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Videogamers to play in 3D

50% of titles expected to be in the format by 2012

Stereoscopic 3D gaming hasn’t really caught on, but it has certainly captured its share of headlines over the past 12 months. Now, one of the videogame industry’s largest publishers says it expects the technology to break through into the mainstream within two years.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, in a recent earnings conference call, said he expects up to 50% of all games published to be 3D by 2012.

“The 3D games are going to come more and more with the TV screens that are available,” he said. “We did ‘Avatar’ last year, and the experience was enhanced by the 3D experience. On 360, PS3 but also maybe on portable machines. So we can count on substantial growth on the 3D aspect just because it’s more immersive.”

Guillemot expects 15%-20% of 2011’s games to be 3D, with an even bigger jump the subsequent year.

Ubisoft, so far, is the only company to push 3D on the console front. “Avatar” broke new ground with its stereoscopic 3D effects, but the game (which was also playable in 2D) was a sales disappointment — and had a hand in the company’s e 60 million ($73.6 million) operating loss last fiscal year.

That’s not stopping other pub- lishers from dipping their toes in the water, though. Electronic Arts chief operating officer John Schappert recently announced the company would “show a marquee title in breathtaking 3D” at the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual tradeshow of the videogame convention.

Also at E3, Nintendo will unveil its handheld gaming device — the 3DS, which the company says offers stereoscopic 3D images without the need for special glasses. Despite growing competition from Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, Nintendo is still the leader in the handheld market, meaning it will likely have substantial support from third-party game publishers.

Even with the 3DS and Sony’s recent update to the PlayStation 3 making it 3D capable, Guillemot’s claim is a bold one. 3D TV sets are still new to the market. While the adoption rate has been a bit more enthusiastic than some manufacturers were expecting, there’s still a lot of ground to cover before there is a notable installed base.

Microsoft, for its part, says the Xbox 360 is capable of 3D gaming, but it has not shown a lot of interest in enabling the system to showcase the feature.

It’s not hard for developers to add stereoscopic 3D effects to titles, and the cost is relatively low. However, doing so cuts a game’s frame rate in half, which detracts from the experience.

Many industry insiders say the real boom in stereoscopic 3D gaming will come with the next generation of consoles, which will be able to support the effect and still be able to boast 60 frames per second of gameplay.

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