The 3D Hype Bubble Is Now Completely Busted

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Nintendo, Techland Illustration

The evidence that people are getting tired of 3D continues to pile up.

The latest bad news comes from Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who in an interview with The Independent admitted that interest in 3D is “perhaps slightly on the wane again.” Although Nintendo will continue to offer 3D in its handheld gaming devices, it won’t be a major selling point, says Iwata:

So, now we’ve created the 3DS and 3DS XL and also have some games out there that are really using that 3D effect that we can see, from my point of view, that it’s an important element. But as human beings are this kind of surprise effect wears off quickly, and just [having] this 3D stereoscopic effect isn’t going to keep people excited.

Iwata’s view that 3D is “slightly on the wane” seems like an understatement. You needn’t look far for other signs that 3D is failing.

Consider the box office. Although studios released 19 more 3D movies in 2011 than the year before, 3D box office revenue fell by 18 percent in the United States, or about $400 million, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Last month, 3D attendance hit a record low for the opening weekend of Pixar’s Brave, with just 32 percent of revenues coming from 3D, says the Hollywood Reporter. While The Avengers fared better, with a little over half of sales coming from 3D tickets, it’s not even close to the 83 percent 3D revenue that Avatar enjoyed in December 2009. The days where you absolutely had to see a hit movie in 3D are over.

The 3D TV situation isn’t much better. Sales of 3D televisions are on the rise in the United States according to The NPD Group, but only 14 percent of consumers who might buy a TV in the next six months say 3D is a “must-have” feature. Most people just think of it as future-proofing — something that might be nice to have. Even Samsung, the world’s largest TV maker, admits that 3D TV hasn’t lived up to the hype,  and the company is now exalting web-connected smart TVs as its next big source of growth.

It’s easy to guess why 3D is struggling in movies and television sets: People don’t want to be burdened with 3D glasses, or worry about eye strain, and pay a premium for the privilege.

But Nintendo’s cooling attitude toward glasses-free 3D signals a deeper problem: Even once you remove the pesky glasses, the novelty of 3D wears off. That’s a pretty staggering admission from a company that put the term “3D” in the name of its handheld.

At least with 3D hype deflated, media and tech companies can focus on more important things. Samsung can put more effort into smart TV. Nintendo can work on adding more features and new entertainment apps to the 3DS. I know this is a stretch, but maybe Hollywood can stop putting out so many bad movies. Those all seem like better alternatives than fooling your eyes into seeing another dimension.

(MORE: Better than 3D Maps from Apple and Google? Hover Aims for Ground-Level Detail with Practical Value)

33 comments
skyrimer
skyrimer

Nintendo is now cooling 3d because you need a lot of processing power to render an image twice, and current consoles like PS3 or xbox have showed that they have many problems to push 3d. Wii U is basically a 1.5 current gen console, it doesn't have the processing power to offer quality 3d, so they simply don't.

 Oh so currently the most watched movie Avengers 50% attach rate to 3d is bad? Better stop smoking that shit.The things is, people now don't watch 3d anymore just for 3d, the audience has matured and they want 3d to add meaning to the movie. It does to the Avengers, as Prometheus, Transformers, Hugo and so many others, but whoever thought that garbage movies with terrible 2d 3d conversion will keep being a hit was dreaming. 

FXRH
FXRH

Thanks for this cutting-edge article.  As somebody who has been enjoying home theater 3D for the past two years, I'm getting annoyed by all the doomsday predictions.  By the way, in case you haven't heard, Warners is releasing DIAL M FOR MURDER and Universal is releasing CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON in Blu-ray 3D.  Maybe you can stop them before it's too late.

AWM1983
AWM1983

 The only 3D device I have ever been slightly interested in is the PS3 3D monitor simply because it offers 2 players the ability to play without being able to see the others screen all on one display. No more split screen cheating. Beyond that there might be some "adult" material that could be interesting in 3d but the idea itself is a passing fad. There has always been some form of 3d hanging around and there always will, but it isn't an always on technology like TV is. My head would explode from a migraine if everything was in 3d.

