Xbox 360 going 3D? (Answer: sort of)

Promotional deal between LG, Microsoft sparks rumor firestorm; console-maker confirms South Korea-only Avatar pack-in promotion with 3D-capable HDTV--but promises more 3D games to come.


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Source: Prolific tech blog Engadget.

What we heard: This morning appeared to be a one-two punch of major Microsoft news. First came a slip-up by a Microsoft Saudi executive that revealed Project Natal is launching worldwide in October. Second was the Engadget report, which bore the headline "Xbox 360 3D gaming a reality with LG partnership."

Engadget's piece was based off of a South Korean press release, but the Amsterdam-based author of the article didn't identify which company issued it. The blog did post a picture (top) of what were (presumably) LG and Microsoft executives playing a 3D game on a LX9500 LED HDTV above cobranded LG and Xbox 360 promotional materials. "The image above is unmistakeable [sic]: 3D gaming on an Xbox 360 with the help of an LG 3D television," declared the article.

LG and Microsoft are teaming up to bring 3D to the 360…provided you like Avatar and live in South Korea.
LG and Microsoft are teaming up to bring 3D to the 360…provided you like Avatar and live in South Korea.

Coupled with the headline, that last line set off a wave of reports declaring that Microsoft was jumping on the 3D bandwagon with both feet. Such a move would counter Sony's plans to make all PlayStation 3s 3D-capable via a firmware update later this year.

However, a closer look at the evidence shows that Microsoft's plans are of a much smaller scope than its rival's. On March 29, LG issued a press release to promote the launch of the LX9500 3D HDTV "next month"--i.e. April--although the set still appears to be unavailable. According to a rough translation, the hardware-maker touts a massive bundle, which will include the LX9500, a 3D-capable Blu-ray player, an Xbox 360, an HDMI cable (needed for 3D), and an "Avatar game title."

Avatar already brought 3D gaming to the Xbox 360 last December.
Avatar already brought 3D gaming to the Xbox 360 last December.

Indeed, the game shown in the photo is the critically panned movie-tie-in Avatar (see screen for comparison below), which was released last December with out-of-the-box 3D capability with stereoscopic 3D-compatible TVs. Engadget said the promotion also extended to other "3D-capable Xbox 360 games," of which there are few. Those include the movie tie-in G-Force, which came with old-school red-and-blue 3D glasses, and the just-released game of the year edition of Batman: Arkham Asylum, which uses TriOviz 3D technology to work on any television.

The official story: Microsoft offered the following statement: "As we've said before, 3D games are available today on Xbox 360 and will continue to evolve. Today, you can buy a 3DTV and wear glasses to play games like Avatar and Batman: Arkham Asylum. The promotional partnership with LG announced in South Korea today is specific to the South Korean market, but is further evidence that as 3D adoption grows, Xbox 360 will support 3D games and entertainment."

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that Microsoft has announced a new Xbox 360 with 3D capabilities, which some outlets are reporting despite Engadget's explicit caveat that "we're not seeing anything specific claiming new Xbox 360 hardware." Not bogus that Microsoft is hoping to expand its Korean market share--and test the 3D waters--in a cross-promotion deal with LG.

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