If you are already a gamer playing in stereoscopic 3D mode or are at least following what has been happening with stereo 3D you have probably noticed that lately stereo 3D gaming is being left aside and both AMD and Nvidia are focusing on 4K gaming as the next big thing in gaming. The question here is if 4K gaming will become the norm in a few years or it will have fate that stereo 3D gaming does currently have – not supported and left to the community hoping that it will keep it alive. Nvidia has done great by reviving its old stereoscopic 3D drivers and pushing both hardware manufacturers and gamers to go and try stereoscopic 3D gaming a few years ago and thus creating the big market for stereoscopic 3D gaming itself. Of course there were also other solutions already available at that time, but they did not have the needed resources and the interest in general in stereo 3D was not that strong back then. AMD on the other hand also supported kind of stereoscopic 3D, but it was “outsourced” to partners such as iZ3D and DDD, because the company never did have very strong interest in stereoscopic 3D gaming. With the boom of the interest in stereo 3D after Cameron’s movie Avatar and because Nvidia already had strong positions in the stereoscopic 3D gaming market that it has helped create, AMD had to do something more and the HD3D technology has been introduced. The problem is that AMD did not try to push game developers to support this technology (this often happens with the innovative technologies they announce) and while Nvidia has done a better job at first, lately they give the impression as they are not considering their 3D Vision technology as something they need to push anymore. So at the moment only DDD are actively developing their TriDef 3D solution and are pursuing not only stereo 3D on the PC, but also on other markets such as mobile devices and they are even offering a beta support for the Oculus Rift.
Meanwhile what happened to the market is that people yet again got interested in VR technology and gaming in VR environments mostly thanks to the Oculus Rift project and the really good feedback it got not only by consumers, but by developers as well. And just like stereoscopic 3D the Head Mounted Displays are nothing really new, they are just something that got revived yet again thanks to the recent huge boom in technology for mobile devices that allows you to pack good enough hardware in a small package and most importantly at an affordable price. The revival in the interest in VR gaming has also helped the development of various non-traditional controllers, but while the hardware is here or will soon be available the biggest issue that remains is the availability of software that will support it. With the Oculus Rift things are already moving quite well and with the introduction of the consumer version of the device in 2014 it could really be the next big thing in gaming and not 4K. Even the lower resolution development kits of the Rift have demonstrated that the resolution is not the most important thing for gaming, though it helps, it should not only be all about the resolution. The experience you are getting while gaming is way more important than to have some more pixels and that goes not only when talking about the hardware you are using, but also for the games you are going to be playing.
Let’s get back to 4K gaming and see what is happening there and why. Hardware companies already started promoting the new technology supporting 4K as 1080p or Full HD has apparently gotten old and widely adopted, so the industry needs to provide something new. Obviously increasing the resolution of a display is a good choice as you will need more powerful hardware that is capable of supporting the higher resolution, and before the technology starts to become widely adopted the prices will be high and the profit will be good. Both AMD and Nvidia will want you to buy not just one high-end video card, but two or even three in order to be able to play in 4K resolution at maximum detail levels in the latest games. And it is not only the video card, you will also need a high-end CPU, more memory, faster disk drives etc. so this will be driving the hardware market forward obviously. At the moment however not that many people are readily giving 3-4K USD for a PC and then again that much for a 4K display like the Asus PQ321QE (there are not that many options available yet) just to be able to got higher resolution.
The truth is that you can get much more realism and fun while gaming with either VR or stereo 3D and that can happen at a fraction of a cost that 4K would require at this point, so undoubtedly the question that arises here is if 4K is the next step in gaming or not? This depends a lot on how things move in the following year or two, so we need more 4K monitors becoming available and at a much lower price in order for normal consumers to start buying the hardware. For the moment 4K gaming is only for enthusiasts with deep pockets that love to brag about their PC being top of the line and it will be like that for some time. Sure it was a similar situation with stereoscopic 3D when it was reintroduced with the 3D Vision technology a few years back, it was more expensive, but not as what 4K costs at the moment. With Stereo 3D gaming it was the experience that it provided compared to playing a game on a normal 2D monitor that quickly drove people into adopting it and with 4K it is just more of the same – you get more pixels. And more pixels and higher pixel density just make the image look smoother and hard edges not so apparent even when not using AA filtering, so it does not add that much to the immersion inside the game atmosphere and making the experience more realistic like when playing a good game in stereoscopic 3D or in VR mode. So the future of 4K gaming for now is a bit cloudy and unsure and while you should not totally ignore it for the moment, you should not also jump immediately on the 4K boat either. The industry is not yet completely ready with the technology required for 4K, so it is best to wait and see what happens in 2014 before making a decision, and let us see if the sequel of the movie Avatar in 2016 will bring back the interest in stereoscopic 3D technology or maybe the wide availability of good autostereoscopic 3D solutions (glasses-free) in a few years or…