The World of Tomorrow… Comes 6 Years Late
Hey kids! Fellow Padingan Andrew “The Virginian” Allen and your usual Thursday commentator had a wild time at the Konami press event last night, and so he will be delayed as he processes a night of sensory overload into some sort of article. … I’m not going to say what went on at that press conference, but there may have been things that rhymed with brocaine and frostitutes… just saying.
In the meantime, this blogpost by Frank X. Shaw, Vice President of Corporate over at Microsoft Games caught my eye this morning.
In it, Frankie-X discusses how The 360 is now more than just a gaming console. In fact, 40% of of activity on all the 360s that are running online is dedicated to non-gaming activities. This reminds me of another ad campaign from a few years back…
But, hey, I’m not going to use up all the front page’s real estate. Come inside and sit a spell. Lets talk about multi-media platforming.
(…remind me when typing up future articles to just search for ‘doorman’ for images like the one above. Searching for ‘come inside’ produced a whole different series of results)
So, yeah, Shaw estimates that 40% of Xbox 360 usage is non-gaming. What’s all the rest of it? Well, it says ‘mult-media’
but the only statistic he gives is that the average console is spilling out nearly 30 hours of video content every week. Yep, Netlfix, Amazon VOD, and Hulu Plus streaming TV Shows and Movies into the home via game consoles, along with the DVD playback, are giving the consoles a whole other purpose in the house.
And I can vouch for this personally. I don’t have a 360, but my roommate does, and we stream movies into it constantly. In my room, my PS3 is also my blu ray player, my Netflix streamer, and I can link it up to any nearby computers on a wireless network and play their music collections through my surround sound. It is, in short, some crazy, crazy shit. The game console is no longer just that. It is, aside from still using my laptop for most of my internet needs, the sole source of all my digital media consumption. The all-in-one device.
… and if the web browsers on those things ran smoother and faster, I’d probably go ahead and use it for that, too. The monitor’s bigger. And as the 20% of all ‘net users who are, at any given time, looking at pornography will tell you, bigger is better.
What interests me, really, is how much I’m reminded of this ad campaign from six years ago. Go ahead, read it, click on them little tabs. I’ll wait…
I remember when I was running a Gameco back in Lawrence, KS, and I was helping people assemble full PS2 networking platforms. You had your system, revolutionary in that it could play DVD movies as well, and you’d slap in a hard-drive peripheral, a network adapter, a keyboard, a headset, and your dual shock controllers. The device could play games, movies, music, supported online multi-player, and had limited internet capabilities. Very few people actually put together the full ensemble, but the intent was certainly clear: make the PS2 the core entertainment device for the household. Throw away that DVD player, that stereo, your computer. You won’t need ‘em because you’ve got a PS2… and if any system ever could have accomplished this goal, it was the PS2. With one in every 3 houses in the country, it was the most prolific platform in gaming history. In five years, the PS2 sold 150 Million units, nearly double that of the Wii’s impressive tally. Microsoft saw this threat coming when the PS2′s design specs started to circulate, and answered with the Xbox.
Any why not? Sony was primed, at the time, to become the all-in-one entertainment device, the monopoly on all your media streams, through bulk sales. But Microsoft, it has the clout to overtake Sony based on the variety of products they produce. Granted, Sony develops a lot of amazing technology… but their browser is shit. Microsoft can incorporate Windows into they systems, and really get all of your devices syncing together. We’re seeing this happen with the 360. Shaw mentions the possibility of using Windows 7 to sync your 360 to your PC and your Windows-based cell phone for more gaming options. Microsoft also produces the Zune, an iPod clone that can channel music through your 360 and its sound system.
The problem that kept the PS2 from accomplishing its goals at the time was simply the march of technology. Not everything was in step together. It wanted to be your core music player, but the iPod was released, and suddenly the CD option didn’t look so cool. It wanted to be your network device, but the increasing need for speed and memory for websites made the PS2′s initial broadband capabilities feel to slow and choppy. The PS3 and 360 both had to be developed like high-end computers just to keep up with all the other technologies around it, if it was going to last 5+ years.
Now both companies surely have their eyes on the next wave of technological evolution. Portable devices are where its
at right now, and surely Microsoft, as implied in this blog, is looking at ways to tie into these and link everything together, using the 360′s successor as the central hub. This next system probably will take voice and motion commands through a Kinect-like reader. It will be your gaming and movie device. It will (or had better) have a Windows compatible browser with basic PC functions, like a word processor, and a strong internet browser. It will let you browse and download MP3 files, which you can then sync up wirelessly to your Zune and take with you. Likewise, you should be able to link your phone, which has a Windows Browser, up to it to do hands-free calling with a voice command during a game. And if you need to go somewhere, the system should be able to drop a portable version of the title into your phone that you can play on the road. All XBLA games should be able to load into your phone, and have touch screen capabilities.
Is this goal too lofty? I really don’t think so. The technology to link everything together and really capture the entertainment market is entirely there. But the execution? Well, that’s the real trick. So often corporations have these grand ideas, but fail to actually execute them. Maybe this is the generation where it finally all comes together?
…or maybe I think bigger than the game companies, and I’m setting myself up for disappointment. Either way, I have a feeling that next week’s E3 conference will give us some insight to this phenomena. Microsoft needs to have something big up their sleeve, because they’ve been the most quiet so far.
… and, hey, What about Nintendo? They haven’t made any steps in this direction so far, really. They’ve just stuck to games but, surely, they’ve noticed the need to link up with music and portable devices if they are going to survive in the future marketplace. I mean, in a few years, you’re going to have a choice between a game machine, or a game machine that is also a portable game thing, a cell phone, a computer, an mp3 player, and all that crap. At the same price point, you’re going to buy the all-in-one. So, since Nintendo doesn’t make any of that stuff, what are they going to do?
Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Project Cafe announcement came with a new partnership with Apple, and a link to the iPod, iPhone, and all their other devices? I mean, years ago, Nintendo already said that Apple was the force to watch in the future of gaming, not Microsoft or Sony. Hmm…