To Microsoft, 3-D gaming with glasses is a science experiment

For the head of the gaming division at Microsoft, there’s a lot of hype surrounding 3-D TV technology, but not enough compatible TV in the marketplace and too many limitations to make it a success with consumers; however, 3-D gaming has been touted as one of the few success stories with consumers thus far.

Phil Spencer, the corporate vice president for Microsoft Game Studios, told CNN in a recent interview that “we’re trying to do things that millions of people can enjoy today” and “people just don’t have TVs in their house right now that are going to do 3-D in a way that’s going to work.”

The need for glasses is an Achilles’ heel to acceptance by consumers of 3-D TV technology, Spencer said.

“A bunch of people sitting around the living room wearing $150 glasses, I’m just not sure that’s kind of mainstream today,” he told CNN. “Trying to get a bunch of people playing together in a room where not everybody sees the same thing is kind of a weird disconnect to me.”

Without enough pairs of compatible glasses, some people end up staring at a blurry screen. Plus, there a medical disorder that prevents some people from watching 3-D content for long periods of time, he said. This combination of limitations doesn’t add up to widespread consumer acceptance of 3-D TV, Spencer noted. In fact, shipments of 3-D TVs this year will end up well below industry expectations, based on data from research firm DisplaySearch.

On the gaming front, Spencer said he liked Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld system, which uses a form of auto-stereoscopic technology that allows players to see 3-D and play games without wearing any glasses.

However, Spencer said he doesn’t like Sony’s “3-D-with-glasses” strategy, which tries to make movies, TV shows and game content work with today’s 3-D TV technology. Sony recently gave a glimpse of its plans for 3-D gaming by offering blockbuster games that are compatible with the technology as long as players have new 3-D TVs.

“As a corporate mandate, I don’t need to sell you a new TV,” Spencer said, referring to Sony’s and other consumer electronics manufacturers’ hardware business. “That’s not part of my business model. Other companies maybe have that part of their business model. I don’t.”