A year ago the buzz around everything 3-D was beginning to drown out the normal buzz around furry talking holiday toys. If you believed the manufacturers of TVs and the movie studios, it was only a matter of time before we would be watching everything in 3-D.

But this holiday season the tone has changed dramatically. Best Buy isn't running as many 3-D TV ads, ESPN isn't advertising their 3-D network, and even films in 3-D seem to be less prevalent. So what happened?

Too far too fast
A year ago, 3-D was exploding on extremely optimistic projections. RealD (NYSE: RLD) was adding its technology to theaters by leaps and bounds, movie studios were thirsty for added 3-D revenue, and after the success of Avatar, it seemed as if 3-D was can't-miss.

But Panasonic (NYSE: PC), Sony (NYSE: SNE), and Samsung didn't sell as many 3-D TVs as expected, and ticket sales began to wane. RealD has been hit especially hard after seeing disappointing box office sales and having a partnership with Samsung fall apart. Even an all-3-D channel by Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCK), Sony, and IMAX (NYSE: IMAX) has been stuck in a rut.

Hope on the horizon
But disappointment early in a new technology's life doesn't spell doom. 3-D has a niche role in movies and maybe even television, but it doesn't belong everywhere. Studios are beginning to learn this and are using 3-D more prudently.

Costs are also falling for 3-D televisions, making the extra cost more palatable for consumers. 2011 may not be a big year for 3-D in the home, but 2012 could be. 3net Head of Acquisitions Mark Ringwald recently pointed to projections of 12 million 3-D TVs in the U.S. by the end of 2012 as a point of optimism. Remember that HD didn't take over standard television overnight. It was a long process.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.