Next Tuesday comes James Cameron's Avatar: The Game, an Ubisoft title based on the moviemaker's highly hyped 3D film set for release on December 18th. We'll be posting a review of the game early next week, but before we do there's one aspect that deserves a bit of discussion: Its stereoscopic functionality on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
While PC games have been 3D-enabled for years (I checked out a monitor and a pair of glasses earlier this year that had games like Left 4 Dead and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare popping off the screen), stereoscopic gaming in the living room is relatively new - save the existence of a few games that make use of those nasty old red and blue paper glasses.
James Cameron and his team apparently worked closely with Ubisoft's developers to ensure that the console versions of the game would have impressive stereoscopic effects very similar to those of its movie counterpart.
There is a catch, however, and it's a pretty big one: I couldn't find a single 3D-enabled television in the city of Toronto.
I spoke with the public relations firms representing half a dozen prominent television manufacturers, and they all said that their clients don't currently sell 3D sets in Canada. Sony and Panasonic seem closest to releasing one, but they're still at least several months away.
I also called major and specialty electronics retailers asking if they had any 3D televisions in stock. The customer service representatives I spoke with who didn't try to tell me that such a thing simply doesn't exist explained that they didn't expect anything in that category until next spring or summer, at the very earliest.
Ubisoft has released a FAQ regarding the game's 3D functionality (which I've pasted at the end of this post), and it includes a list of televisions with 3D capabilities. However, I've been unable to locate any of these models at retail. What's more, Samsung's public relations rep stated that they currently offer no 3D televisions in Canada, which eliminates about half of the televisions listed right away.
All of this begs the question: Why include 3D functionality if no one can take advantage of it?
Ubisoft has stated that it wants to be at the forefront of 3D gaming, which could represent the future of the industry. Fair enough. A few years from now we may all be donning big dark glasses whenever we pick up a controller. But it still doesn't make sense to develop 3D content so far in advance of the hardware that supports it-especially given that the vast majority of games, unlike films, have a shelf life measured in months, not years.
I have my own little theory: I think the ever-idealistic James Cameron, one of stereoscopic film's most vocal proponents, either sold Ubsioft on 3D by optimistically suggesting that 3D panels would be widely available by the time the game launched, or simply made it part of the deal ("You can make the game in 3D so that it complements my film or not at all").
Regardless, the results are the same. If you pick up Avatar: The Game when it launches next week, the 3D settings found in the options menu will be useless and frustrating.
Now, as promised, Ubisoft's stereoscopic 3D FAQ:
James Cameron's AVATAR™: THE GAME
FAQ on Stereoscopic 3D
1. Do I need to buy a special version of the game in order to play in 3D?
Absolutely not! Any Avatar: The Game DVD or Blu-Ray is capable of displaying the game on either traditional or 3D-enabled screens. Toggling between traditional and stereoscopic 3D is performed through the Options Screen accessed directly from the Main Menu.
2. Do I need a special TV or computer monitor to play the game in 3D?
Yes. Avatar: The Game has the option of outputting in most standard stereoscopic 3D formats, but a TV or monitor that is "3D-enabled" is necessary to decode and display the game in stereoscopic 3D.
3. What stereoscopic 3D signal formats is the game compatible with?
Avatar: The Game is able to output most 3D signal formats from your Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, including: RealD, Sensio, side-by-side, line-interlaced, and full checkerboard. On the PC version, Avatar: The Game supports all of the previous formats plus the NVIDIA® 3D Vision™, iZ3D and dual head formats.
4. What type of 3D glasses do I need to play the game in 3D?
Since the type of glasses needed to view content in stereoscopic 3D changes depending on the television or computer monitor being used, make sure to check with your hardware manufacturer to determine the right set of glasses to match the TV or monitor you have at home. This is also the reason why 3D glasses are not being bundled with any version of the game.
5. Does my Xbox 360 have to be equipped with an HDMI output in order to play in stereoscopic 3D?
Not necessarily. Displaying the game in stereoscopic 3D depends mostly on the input requirements of your television or computer monitor (hardware). That being said, most of the 3D-enabled televisions tested during production required the use of an HDMI input in order to display any content in stereoscopic 3D.
6. What 3D-enabled TVs are currently on the market? …and are they compatible?
Although we are unable to provide an exhaustive list of all 3D-enabled television hardware that are compatible with the game, here is a sample list of 3D-enabled TVs that can display the game in stereoscopic 3D:
3D-Enabled TVs (*tested during development):
• Mitsubishi: WD-57833, WD-65833, WD-73833, WD-60737, WD-65837, WD-82737, WD-60735*, WD-65735, WD-65736, WD-73735, WD-73736, WD-65737, WD-73737, WD-82737, WD-73837, WD-82837, WD-65835, WD-73835, L65-A90.
• Samsung: HL-T5076S*, HL-T5087S, HL-T7288W, HL-T6189S, HL-61A750, HL-72A650, HL-T5089S, HL-T5676S, HL-T5687S, HL-T5689S, HL-T6176S, HL-T6187S, HL61A750, HL67A750, HL50A650, HL56A650, HL61A650, HL72A650.
• Hyundai: S465D*.
• JVC: 463D10*.
3D-Enabled PC Monitors (for use with PC version only; *tested during development):
• All NVIDIA® 3D Vision™* supported PC monitors and TVs available at: (http://www.nvidia.com/object/3D_Vision_Requirements.html)
• Hyundai: W220S, W240S, P240W, S320D.
• Miracube: G240S, G320S, G460X.
• Zalman ZM-M220W.
• iZ3D*: H22OZ1-G01.
DISCLAIMER: List contents are subject to change. Compatibility is based on similar use of technology, and not an outright guarantee of compatibility. Many of the 3D-enabled technologies emerging on the market within the next few years should be compatible with the game (make sure to verify the signal format), but were not available at launch time.
Follow me on Twitter: @ chadsapieha