TheTechCurmudgeon
TheTechCurmudgeon

3D is not busted. It's simply taking its rightful place as just one of the expressive tools in an artists toolbox. People tire of 3D as a gimick, just as they tired of "talkies" or technicolor. But used skillfully, 3D will continue to enhance a movie's (or game's) impact, and delight the viewer.

Wrathtard Blaze
Wrathtard Blaze

Movies like Tron 2 weren't filmed entirely in 3D, that contributed to the dismay...then they were releasing films like Sense and Sensibility in 3D, and who wanted that?

Michael David Slowik
Michael David Slowik

Another clueless writer. Takes a photo of a DS and says 3D bubble has burst. How clueless. Have you seen what 3D Mammograms are doing ? How about 3D printing? Have you see the 3D 4K glasses free units coming in the next 12 months? I laugh every time a writer gets bored and tries to ruin the 3D experience. I Love 3D and can't wait to see the internet in 3D which will happen very soon. As far as 3D movies heck 2D movies suck did the bubble burst on 2D movies? We see the world in 3D glasses free and when you see it on your computer glasses free you will all be blown away. Nice try but 3D has not even started yet .

bbflyer
bbflyer

Article is negatively biased towards 3D.  It fails to mention that 4 of the top 5 grossing movies of all time are in 3D - Avatar, The Avengers, Harry Potter 7B, Transformers 3.  Titanic, the number 2 movie of all time and the only one that wasn't originally released in 3D was re-released in 3D this year and did over $300MM globally.  The Avengers released earlier this year did 52% opening weekend in 3D domestically and played to a much larger audience.  It did almost 80% in the UK in 3D as well.  China's box office is now on pace to cross $3B this year and 40% of it is in 3D and has been growing at over 10% y/y for the last decade (the entire box office - 3D growth has been much higher).  

The author compares 2010 to 2011 which isn't a fair comparison because the majority of Avatar played in 2010 so it skewed the 3D box receipts.  Interestingly, the author does not compare how the 3D box is doing 2011 vs. 2012...

As far as gaming and the home, the technology is still improving and being perfected.  These are the equivalent of the early days of HD and it will take time to get it right and create the content and demand for 3D.

Torakhan
Torakhan

There are several reasons I am unimpressed with the current 3D formats.

Movies:

• Dimming/dulling of the image due to the polarized lenses•  Related to the above: Every other frame of the 24 frames/second is black.  So not only are you only getting 12 frames/second, but it's flickering back and forth with a black frame between useful frames.  This not only dulls the image (in my belief), but is creating a lot of headaches.

•  Because of the problem with frame rates and blackened frames, action scenes turn blurry/jerky because each eye is missing one of the frames needed to make it smooth.

•  2D movies decide your focus/depth of field, but 3D is most effective when it lets our eyes make those choices of focus on our own.  Currently, fast-action/fast-edit cuts means that in 3D, our eyes have to jump back and forth in focus to different distances, and this can be REALLY frustrating when your eyes are focusing back and forth so quickly.

My suggestions: 48/50 frames/second (like The Hobbit) may mean that that black-frame each eye sees will be far lessened and less noticeable.  Also, it means we might not get the weird motion-blurring.  Of course it's going to make the movie LOOK a lot different too, as we've grown up with  movies projecting at 24 frames/second, and 50 is going to look more like real-life, but that's a different argument.   Also, I would suggest that 2D and 3D movies have different edits, so that 2D can still have the fast-cuts back and forth, but maybe 3D movies have longer takes that allow us to adjust our eyes to the scene and really take it in instead.  We're still stuck with the "dimming" situation, but maybe some technology in the next generations will be able to fix this (better than just brightening the projector.)

