According to an American Optometrist’s online survey, 1 in 4 Americans gets sick from watching 3D. The headaches, nausea, and dizziness can come from the eye strain that can occur when your eyes try to keep up with the technology. Or, you might be one of the hundreds of thousands who have natural trouble with depth perception. Supposedly, people who have trouble reading in cars are also susceptible to discomfort.
And then there’s this kicker, from Nintendo themselves:
Nintendo says children ages 6 or younger shouldn’t play with its upcoming 3DS handheld gaming system with 3-D technology, because it might affect vision development.
So what’s the deal? Why push for 3D when you’re potentially pushing out one-quarter of your potential customers, in addition to the young children’s market, before you’ve even delivered a single unit?
Mostly because the industry sees 3D as the next “it” thing in American electronics. 3D has already been dubbed the savior of modern movie theaters as Netflix, video games, Hulu, the Internet, and the umpteen-thousand other entertainment choices continue to multiply like excited rabbits. DreamWorks Animation’s CEO, Jeff Katzenberg, calls 3D “the greatest innovation that’s happened for the movie theaters and for moviegoers since color.”
ESPN announced it would soon begin broadcasting 24 hours a day in 3D. The first run of 3D television sets have descended on the US market. And now, Nintendo’s 3DS is nearing its release date without the usual barrage of “A-list” video games we’ve begun to expect alongside any console release. Is America ready for 3D gaming?
Or maybe the question is: is Nintendo ready for 3D gaming?
Take a look at the list of launch titles available in the Japanese market:
Winning Eleven (Pro Evolution) 3DS Soccer
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
Samurai Warriors: Chronicle
Tobidasu! Puzzle Bobble 3D
nintendogs + cats
Ridge Racer 3D
Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D
Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle
That’s a list containing some solid second-tier games. You could make a case for Nintendogs (if Nintendo didn’t warn us about the dangers of children’s eye development) and Winning Eleven (if you live in Europe), but short of those, there are no Killer Apps in that list.
So then, like movie theaters and production companies, is Nintendo relying on the draw of the technology itself? Does the idea of playing a 3D game get you excited enough to cue up for a launch release?
According to Nintendo, it definitely is. And one expects they’d better be right; while Nintendo is projecting huge 3DS sales — 4 billion 3DS units and 15 billion 3DS software titles — Nintendo recently released an announcement, cutting its yearly profit estimate from $2.2 billion to $1.1 billion.
One expects that the Nintendo “Virtual Boy” just can’t happen again in this day and age, and I’m inclined to agree. If you don’t recall Nintendo’s first awkward attempt at a “portable” “3D” device, take a quick Google trip back to 1995 and look at the headset on that thing. Too heavy to wear without its stand (which required you sit at your parents’ dinner table and lean over like you were sipping hot soup), monochromatic color limitations, and (history repeating) motion sickness complaints, and little to no 3rd party support made this one of Nintendo’s only flops. It was an historical flop, discontinued the following year.
Likely, the 3DS was rushed out to prop up Nintendo’s disappointing profit news and the flagging stock prices the announcements would’ve engendered. We’ll likely see the full might of Nintendo’s powerful in-house production companies releasing A-list game after A-list game in the near future. It’s way too early to call the 3DS a winner or a loser in any sense, but the low-level grumbling about the software situation already has some gaming forums nervous about making this a release-day purchase.
Will Nintendo figure out a way to limit the motion sickness effects in later versions? Only time will tell whether the idea of a portable 3D gaming device can outsell its inherent launch-day problems.