The Next Big Thing
Consoles: New interfaces at playThe PS4 and the Xbox One do much more than just play games; that's a given. CNET's Brian Cooley explains how they're now making a play for a broader slice of the living room constituency, and doing so via interfaces beyond the traditional controller.
-You know, we just got two new game consoles -- Xbox One and Playstation 4 -- and the whole console space will be different for them. -Ladies and gentlemen, I'm thrilled to introduce, the PlayStation 4. -We're thrilled to unveil the ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system. -The new Xbox and PlayStation do much more than just play games with greater power and realism that you would expect. They also make a much broader play for the entire constituency of the living room, moving more into entertainment, media, even communications and doing so with different interfaces than just the familiar controller. -Xbox on. Xbox One easily recognized me and gets me to my own personal home screen. A new set of universal gestures to control your entire TV experience. -Both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 can log you in through facial recognition. The Xbox does it through the Kinect camera that comes included with the system. And for the PlayStation 4, you need the PlayStation camera that's a $60 add on that I think it's well worth it. And PlayStation 4 does not know who I am, but if I take that off, [unk] again. It does motion tracking. So, if you're walking around the room, having a Skype call, it'll follow you. It actually tracks your heartbeat, you know, if you have an exercise game. -And I can say, "Xbox, show fantasy." And now, I get my fantasy players right alongside. -Gaming is a huge business long ago, leaving behind such stalwarts as theatrical movie presentation or radio broadcasting certainly by revenue in the US, $79 billion in total revenue in 2012, expected to jump to maybe $93 billion when 2013 is all said and done and substantially more in 2014 and 2015. The lion's share of that is console based, although the PC is still a strong second and mobile gaming is coming on like mad as you know, but if you just look at online gaming through consoles, that alone, 165 million regular users by 2017. We're dealing with large numbers in almost every avenue. You don't just get that by doing high-end gaming. -Go to TV. -Forty-two percent of console owners use them to watch movies, 19 percent to watch TV shows. -Show the guide. -Especially the way the Xbox One brings in DVR ability, live TV, and pay TV, the usage curves ought to stay pretty stout. So, the Xbox and PlayStation have a very interesting space and somewhat to themselves. Consoles are one of the few areas where Apple, Google, and Samsung don't call the shots. And as games and movies and even television shows begin to share technologies, looks, and motifs, they leverage each other and make each other bigger. It becomes one big entertainment pie. And the game consoles are well positioned to be in the middle of it. Now, specifically, at launch at least, Microsoft's Xbox One seems more focused on TV integration whereas Sony's PlayStation is keeping a bigger foot over in the gaming side, but also leveraging hard its 4K output ability because Sony wants to sell 4K TVs, Microsoft does not. And both these devices are important plays by Microsoft and Sony to become kings in second screen. And by that, I mean, formal second screen where the content on each screen is synced, tied, and relevant to each other as opposed to informal second screen that we already do a lot of. That would be more like checking Facebook while you're watching an unrelated TV show. Advertisers are in love with the possibilities of second screen, and Microsoft and Sony would love to come to them with a pre-build audience that is already using their ecosystem of mobiles, televisions, and consoles in the middle. Now, a big risk to this grandiose vision of consoles taking over the living room lies in products we already have. If set-top boxes, mobiles that talk to TVs, optical disks, and pay TV prove insurmountable because of their relatively low cost, low commitment cost, and ability to evolve quickly, that could put a real damper on what these companies think they're going to do in the living room. So, here's the four-point plan for the game consoles to attack the living room. First, embrace and support the content I already subscribed to and used. Don't make me reinvent the wheel. Secondly, support the mobile devices that I carry, not just the ones you make. Third, go get a new digital covenant with Hollywood. Give me the stuff I want at a great price on demand and do it before Apple does. And fourth, get out there and make the interface and the whole device experience as simple as TV used to be. If game consoles can pull that off in their living room presentation, they will indeed be an American household technology engineered like no other.