TV:•  Most folks are not watching their TVs at a distance that makes 3D very useful (in my opinion.)  We watch our 37" from about 15' away, and even most other living rooms (that I go into) have most TVs being about the same size and at no closer than 8' from the viewer (I do have one friend with a 70" TV with seating 8' from the TV, and THAT is probably the scenario that best suits 3D TV.)  However, I can't imagine 3D being that great of a benefit at a distance that doesn't feel immersive.

•  The current 3D technology typically uses battery-operated flicker lenses.  Expensive glasses that each person must purchase just to watch TV/movies blows.  Now, I've seen a few TVs/systems selling the polarized lenses akin to movie theaters (Real3D), and those have a better chance of getting into the public, even if it dims the colors/brightness on the screen.

•  Even if screens have self-contained 3D, I'm not certain that it will be a big enough draw until we get to a generation where we are presented with a 3D rendered presentation that is more than just a trick of the eye, and more of a re-creation of 3D images on a plane (a hologram.)  Yet, even then, will we want to sit and watch it as we do now, or will it require an evolution in our ideas of visual entertainment?

John_in_Colorado
John_in_Colorado

I'm using a Panasonic 3D home projector that gives me a 200" screen on a wall that is painted white.

I sit just over 20' away from the screen, which is 14'6" wide and 8'2" high.

When I look straight at the screen I'm looking at an imaginary line across the bottom third of the screen.

To see the top of the screen my eyes and head only have to tilt up a combined total of 15 degrees.

The image is sharp. The 3D experience is comfortable and immersive.

You don't climb Kilimanjaro in one day.

Like anything else, you don't want to overdo it at first by watching too many hours of 3D.

But after a week of regular use, you can watch a couple 3D movies back-to-back with no discomfort at all.

This is just my own experience along with my friends.

Steve Buckley
Steve Buckley

When they make holographic interfaces-- THEN we'll have real 3D.

Until then, would someone.... ANYONE please tell them to shut up!?!

Cool Mike
Cool Mike

I take my Grandpa to the movies a lot and we are forced to watch 3D Movies a lot simply because the Non-3D version plays so late. We really hate the 3D movies, the extra cost and the glasses. I have only ever wanted to see one movie in 3D ever (Avatar) and after the 2nd time I was done with it.

3D Movies, Games, and TV's can just go away for all I care.

mez2468
mez2468

Perhaps the TV manufacturers (in conjunction with broadcasters) can shift their attention back on to improving things like:

  * frame rate

  * bit-rate

  * color depth

  * contrast ratio

  * artifact reduction

  * up-scaling

  * resolution

* viewing angle

  * screen reflection reduction

  * on-screen menu responsiveness

  * on-screen menu ease-of-use

  * external noise cancellation

And then maybe consider internet access too.

Holoxica Ltd
Holoxica Ltd

This article highlights the shortcomings of stereo 3D technologies, whether they are glasses based (TV, movies, games) or lenticular (TV/glasses-free, Nintendo 3DS). The 3D is, in fact, a twin 2D illusion which can't fool the human visual system for long, leading to headaches, nausea etc. The movie industry knows this and 3D cinema comes and goes in 30-year cycles since the 50's; this is about the time it takes for a generation to forget how bad it really is: see infographic on http://fwd4.me/15T5 ... and it seems like the current crop of 3D movies will run their course before disappearing once again.

What is really needed in 3D is investment into real 3D technologies based on holographic and similar principles. Once this is established then there will be no more false starts.

Javid Khan, Founder Holoxica Ltd, 3D visualisation amp; displays

DWraySweZ
DWraySweZ

As a proud owner of a 3DS I really am very happy with the 3D effect that the 3DS implantments. Games like Kid Icarus, Legend of Zelda:Ocarina of Time, and Super Mario 3D Land, really make it want to be there and are a joy to play withar S it on. If you use the stand that came bundled with kid Icarus, for all of your 3D experiences it works better than expected on quality games like the ones I mentioned. Metal Gear Solid and Most Especially- Resident Evil: Revelations are great 3rd party HARDCORE titles that make the 3D a must have. I don't think Nintendo should make it the Main selling point, but 3D if applied to the right atmosphere makes for a better experience than just plain old 2D. I'm a fan of 3D but does it deserve the money that it cost to enjoy it?

