Xbox 360 to play the waiting game with 3D

Without question, one of the biggest themes of this year’s E3 expo will be 3D gaming, but Microsoft isn’t quite ready to embrace the new standard.

Sony will take the stage tomorrow to show off its latest gaming chops, and you can bet your Sixaxis that it will be showing off 3D content. With a firmware update earlier this year and 3D game patches last week, the PS3 has become the first to adopt stereoscopic 3D standards in video games.

Nintendo will also make a splash tomorrow with the official unveiling of what is now being referred to as the Nintendo 3DS handheld system, a portable game device (reportedly with more horsepower than the Wii) that displays 3D images without the need for external glasses.

Electronic Arts is also getting into the field with today’s announcement that the upcoming Crysis 2 will be rendered in 3D for those elite few with a 3D TV set. But for Microsoft, the fact that it is an elite group of people right now is an issue.

In a statement today, Microsoft noted, “It’s projected that less than one half of one percent of all TVs in the U.S. this year will be 3DTVs. And 3DTVs will make up only 5% of the TV installed base three years from now.”

So Microsoft has no plans to actively pursue 3D gaming at this time. However, the Xbox 360 is capable of outputting a stereoscopic 3D image, so third-party publishers are able to provide content if they so choose.

Microsoft also skirted around HD when the Xbox 360 first launched. The original unit did not have an HDMI port, and it was not until the $500 Xbox 360 Elite came out that Microsoft incorporated what is now the universal high-def standard.