costs become cheaper (and probably without glasses). The question is how long it takes until that. Will do resist the 3D fever enough or resistance is futile?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Emilio Josť Molina Cazorla on 20th October 2010 3:50pm

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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game7 years ago
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Not that far away if Toshiba's tech is sound.

But, there is a real danger pursuing this as a lot of money will be plowed into games that have this selling point of 3d that is completely irrelevent to anyone who isn't bothered by/able to afford a 3D tv.

Sony are too wrapped up in shoehorning other parts of their business into PS, sure PS3 helped win the HD movie format wars, but at the cost of the console marketshare dominance they'd enjoyed for two generations, so victory for Blue-ray, loss for Playstation.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Goodchild on 20th October 2010 4:16pm

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Private Industry 7 years ago
There is still no indication how well those work for several people that watch from a different angle on the screen. 3DS as example requires you to manually adjust for your viewing and both should use more or less the same technique and the Toshiba TV is 20 inch with a price of 3000$.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game7 years ago
We only have their claims to go on but they do claim

"The TVs use new Toshiba image processing technology to create nine parallax images and produce to 3D images. As a result, the vendor says, the images can be viewed from any angle."

Of course we need to wait for reviewers to verify this but it sounds promising at least.

As to price, couldn't agree more, but once the tech is there, it will come down in price.
Still, I think maybe the 3D push should have been reserved for next generation.

My experience of playing Motorstorm in 3D at eurogmer expo was that I crashed into debree that was impossible to see. May have been a dodgy station perhaps.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Goodchild on 20th October 2010 4:28pm

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Emily Rose Freelance Artist 7 years ago
@Andrew Goodchild

Pretty sure the blueray player in PS3s shifted a lot of machines, everyone I know at least, wanted the full ranged of capabilities. Specially when compared to the standalone blueray player cost, getting a PS3 is a no brainer.

About TOSHIBAs 3D tech, yeah that's pretty much the only way I envisioned it working, though I wonder how it doesn't blur...
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Diarmuid Murphy Developer Marketing, Microsoft7 years ago
I think gaming will drive many of the 3D TV sales, I also think the UK & Ireland are a great market for 3D games because of the amount of promotion Sky is doing for 3D.
But I agree with most commentors, until glasses free, multi angle viewable TVs reduce to an affordable cost there will not be market share to warrant the investment.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game7 years ago
@Tim Grant. BlueRay possibly did shift PS3 machines but it also lost sales. Whilst I do know people who wanted the Blue-Ray capabilities I know people who were die hard playstation owners who moved to Xbox because of the 18 month wait for PS3, which was brought on by complications on the Blueray side, and more people who were put off by the price tag, that was attributed to including blueray.

PS3 and Xbox 360 total sales are very close now I believe, but baring in mind PS2 sold over 3 times what any competitor did, and PS one was virtually unapposed, burying all but the N64, a close third place is not a victory. OK, maybe I shouldn't include the Wii as that had success in tapping new markets, but the delays and price hikes caused by including blueray clearly allowed Microsoft to benifit.

On the flip side it was a big deciding factor in burying HD-DVD, and may pay off for Sony as a whole in the long run, unless digital distribution becomes the dominant model earlier than predicted, which would possibly make blueray too short lived to have been worth it. (I'm not betting, it could go either way, download will take over in my opinion, but I don't hazard a guess as to when.)

Also, now you can get an Xbox and budget blueray player as cheap as a ps3 (comparible hard drive size on each console), although I admit, it will be a bottom spec blueray player. But that's only an issue for people who want to watch films at home, which isn't every gamer.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Goodchild on 20th October 2010 5:14pm

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Private Industry 7 years ago
I still think it`s better to get into it earlier than later, see online. Sony struggled a lot at the start of the PS3 with the online part of the console while MS had it easy because they already started on it last generation. The TV tech will change between now and the next generation, but not how you will have to design things. You can make something that was supposed to be 2D and quickly make it 3D, but as it is apparent from movies that are quickly converted into 3D after Avatar it just does not work well. It`s not just about displaying something in 3D, it`s about tailoring the experience to 3D so it actually adds something. Avatar got the high scores because how well 3D was implemented and how the experience was tailored towards 3D. There are many 3D movies buy now but nothing that can match Avatar. 3rd party and Sony`s first party developers will be far ahead of MS studios when it comes to making 3D games when they decide it`s time to really support it if they wait to long.

You can argue with the same argument when it comes to HD TV`s when this generation started barely anybody had a TV at home capable of displaying HD and they where not mainstream with very high prices. Samsung has already good 40inch 3D TV`s for around 1000 euro so the price is already coming down into the area where it is affordable.

