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E3: New Tron game one of growing number in 3-D, shrinking number based on movies

June 15, 2010 |  8:15 am

TronEvolution When Tron: Evolution hits shelves this November, it will be on the front end of one trend in the video game industry and the tail end of another.

Walt Disney Co.'s game will be released in digital, or "stereoscopic," 3-D for the PlayStation 3. It's one of the first games released with the new technology that has become so popular in Hollywood after the success of James Cameron's movie "Avatar."

The game serves as a prequel for Disney's December movie "Tron: Legacy," which will be in 3-D as well. Video games based on new movies have become rarer as publishers focus more on properties they own. For much more on the trend and what it means for the movie and game industries, see the story in Tuesday's Times.

With game budgets already frequently exceeding $20 million, 3-D is an extra investment that makes the stakes for their success even higher. Sony Corp., maker of the PlayStation 3, is expected to promote 3-D in a press conference on the first day of the E3 industry conference Tuesday. 3-D has been a top priority for the Japanese electronics giant on a variety of its devices, including televisions, cameras and the video game console.

It is likely to unveil several upcoming 3-D games that it is producing. On Monday, Electronic Arts announced that its upcoming action game Crysis 2 will be released in 3-D for the PlayStation 3, PC and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

In the case of Tron, Disney-owned development studio Propaganda Games has a team that has ranged  between 15 and 20 people working for about five months to add 3-D elements to the game.

Given the minuscule number of televisions bought by consumers so far that are capable of displaying 3-D images, it's an investment that won't immediately pay off.

"There's obviously an initial cost in developing any new technology and 3-D is no different," said Darren Hedges, head of Propaganda. "Disney has been very cognizant of embracing new 3-D technology with movies like 'Alice,' with ESPN and with video games. We want to be a leader and we want to make sure we do it right the first time."

In the case of Tron: Evolution, players with a PlayStation 3 and a 3-D television will see soaring discs, "light cycles," and other weapons and vehicles from the game popping out of their screens. However, the actual content in the 3-D game, Hedges said, will be virtually identical to the standard version of the game.

As prices fall and more compatible devices come to homes, Hedges predicted, 3-D will become common in video games, particularly for the action and sports genres.

That could make for an unusual sight in the office of many game production studios.

"Bizarrely, yes, there are developers wearing 3-D glasses around our offices all day," Hedges said.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: A scene from Tron: Evolution. Credit: Disney Interactive Studios.

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