TOKYO ( TheStreet) -- In January, James McQuivey of Forrester Research ( FORR) eloquently summarized the 3-D push in one sentence: "If you really want 3-D to work, it's all about the gamers." Two months later, gaming companies are listening.Last week, Nintendo announced plans to release a glasses-free 3-D handheld system, the 3DS, by March 2011. The company's proclamation came just after Sony ( SNE) unveiled its PlayStation 3 motion controller, Move, that would allow gamers to not only play with motion control in HD, but on Sony's 3-D televisions coming in June. All of this 3-D talk comes during a down period for the game industry, which watched February sales dive 15% from the same time last year, according to NPD Group. In 2009, console game sales dropped 8% from 2008, with PC game revenue plummeting 23%. Even if 3-D gaming offers a power-up, the sector may be a few stages away from finding such relief. Despite modest success with 3-D gaming in the PC realm by companies like Nvidia ( NVDA), whose chips and GeForce bundles added depth to games like Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed and Activision's ( ATVI) Call of Duty 4, console makers are just now toying with real 3-D offerings. Firmware and other updates will give the PS3 the ability to play true stereoscopic 3-D games and movies by this summer, with Microsoft ( MSFT) yet to announce 3-D plans for the Xbox 360 and Project Natal motion controller. "These are people who already sit right in front of the TV 7 feet away and stare straight ahead in the dark for hours on end," McQuivey said. "They are the perfect 3-D audience." For those wondering if he's right, here's a look at some five early 3-D offerings that could be a sign of what's to come: James Cameron's Avatar: The Game; publisher: Ubisoft, 20th Century Fox Games, Lightstorm Entertainment; release date: available now. It can only get better from here. Much like its big-screen namesake, Avatar the game looks amazing in 3-D on the PS3 and Xbox (somewhat less so on the non-HD Wii). Much like the movie, though, the aesthetics cover any number of problems. What's the point of making a game version if the game itself isn't very fun to play. The controls are jerky, the story is as weak as Cameron's and the play offers gamers about as many options as the 16-bit 2-D offerings produced nearly 20 years before. It's not the first time a film's video game adaptation has disappointed -- try playing any of the Lord of The Rings games -- but this was a lot of technology and money spent on blue people not doing what you want them to.
Batman Arkham Asylum: Game of The Year Edition; publisher: joint between Square Enix and Time Warner; release date: May 11. What do you do when your superhero game unexpectedly sells more than 3 million copies worldwide. Release it again -- this time in 3-D. This isn't the same 3-D that's powering Avatar, as the TriOviz 3-D "technology" used on the Arkham reboot doesn't require a 3-D television, but it adds depth to an already striking game. The dark, foreboding levels somehow seem even more vast and eerie, while the characters and action get a little added pop. The effect may not be worth it to gamers who already own a copy, but with six maps originally available only for download now packaged with the game, Arkham Asylum gives first-time buyers the added value future 3-D titles will need to offer. Metro 2033; publisher: THQ ( THQI); release date: available now. OK, it's not a 3-D title, but try telling that to Nvidia, which has been taking Metro 2033 to various electronics shows as a demo for its $4,000 graphics-processing unit. Nvidia couldn't have picked a better subject as this post-apocalyptic, shoot-'em-up trek through Moscow's subway system was scary as Hades to begin with. The blood spatter in your eyes and cracks in your gas mask that serve as the only signs of your character's injuries (that's right, no life meters) become increasingly apparent, while rogue humans, metaphysical "Dark Ones" and the dank tunnels all take on added dimension. Considering the game's potential for downloadable content and updates, it's a promising candidate for a 3-D upgrade. LittleBigPlanet; publisher: Sony; release date: unknown. This is how you introduce a new format -- by taking the gamer by the hand and leading him or her to it with a familiar title. According to Eurogamer, an early demo shown in January at London's Evolution Studios featured the puzzle game's Sackboy hero morphing into 3-D and putting on glasses. Considering the importance of different materials and textures in this game, and the physics behind their reactions, LittleBigPlanet seems like a natural 3-D fit. Its family friendly appeal, multiplayer capability and tons of customizable and downloadable content also provide the malleable platform 3-D will need to introduce itself to new audiences. We're guessing stalwarts will line up to be the first kid on the PlayStation network with their own custom-built 3-D level.
Attack of the Movies 3-D; publisher: Majesco ( COOL); release date: May 2010. Not nearly in the same realm as the Avatar game, which actually requires 3-D-compatible hardware and glasses more powerful than the old-school blue-and-red packaged with this, Attack of the Movies is a subtle reminder of 3-D's inherent gimmickry. This shooter takes players through various levels of loosely based scenarios found on screen. There are levels of zombies, Terminator knockoffs and even a Death Star-style space battle, but no licensing rights. The game makes no apologies: It's a six-level, $30 casual game that cashes in on the 3-D trend by exposing 3-D gaming for exactly what it is right now: a novelty. -- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.