DWraySweZ
DWraySweZ

As a proud owner of a 3DS I really am very happy with the 3D effect that the 3DS implantments.  Games like Kid Icarus, Legend of Zelda:Ocarina of Time, and Super Mario 3D Land, really make it want to be there and are a joy to play withar S it on.  If you use the stand that came bundled with kid Icarus, for all of your 3D experiences it works better than expected on quality games like the ones I mentioned.  Metal Gear Solid and Most Especially- Resident Evil: Revelations are great 3rd party HARDCORE titles that make the 3D a must have.  I don't think Nintendo should make it the Main selling point, but 3D if applied to the right atmosphere makes for a better experience than just plain old 2D.  I'm a fan of 3D but does it deserve the money that it cost to enjoy it?

Nehemiah Spencer
Nehemiah Spencer

Read the below article: a lot of 3D is not being done right, so people are not enjoying the really good 3D. Companies need to be implementing 3D technology correctly or they are wasting consumer's money.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023...

27
27

When there is no difference between looking at a screen in 2-D versus a screen in 3-D, that is when  3-D might take off.  There must be absolutely zero effort on the part of the viewer.  No bad angles, no headaches, no glasses; just crisp, 3-D viewing.

Only then it will take off.  I wouldn't be surprised to see that kind of technology in the near future though.  Though it is a tough call even for then because really, I think we are content with our screens being "merely" 2-D.

GizmoDuck
GizmoDuck

"The days where you absolutely had to see a hit movie in 3D are over."

With the exception of Avatar, those days never existed.

Christopher Fisher
Christopher Fisher

The only 3d gaming I've ever really thought would be great is a nvidia triple 3d monitor setup...the only thing is it would cost a fortune. The three monitors alone cost  a lot, and then you have to build a computer with an SLI configuration in order to do it well...which would also cost a lot.  From what I've heard, it's pretty damn awesome though!

Sam Trutna
Sam Trutna

The major problem here is that 3D, in all of it's current forms, is terrible. It seems like whichever 3D method you choose, a headache is inevitable if you use it for too long, and you often get the experience at the cost of visual quality. Then at the end of the day, for a lot of people, we're left with the feeling that there's no real added value despite the added cost. I've gone and paid the extra $5 to see a movie in 3D, and I can't really tell you why or what that $5 got me since, in subsequent viewings in 2D, I didn't feel like like 3D made the movie any better.

John
John

The problem is the 3d effect of the 3ds without glasses sucks. You have to get just the right angle and depth and then not move your head. Also, it give you a headache after awhile.

John_in_Colorado
John_in_Colorado

Whaaa? 3D movies are awesome! Check out the foreign boxoffice numbers for 3D movies. Sometimes 3 or 4 times the U.S. boxoffice. From my own observation as a moviegoer I think there aren't enough 3D screens in the U.S. to support all the 3D films coming out. In a multiplex with one really good 3D screen, like an RPX screen, a great film like MIB or Avengers has to make room for the next 3D release or blockbuster 2D release in just 1 or 2 weeks.

Plus, I don't think the U.S. divisions of the Japanese companies are doing a good job marketing 3D to the U.S. consumer. Walk into a typical Walmart, Target, Best Buy (like I have, as a "secret shopper") and you'll find that the clerks don't know anything about 3D or 3DTV. They're simply not trained by the 3DTV manufacturers. I've seen many 3DTV displays in these stores that are left running unattended -- with broken 3D glasses.

And furthermore, the 3D industry in the U.S. is not well served by the 3D community. The simplest information about consumer 3D production is a closely-guarded secret, with little sharing from the 3D aficionados of yesteryear who labored over home-made 3D rigs. Companies like Panasonic and Sony have come out with very sophisticated and affordable 3D camcorders that should have boosted 3D production in the creative community. But, alas, the marketers have failed to provide even the most basic guidance on editing and distributing what these new cameras can produce.

