Sony Computer Entertainment Europe senior vice president Ray Maguire opened the Edinburgh Interactive Festival yesterday with a presentation on 3D gaming. His message: This time it's not a fad. It's for real.
But with his clear enthusiasm and optimism for what Sony believes drastically improves the gaming experience came caution. Maguire admitted €100 shutter glasses present a “cost issue”, revealed that five per cent of people can't see 3D (but there are “no health issues”) and predicted that 3D “won't be an overnight success”. Food for thought.
Here, in an interview with Eurogamer conducted minutes after the end of his presentation, Maguire goes deep not only on 3D but PlayStation Move, PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Network and, of course, the PlayStation 3 itself.
Eurogamer: You mentioned during your presentation that shutter glasses are €100. Is that too expensive for 3D gaming to be mass market?
Ray Maguire: It's an early adopter market, without a doubt. You have to find someone who values the 3D experience enough to buy a new television set, a new screen and then also fork out for some glasses.
How much are people willing to spend to get into the new technology? If you take new technology, whether it be an Apple, their products are probably three or four times the price of a comparative PC because the experience is better and more intuitive.
If you looked at them and said, will anyone ever spend £2000 on a laptop, the answer would be no. In reality, it's yes. But the numbers are still relatively small compared to £400 laptops.
So, is it going to be mass market at that price? No it won't. Will there be a sustainable market at that price? I believe there will be. It's just a question of how long it takes for that technology to get cheaper. The installation rate will grow as soon as the product becomes slightly cheaper and more affordable.
Eurogamer: How long do you reckon that will take?
Ray Maguire: The truth of it is I don't really know. We've been surprised with PS3, which was a highly specced machined. It stood right out there as the most expensive console on the market. Everyone said it wouldn't sell the numbers. But it sold.
People value the technology we put into it, to the stage where we sold getting on for four million units over £250. That wouldn't have been achievable on PSOne or PS2. And it's literally because there is so much more technology in there, giving a wider and more depth of an entertainment experience.
So, I'm not sure what the number will be with 3D. But it will certainly be more than people think it will be.
Eurogamer: At Gamescom, Peter Moore told me 3D isn't right for FIFA. id Software told us the price of a 3D telly needs to come down before developers will invest in it. What feedback are you getting from third-party developers who have to take time, development costs and their genre into account?
Ray Maguire: That's two questions, really. The first question is, is 3D right for every game? The answer to that is, maybe not.
There are things that don't actually add to the experience. I went through some of the genres, discussing where Mick Hocking [director of Sony's 3D stereoscopic team] and his team found there was benefit. Some of those benefits are greater than others.
Really, it will be about where 3D enhances the experience. Definitely about how it immerses you into the game. If you get more immersed into the game and it adds value that way, then the answer is yes. If it's just nice to have, then maybe not.
The second question is, for a third party developer, at what time do I enter this market, which is about how much capital I invest in creating 3D versus how much return I get from it? That's a totally different question, because then you start getting into the situation of, do I develop games with 3D in mind from the get go, or do I look at my existing portfolio of product and decide now is the time to do a 3D version of the existing 2D game?
For the first part, products that we're developing now will always have a 3D element to them. In other words, they were designed from a production side with 3D in mind. That's really important when you start to do some of the technical things.
With a racing game you have a different effect pushing a car into a corner in 2D than you would in 3D in terms of the camera angle. All these things have to be thought about when you're starting to create the game.
If you're starting to convert a game, then making good 3D is actually quite difficult. Making 3D is easy. But making good 3D is quite difficult. You've got to go back and re-work that and try and test it until you've got something that works. Otherwise, you're going to have a disjointed 3D experience.
So, from a third party point of view, they always like to see us create a platform before they start to think about how much investment. Some have want to be first and want to get large market share by being first into the marketplace.
Others are more into, well we'll wait and see what happens and then we'll create something learning from the experience of the people who were first to market. So it depends on where you are in your risk analysis.