The past few days have been a news desert for arcades and so far today isn’t looking any different although I did find some interest in this story about Toshiba’s development of a new TV set technology that finally allows the viewer to watch stereoscopic 3D content without the aid of glasses.
That is welcome news for anyone already on or looking to jump upon the 3D bandwagon but it also can be good news for arcades – once the price comes down.
How does this tie into arcades? Well despite the fact that some are completely ignoring recent developments in the arcade sector in the field of stereoscopic 3D, there has been plenty of that going on in many markets around the world. Before everyone started paying attention to 3D there were already a number of “4D rides” on the market that combined pop-out 3D with a motion game of some sort, whether it’s the XD Motion Theater, XRider or Trans-Force. The first game to use stereoscopic 3D without glasses was released this past May (Disney’s 3D Ping Pong); there is Star Predator; the recently announced Vulcan 4D; the revelation that Namco is researching a number of 3D technologies; and Konami has really been jumping into the 3D fray with Metal Gear Arcade, Road Fighters 3D and possibly the new Space Agent. When I was at Amusement Expo this year there was a little 3D talk going around at different companies so interest is there but the real problem has been the glasses barrier. A monitor which doesn’t require those and that has a good viewing angle (a problem with the Nintendo 3DS according to many reports) is what will be needed for the technology to really come through in the amusement sector but with the first Toshiba sets costing “several thousand dollars” it still will be a while for it to hit arcades unless Toshiba’s technology can be licensed out for cheap (unlikely) or they can give arcade makers a killer deal (maybe convince Toshiba that it’s a great way to advertise their technology to the public to get special pricing).
Then there is the question: does the arcade industry need 3D to make a splash and grab attention? It’s not like it hasn’t been tried before (see SubRoc-3D and Continental Circuit 3D) but the same was said of 3D in the movies. Of course I still think that it remains to be seen whether people will continue to care about 3D in theaters as except for Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, nothing has made a big splash this summer because of 3D, although that can be attributed to the fact that the movies in 3D weren’t worth watching in 2D and many movies were processed in 3D after they were already filmed. It will be telling if TRON Legacy or the new Harry Potter can break through but those will probably coast on the fact that they have installed fanbases (I admit that I will go see TRON in 3D but it will be the first 3D movie I’ll have seen since Captain Eo at Disneyland many years ago). Getting back to arcades, it’s hard to judge stereoscopic technology so far as we know that the big 3D/4D simulators do really well but so far it remains to be seen with smaller, stand-alone units. With all of the talk that there has been about Metal Gear Arcade, I can’t recall anyone talking about the 3D effect as they focus on other aspects of the game (the glasses have been mentioned as they include head-tracking). We have no earnings or sales records on the titles that have already been released. I would like to see it happen with some games but it is most likely that once 3D becomes more available in arcades, we’ll have options between 2D and 3D TV cabinets to test the waters. As long as we don’t fall into to the trap that movies have been doing – thinking that tacking 3D on something mediocre or terrible will suddenly make it good. 3D should be used to enhance the experience that an already good game provides, not try and make up for it.