That`s just how Sony works, they where always trying to push new things and for better or worse Sony can draw from a lot more resources and new technologies that are in R&D in other areas of the company when it comes to making a console. Better to try and push the boundaries and make something new and fail than never try and don`t fail.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game7 years ago
With HD, you could make the games in HD, scale down the picture quality for standard def, and sure it looked nowhere near as good as the HD, but still looked better than the last gen graphics.
However, with 3D, as you said, tacked on 3D is not that effective, it needs to be tailored from ground up. If you do that, running it in 2D is going to lose a lot. That means you will get games that are good in 3D but below average when run in 2D. If they cost £40mill to make, is great in 3D, but no good in 2D, and no one without a 3D tv wants the game as a result, then if not enough people have the TVs needed the game can't generate the sales. Sure, smaller projects can use it but they won't push hardware sales. Meaning the only viable games are ones with tacked on pointless 3D modes.
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Private Industry 7 years ago
The 2D version does not have to suffer, Killzone 3 and GT5 look amazing in 2D and 3D, what currently has to suffer is the resolution and picture quality in 3D. With tailored to the 3D what I meant includes a wide range starting with the most basic thing that would be how to make a HUD that works in 3D and does take the player out of the experience like the GT5 HUD when running in 3D. The most important and difficult thing is how to make a game for 3D from a design point of view, the pure technical part isn`t that hard. WipEout and Motorstorm Pacific Rift where fairly fast ported from 2D to 3D and you can always have the 2D version as your base for picture and resolution quality and scale that down if needed for 3D. But translate something like rain, fog, explosions, dust, depth of field and make cutscenes work well in 3D is the difficult thing and that does not mean the 2D version needs to be limited or scaled back in any way. If you watch a movie that was made for 3D the movie still works without any problems in 2D (except Avatar where you start to notice the story :D ).

And that`s the problematic if you stay away from 3D now and don`t care because once you start to care the others are very familiar how to make the effects work, how to design the cutscenes and have a design from the beginning that also incorporates 3D. You know what you can do in 3D and works and what not, you know where you need to scale back a bit in different parts. Making a HUD in 2D isn`t hard most games have now a similar layout for where to put the healthbar and son, but in 3D it`s not that simple to actually integrate the HUD well into the game and probably Dead Space HUD would be the best so far for 3D since it is all holographic directly in the game and not like a traditional HUD. I`m not worried that 2D versions are going to be less the good since the issue is how to make something that works in 2D and translate that into 3D with the extra dimension.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
"As a corporate mandate, I don't need to sell you a new TV, that's not part of my business model. Other companies maybe have that part of their business model. I don't."

Bullshit idiot with a short memory. Anyone recall that E3 where the 360 was launched and the MANY press events afterward where they announced that they were teaming up with Samsung to "bring HD gaming to the masses" (which meant you had to buy a HDTV to get the most from the 360)?

Also, er... anyone remember HD-DVD? I'm sure Microsoft wants you to FORGET they had a worthless add-on anyone with half a brain could see was going to fail against standard DVD players or Blu-Ray (which like HD and 3D came a few years too early). and it did... m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-y.

This ignorance still continues today, folks on both sides. Ever play a game on a TV under 30" where you CAN'T READ THE FREAKIN' TYPE because the game is made to run on a damn wall-sized HD rig? It's even worse if you have a standard def set, no matter how huge (interlaced screens are murder with tiny HD ready text). I hate this in too many games even on TV's over 32" where you need a set of binoculars to go through menus...

Anyway, yeah, Sony is trying to shill 3D HARD. So what? I'm not planning to buy a 3D set and neither are a lot of folks I've spoken to. That's not the market Sony is targeting, but I can see some converts sliding over once the pricing drops.

At least Sony has the common sense to have developers put HD as well as 3D versions of the games out so the tech isn't a required purchase. I think some of these will be both versions on one disc, something Microsoft can't do with its non Blu-Ray discs with smaller storage space.

Like any gimmick, it WILL catch on at some point until folks get tired of it. Then, they'll have to watch crappy 3D sitcoms, reality TV, sports and Sci-Fi Channel movies that all took 1/20th the time it took to make Avatar (meaning they'll all be crap. Except for the sports. But, hmmmmm... when you're drunk off your ass, can you see 3D at all... or is it 7 or 8D?).

One day they'll all get it, but by then, the customers will all be home playing Parcheesi because it's a hell of a lot less a hassle. "Console Wars" stink, period.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 20th October 2010 10:33pm

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David Rider Publisher, Hustler UK7 years ago
^ It's not often I stumble across someone as cynical and jaded as I am... Yes, I own an HD-DVD box. No, I didn't have to pay for it. Still haven't watched King Kong.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 7 years ago
I agree with Greg Wilcox. Whats with all the hate? 3D isnt targetting "us" or even "gamers" they are targetting tech enthusiasts. I have a heap of friends that have it and do nothing but just talk at me in numbers about specifications and protocols etc etc. Has anyone ever gone to a 2600 meetings or LAN parties? Thats what these guys talk about.

Nothing is to early because there is always tech enthuasists willing to pay a preimum. People are to ethnocentric about markets and always expect that if they are not the market then no body is.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
David - You didn't stumble, I just happened to be sprawled out on the sidewalk and you had to step over me. i passed up the chance for a free Xbox HD-DVD add-on a while back and yeah, I'd probably not have gotten around to cracking it open until now (and yup, King Kong was part of that deal)...

Anyway, Sony's 3D strategy is sound so far. As long as the early adopters pony up (and Sony isn't gifting all of those 3D sets a and glasses to celebrities at launch parties and trumpeting that they're doing well moving units, the bastids), 3D will be an option for a while...

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