3D killer app would drive biz, confabbers told

Gamers would seem a natural fit for 3D.

But the vidgame industry is lagging way behind its theatrical counterparts in the embrace of immersive technology. Wednesday at the 3D Gaming Summit, videogame pros and film folk weighed the gap, offering mostly bullish projections about the future of 3D in both mediums.

The two-day confab is presented in association with Variety.

3D videogames have been hindered by that old chicken-and-egg problem: Publishers are hesitant to develop programming until demand for the technology exists. And 3D TVs that can play these games are just coming to market in America.

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of confusion about the hardware needed to play the games.

During a morning presentation, Michael Cai, VP of videogame research for Interpret, shared sobering results from a mid-April survey of 1,400 U.S. consumers that showed misperceptions about 3D TV and glasses, among other things. Those that had tried 3D gaming mostly liked it, although they didn’t all love the glasses.

Consumers were far more knowledgeable about 3D movies, which makes sense given they are much more widely available. In fact, “general awareness of 3D is primarily driven by theatrical,” Cai said.

The greatest barrier to 3D gaming? It’s too expensive. After all, one videogame pro noted, it’s a lot less expensive to pony up a few extra bucks for a 3D screening than to buy a new TV and glasses.

On the other hand, there’s no group more naturally predisposed toward 3D programming than gamers.

“Certainly, gamers are immersed in technology and ready to embrace new things,” said Frank Vitz, senior art director at Electronic Arts. Joshua Glazer, co-founder and chief technology officer of Naked Sky Entertainment, which published “Star Trek: DAC,” agreed. “The gamers don’t usually have to be convinced they need (technology). They’ll just buy it because it’s cool.”

Already, videogame pros said, there has been a change in perception about the viability of 3D gaming due to the extraordinary box office success of “Avatar.” James Cameron’s monster hit loomed large over the summit.

“Resident Evil: Afterlife” director Paul W.S. Anderson told the crowd he decided to shoot the sequel in 3D after Cameron shared early footage of “Avatar” with him. Anderson, a filmmaker with one foot in film and the other in the vidgame world, hadn’t been sure the technology had developed sufficiently.

Now he’s an evangelist for the immersive technology. “It’s hugely exciting for me as a filmmaker,” he said. “It’s the talkies just came in.”

There was no escaping Cameron’s role in 3D at this confab: Producers referred to the before- and after-“Avatar” effect on awareness about immersive tech. A 3D marketing company proudly displayed a glittering poster of the movie in the hallway of the Universal Hilton. And actor-videogame producer Reuben Langdon told the crowd, almost in passing, that he worked on the movie for two years as a stand-in for Jake Sully’s character.

What 3D gaming really needs, vidgame writer Flint Dille suggested, is an “Avatar” of its own. “3D is here, and it’s going to stay,” he said, proclaiming the technology is good for film and vidgames. According to him, the only question remaining is this: “What’s going to be the big game-play breakthrough in 3D?”

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