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3D success still coming into focus

While developments like the Nintendo 3DS price cut could represent a tough break for 3D products, cheaper 3D TVs and a greater consumer appetite for content could bode well for 3D across a range of devices.

The first 3D TV with THX's 3D certification, the LX PX950 plasma, became available almost a year ago.
LG Electronics

As we move further past the one-year anniversary of the first 3D TV sets launched in the U.S., it's clear 3D hasn't leapt to the forefront of consumer technology market. But it hasn't fallen completely into the background, either.

The recent announcement by Nintendo that it would dramatically cut the price of the Nintendo 3DS could be seen as another tough break for 3D products. In fact, Nintendo's newest handheld gaming system overcame two of the most commonly cited objections for 3D--high prices for hardware and the need to wear glasses.

Indeed, the most recent results of NPD's 3D 360° Monitor indicate that the 3DS helped raise the profile of handheld video games to become one of the most recognized 3D product categories.

As is the case with stereoscopy itself, though, there may be more to this picture than meets the eye. For example, Nintendo has traditionally priced significantly below its primary competitor, Sony, in both the home- and portable-console markets. The news that the forthcoming PlayStation Vita would debut at the 3DS' launch price of around $250 might have caused Nintendo to rethink what it charged.

The silver lining for 3D fans in all this is that consumers are increasingly being exposed to more 3D--most significantly in the theater and at retail.

Furthermore, Nintendo continues to contend with increasing gaming activity on the iPhone and other smartphone platforms, as well as a on a host of powerful tablets now vying for consumers' game-playing time.

There are other instances where the impact of 3D is difficult to ascertain. The arrival of "passive 3D" systems from LG and Vizio competing with "active 3D" systems from Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic has set off dueling marketplace claims regarding technical superiority and customer preference.

NPD has found that the new passive-technology approach holds interest for a high percentage of consumers; however, lower-priced 3D systems must now compete with premium 2D LED-lit TVs. And according to NPD's 3D 360° Monitor, consumers still show an overwhelming preference for a 2D-only set when presented with descriptions of both products for about the same price.

The silver lining for 3D fans in all this is that consumers are increasingly being exposed to more 3D--most significantly in the theater and at retail. When asked what types of movies they would like to see, a growing number of consumers expressed interest in seeing 3D films.

Related links
• 3D TV resource guide
• Passive 3D vs. active 3D: Hands-on TV comparison
• 3D glasses: Big sales opportunity or big hassle?

This state of affairs may be contributing to the success of 3D TVs, which currently account for about 10 percent of all flat-panel television sales, according to NPD's Retail Tracking Service. Since 3D TVs tend to be more expensive than 2D-only televisions, they represent an even greater percentage of overall revenue.

Or it could just be that 3D is but one of the features consumers are adopting as they seek a premium 2D-quality experience. Regardless, the combination of more affordable 3D TVs, a greater consumer appetite for content, and a commitment from Hollywood studios to keep a pipeline flowing from the cinema into the home bode well for the future of 3D across a range of consumer devices.