Can New Consoles Bridge The Entertainment Gap?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Can New Consoles Bridge The Entertainment Gap?

It wasn't so long ago that, for entertainment, the idea that people would use game consoles only for gaming was pretty much etched in stone. Sure, some were using them to play DVDs and Blu-rays in some cases--this was half the selling point of the PlayStation 3 in its early days--but for the most part, consoles were for games and everything else was for, well, everything else. But now, consoles are changing, and we may well be at a point where consoles can serve as the ultimate in entertainment boxes.

No less a personage in gaming than Will Wright actually started wondering something similar himself while at the GameHorizon Live event on a live webcast. During the resulting Q&A session that followed, Wright--the creator of such major titles as "The Sims" and "SimCity", started discussing how the upcoming game consoles could prove to be "connective tissue" between games and entertainment like movies and music. Inspired by what he called a "Cambrian" explosion of development for app stores, the idea of a consolidated experience began to catch his attention.

Indeed, he's got a point. Call it the combination of several factors coming together at once. For one of the first times in history, we've reached a point where large quantities of video can be sent via the Internet. Indeed, many users are throwing over traditional television--cable, antenna or satellite--in favor of online video sources. Game consoles are more readily connecting to the Internet, and bandwidth options are starting to catch up to where it's now possible to not only watch a lot of television online, but it's also possible to use a game console as a kind of cable box. Indeed, with the Xbox 360, for example, users can get access to Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and even YouTube, and that combination is a potent one indeed in terms of how much video can be accessed.

But at the same time, it's not quite ready yet. Users aren't exactly having an easy time of things, compounded by Microsoft's baffling insistence at demanding a secondary paywall via Xbox Live Gold that essentially turns free services into paid services, and paid services into double-paid services. It's not surprising that users that already pay Netflix for access aren't too enthusiastic about paying Microsoft a second time just to watch Netflix content on an Xbox 360.

Still, there's a lot of potential in something like that. As Kinect advances in overall capability--improving the voice response and gesture controls and such--and Microsoft starts improving the content offerings, which it's definitely been working on, the idea of an Xbox, and only an Xbox, as the primary impetus for living room entertainment is a definite possibility.

There are still bugs to be worked out in the concept, but a game console as a larger entertainment platform is not only a possibility for the future, but in many ways, it's here right now. Suboptimally, granted, but here nonetheless.
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