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3D: Failure to launch

3D was supposed to be the next big thing, so why won't anyone talk numbers?

Avatar was released in 2009, and marked the official mainstream launch of 3D. In June last year Sony PlayStation officially launched its 3D services, supplying free demos of games like Super Stardust HD and Pain, and announcing that big hitters like Killzone 3 and the upcoming Uncharted 3 would be available in stereoscopic 3D.

In December 2010, then SCEE president Andrew House even predicted that the uptake for 3D would be faster than that for HD.

One year on, and while Sony is still keen to publicise its 3D, neither it or the other big manufacturers, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, are willing to release sales figures for the technology, while Nintendo's issues with the 3DS has been well documented. It all suggests that the glorious revolution may not have been all that revolutionary.

In a recent interview with Simon Benson, SCEE's senior development manager, he was ready to talk about the virtues of stereoscopic 3D, but claimed ignorance when asked actual numbers.

Asked what percentage of PlayStation owners were accessing 3D content, Benson, who has worked on 3D for the last two years, said "to be honest I'm not aware of the statistics."

Pushed for sales figures for the Sony Bravia range of 3D TV's, he was equally evasive.

"No. I mean obviously we're Sony Computer Entertainment, so obviously we work closely with the electronics division but it would be rude of us to ask, and even ruder for us to say if we did have those numbers. It's really down to them to say that."

Sony's European press office also failed to answer requests for official figures for sales.

So why all the secrecy? In The Future of 3-D and Internet TV, published in June, analysts SNL Kagan predicted that sales of 3D televisions would actually slow in 2011. It stated that by the end of the year only 1.8 million or 2 per cent of US homes would have a 3D TV. By 2015 still only 15 per cent of homes are expected to have invested.

In cinemas 3D showings have also underperformed. For some of summer's largest blockbusters, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Green Lantern and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, sales of 2D tickets have been higher than those of 3D tickets.

SNL Kagan blamed the high cost of televisions and lack of content for the slow sales, while Panasonic's marketing director Andrew Denham recently blamed 3D movies.

"Hollywood damaged 3D by rushing so many badly converted films out in Avatar's wake. What we need now is the next level, the next Avatar. And that's a big ask, I think."

Whatever is to blame for the uptake of 3D television sets, manufacturer's reticence on the sales figures speak louder about their disappointment than any numbers - especially in the games industry, where publishers are so keen to shout and spin sales numbers and percentages. If they want consumers to invest in 3D TV and 3D gaming they need to start being honest with them, and acknowledge the issues so they can begin to address them.

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Rachel Weber avatar
Rachel Weber: Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.
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