As an idea, only two years ago, the thought of there being no future for the likes of the Microsoft Xbox and the Sony PlayStation would have be roundly and rightly derided. After all, home entertainment seemed to be packaged like any other piece of consumer electronics and destined for a place under the TV along side the DVD and the set-top box.
Well, that was then and this is now. Right now, things are a little fuzzier and we can allow a moment or two to reflect on comments from the likes of Itzik Bassat, vice president of business development at Blizzard Entertainment, the guys behind the hugely successful World Of Warcraft:
“In five years, maybe you won’t need a console anymore.”
The games console seems to be aggregating the same features as the average PC, but with an emphasis on entertainment, obviously. So that competes in some respects with Microsoft’s Windows Media Center Edition PC, which in turn competes with their own Xbox .. but that’s another story.
In any case, something’s got to give, but what?
“The PC is becoming an entertainment hub … you use it to watch videos and TV, play games, listen to music … with wireless, you can send your content from your PC to anywhere in the house, to your TV, something I already do. You can play PC on your TV because it’s an LCD screen.
Consoles are becoming sophisticated PCs which sit in the living room … we’ll have to see how all this develops. Maybe in five years you won’t need a console because you’ll have one PC which delivers content all over your house.”
But you could also argue that in five years time you won’t need a PC.
Didn’t we see set-top boxes trying to do the PC thing with word processors and email? We’ve seen home phones try to take on this responsibility, too.
For the most part, people just want web access, music, video, games and email .. all of which can be done elsewhere, away from the PC.
Convergence is by its very nature an odd thing. You can’t always force things together. And sometimes, even when the writing’s on the wall, the idea will usually fall flat on the floor.
My feeling is that games consoles have come to a crossroads in their life, where additional functionality is hiking the cost, and the price point is approaching a point where it’s no longer the sweet spot it was where consumers will buy into, not when you factor in the cost of the games.
Think of it this way: for what you’re paying for an Xbox and the proposed PlayStation 3, you can lay your hands on a cheap & cheerful Windows PC and still be able to play DVDs, music, video games, check your email, surf the web and much, much more besides.
Put your hands up in the air!
Then there’s Nintendo Wii, which has stolen a march on the other guys by bringing true interactivity into the living room in an enormously engaging and physical fashion just not seen before.
Maybe then, that’s the future of games consoles?
Maybe we also need to look to the demographics and we might see people like me with a modest disposable income who don’t want to have another computer in the house or a DVD player, but would have a games console like the Nintendo Wii that would let them play games, listen to music, watch the occasional DVD as well as browsing the internet, too.
Maybe this is the thin client / dumb terminal computer much talked about by Larry Ellison of Oracle before now, but delivered by stealth by someone else? If that were to be the case, then there’s no end to what such a device might be able to do.
Especially keen on such an idea might be Microsoft who could use such a games console as a trojan horse for their Windows franchise.
The irony of Microsoft bringing such a thing to market wouldn’t be lost on Larry Ellison, that’s for sure.
Meanwhile, we can all play World of Warcraft from the sofa…