I am sorry to hear that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata made a statement that 3D naysayers will surely latch onto (just like they did with Nintendo's 3D product warnings a while back). The small-screen 3D experience offered by 3DS hand-held devices isn't the same as what you get in an IMAX theater, but I was always impressed by Nintendo's commitment to 3D technology, and paving the way to a large-screen glasses-free 3D experience.

My bottom line: The 3D industry should play down 3D hype and concentrate on 3D customer service and consumer education. The 3D community should pitch in and provide easy end-to-end solutions for producing and distributing more 3D content. These 2 approaches could help build a culture of 3D here in the U.S.

xcxv
xcxv

I swear to god, my name is John, I'm in Colorado, and I was about to defend the crap out of the 3DS here.  Read that entire interview, this worthless techland cherry picking is god awful.  He actually discusses possibilities for feature length 3D movies on the 3DS (I know you are waiting on those too.  I mean, my god, what's the god damn hold up?)

Charlie Corne
Charlie Corne

Oh no! Im seeing 3's!

Enthusiasm is good, over-enthusiasm rarely is, try to understand that people get bored very quickly, 3D was inevitably going to suffer when the novelty of seeing an extra dimension wore off and this is what we are seeing. Yes 3D will be available for years to come, but as much as developers initially expected and I personally would like to see more money going into useful technologies such as the before mentioned Smart TV's... that is until their novelty runs dry :P

John_in_Colorado
John_in_Colorado

Ah, I don't get bored very quickly, and I don't see 3D as a novelty that will wear off -- any more than color as a novelty. And, as somebody who likes good entertainment, I never think twice about paying an extra $5 for the best the director has to offer, just like I don't agonize over paying the theater $6 for a small bucket of popcorn. I do appreciate the 3D artistry of Scorsese and Cameron and a bunch of other great directors working in 3D (btw, I am staying away from Pirhana 3DD because I hear it's bad 3D). And, finally, I think there's enough room in this economy for you to get your ideal Smart TV and for me to see one day the Great American 3D Movie.

therantguy
therantguy

 John who works for RealView (or whomever), everybody! clap clap clap.

John_in_Colorado
John_in_Colorado

Relax. These views are strictly personal and don't reflect the position of any business entity. But feel free to adopt them for your own corporation.

Jonathan
Jonathan

3D was brought to market way too soon. The Nintendo was horrible to use in 3D mode, having to concentrate on keeping your head still (with half the resolution) rather than enjoying the game. For 3DTV, active glasses were heavy and create flicker, passive glasses half the resolution and the picture for both systems is so much darker. And cinema - well it's disingenuous to say it's over when I think films like The Hobbit will still get a good 3D ratio - anything over 50% 3D/2D ticket ratio is worth it for the studios, especially with the Chinese market. Watching 3D on a 2D screen will always be unnatural until genuine holographic style devices are invented so 3D needs to be used in more theme park style ways rather than to try and enhance the story which the majority of people (we have surveyed many for our site) do not think it does. Right now watching 3DTV is only for one off experiences (I own one). I think it will dip again (and everyone will say it was the third and last attempt for 3D) but I expect that Super Hi-Vision and new glasses free 3D techniques will bring it back when it is finally compelling to watch. Until then, 3D can still be very good (I saw Cirque Du Soleil 3D and everyone in audience agreed it was definitely better in 3D) but to ever think 3D was going to retain the same level of interest post Avatar was just crazy. Finally, Smart TV has not been the mega success expected either. Less people (in the UK anyway) are using (or even know they have) the connected functionality of their sets but that might be because of the clunky nature of accessing VOD via the web on TV which will improve with voice recognition remotes and faster processing speeds. Second screen apps are more likely to be popular as so many people use laptops while watching TV.