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Vidgames head into the third dimension

How much more immersive can video games get? Kids around the globe are about to find out. This past summer, revamped 3-D technology started cropping up in feature film releases such as Disney/Pixar's Up and Monsters vs. Aliens from DreamWorks, and now it's poised to enhance kids' gaming experiences.
September 4, 2009

How much more immersive can video games get? Kids around the globe are about to find out. This past summer, revamped 3-D technology started cropping up in feature film releases such as Disney/Pixar’s Up and Monsters vs. Aliens from DreamWorks, and now it’s poised to enhance kids’ gaming experiences.

Heading up the 3-D video game bandwagon is Burbank, California-based Disney Interactive Studios. To complement the summer release of Disney’s film G-Force – a spy tale that follows the mishaps of a team of crime-fighting guinea pigs – its gaming division created the industry’s first 3-D title. ‘It’s meeting a consumer need that’s been evolving over several generations to experience entertainment in a more personal, immersive way,’ notes Craig Relyea, SVP of global marketing for DIS.

To that end, G-Force is enhanced by the application of stereoscopic 3-D. This tech isn’t exactly new, but it hasn’t been used in video games since consoles in the pre-Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii era didn’t have the processing power to handle it.

The extra dimension is optional for users who want traditional 2-D gameplay. But those who decide to play in 3-D mode will be treated to eye-popping visuals. Taking control of the housefly Mooch, for example, lets players weave between spinning fan blades and navigate air conditioning ducts that look as if they’re spilling out of the TV screen and right onto the living room floor.

Not all properties are right for the 3-D treatment, though, and Relyea says action-oriented themes with rich environments tend to work best. In G-Force, the camera’s first-person POV when playing as Mooch, for example, really gives players a true sense of immersion.

Toy Story Mania!, based on the special 4-D ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and California Adventure Park, is the next title to enter the third dimension and is set for release this fall. The Wii-exclusive title includes midway-style, multi-player games that are aimed at getting the whole family involved.

It’s a well-timed new approach, says David Riley, director at industry research firm The NPD Group, adding 3-D has the potential to give a much-needed boost to vidgame sales, which took a 31% dip this past June from the same month in 2008. ‘This is the generation for experimentation with video games, especially with the hardware where you can get the full experience,’ he says. ‘To relay the 3-D improvements to video games would be a real win, and it’s a safe way to tap into the appeal. It’s a sure bet – if it’s done right.’

The 360 and PS3 G-Force titles (US$49.99) are E10 rated and packaged with two pairs of 3-D glasses. Currently, DIS is looking into more advanced applications for the tech in future titles. Also, expect to see other major game developers following Disney’s lead in the coming months.

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