Sony reminds us of the high cost of first generation 3D TV

3D TVs are coming whether we want them to or not. TV makers and content providers aren’t testing the water – they’re jumping head-first and pulling consumers in, too. But like high definition a few years back, early adapters will be forced to pay a high premium and suffer through a format war of sort before it really catches on.

Take a look at Sony’s just-announced 3D lineup: The company announced eight 3D BRAVIA TVs for the Japanese market along with a set of necessary 3D accessories, which will compete against Panasonic and Samsung sets when they all eventually hit the market in the coming months. Nevermind that the US models might be slightly different. Let’s talk about the multiple steps needed to watch 3D content on your brand new 3D TV.

First you have to get a 3D TV. That much is obvious and you’ll have a few options to choose from. Sears is already taking pre-orders for Samsung models and Best Buy is kicking off 3D TV with Panasonic this morning. At this point we really don’t know which brand or model is better, so let’s assume they are all nearly the same and go with the new Sony’s for the sake of moving forward.

So you have your new Sony 3D TV. Good for you. But you might have noticed that your brand new TV didn’t come with 3D glasses. Those cost extra — $140 in Japan. At least they will be available in gray, blue, and pink. But you’re still not done. You’ll need to buy the $60 3D “synchro transmitter” that ensures the glasses stay synced with the TV.

But you still can’t watch 3D content because there isn’t any right now. A few 3D Blu-ray movies are scheduled to come out this summer, but you’ll need a special Blu-ray player to watch them. Sony just started sell a few, but they can’t output the 3D content until they receive firmware that’s supposed to be out in a couple of months.

It’s true that ESPN and Discovery announced that they both plan on launching a 3D TV station. ESPN will start broadcasting only special events like the World Cup this summer. Discovery 3D should be on the air sometime in 2011. But it’s up to your cable or satellite provider to get you the station.

This is a hot mess, right? It gets worse, pal.

Let’s say you jump in and spend the cash on a nice Sony 3D setup, complete with the Blu-ray player and pink glasses. Those same 3D glasses will not work on your buddies Samsung 3D TV or with your NVIDIA 3D Vision computer setup. You’re stuck watching the World Cup alone because each brand of 3D TV requires its own 3D glasses.

There is no denying that 3D is here to stay. It’s the only viable option manufacturers have to get consumers to upgrade from their just-purchased HDTV. But it might be wise to sit on the sidelines for the first couple of rounds until the TV makers get some standards hammered out. You just saw Avatar in 3D anyway and soccer is probably just as boring in 3D as it is is in 2D.