Eight long months after the launch of the Xbox One and PS4, both Microsoft and Sony have finally announced support for playback of 3D Blu-rays. I’m certainly not going to turn my nose up at the addition of new features, but it does make me wonder what took so long for these updates to surface. The PS3 has had 3D Blu-ray support since 2010, and it works perfectly fine on that aging hardware. So, what’s the hold-up on the current generation?
In a blog post last week, the Xbox team announced that 3D Blu-ray support will be coming to the Xbox One in the next update. Just a few days later, the official PlayStation Twitter account confirmed that 3D Blu-ray support will be added with the 1.75 firmware update scheduled for next week. So, after eight months of silence, why is support for stereoscopic playback getting so much attention all of a sudden? As far as I can tell, this rush for 3D playback on the PS4 is just Sony trying to save face after Microsoft’s announcement.
Based on information from the 2009 press release from the Blu-ray Disc Association, the Blu-ray 3D standard doesn’t seem spectacularly difficult to implement. The Blu-ray player in question will need to support Multiview Video Coding requiring roughly a “50% overhead compared to equivalent 2D content.” Also, the 3D-capable HDMI 1.4 standard has been in place since 2009, so that certainly shouldn’t be an issue for either console. No big deal, right?
The fact is, the PS3 $250.00 at Diapers.com is eight years old, and it handles 3D Blu-rays just fine. There doesn’t appear to be any substantial technical hurdle — it all comes down to resource allocations for the dev teams. Both the PS4 $399.99 at Dell and Xbox One $399.00 at Amazon shipped last year lacking a number of promised features, so it’s mostly an issue of priorities. Sony has undoubtedly been planning 3D Blu-ray support all along, but Microsoft’s announcement seems to have ruffled some feathers.
Version 1.74 of the PS4’s firmware just came out a few days ago, so it seems that the stereoscopic support might have been rushed out to avoid looking foolish. After all, Sony is the driving force behind Blu-ray, so it would look pretty bad if Microsoft was outclassing the PlayStation team in that regard.
Regardless of the resource constraints or politics behind this ordeal, fans of 3D will benefit no matter which console they own. The aging PS3 still offers the best bang for your buck in terms of media playback, but it seems the new consoles are slowly starting to catch up.