Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) at long last will be receiving a patch to allow it to playback 3D Blu-ray movies. The patch will end months of growing grumblings about Sony's failure to support the technology it once coveted.
Graphically and architecturally speaking, the PS4 was a major leap over the PlayStation 3 (PS3). Moving away from the PS3's powerful, but unusual CELL processor-based design towards a more standardized, PC-like console Sony was able to cut its costs so much that it reportedly turned a profit from day one. What's more, amidst Microsoft various public relations hiccups, Sony's console has emerged as the clear sales leader, outselling Microsoft's Xbox One nearly 3-to-2.
But for all the ways that the PS4 was a step forward for Sony, in at least one way it was a step back from the PS3: 3D Blu-ray support. Sony was responsible for developing the Blu-ray standard, which it first teased at in 2000 before a commercial release in 2006.
The PS3 was not only the first console to feature Blu-ray playback -- it was one of the first Blu-ray players, period. And while the PS3 lost the sales race to Nintendo Wii and Microsoft's Xbox 360, the PS3 did achieve one crucial victory -- boosting Blu-ray to a win over HD DVD, a rival format that Microsoft had backed with an extension to the Xbox 360.
Unsurprisingly, Sony looked to make the PS3 one of the first testbeds for its new 3D Blu-ray movie technology, rolling out PS3 v3.50 firmware in Sept. 2010 to support the new format. The PS3 remains the most owned Blu-ray 3D (and general Blu-ray) player in existence today according to the Blu-ray Association. Over 80 million 3D-movie-capable PS3 consoles have been sold to date.
With the launch of the PS4, Sony bafflingly left off 3D Blu-ray playback support. In Feb. 2013, Sony's PlayStation Executive Shuhei Yoshida in an interview with IGN explained:
3D was a big thing a couple of years ago — we made it a big thing because it was lead by the consumer electronics side of Sony and we liked what we could do on PS3 using 3D stereoscopic. But now the consumer electronics side of Sony, or all of the companies have shifted focus from 3D TV to something else, so if they're not talking about it, why would we?
In the same interview he explained the new focus was on so-called "ultra HD" (UHD) video, aka "4K video" (3,840 x 2,160 pixels), stating:
The PS4 supports 4K output, but only for photos and videos — not games. PS4 games do not work on 4K.
Sony's attention was also stolen away by its new virtual reality glasses technology, called Morpheus.
But at long last the 8-9 million PS4 owners in the wild today will be able to soon enjoy 3D Blu-ray video. Sony EU just tweeted that the PS4 firmware update v1.75 will finally bring the feature to Sony's next gen console:
It's still not Sony's primary focus compared to virtual reality and 4K video. But it's clear Sony is altogether abandoning 3D video technology, either as the format continues along its slow global growth path.