29comments SmartGlass and the Gaming Industry's Dependence on Media
Posted Wed 13th Jun 2012 3:07pm by Ruser Saldana
Some video game journalists and industry vets believe that the death of the console isn't too far off. I have largely ignored these doomsayers, not because they lack credible sources or compelling arguments but because we know there will be at least one more generation of consoles. This will likely get console gaming to 2018 or so, and who knows what the technological landscape and video game industry will look like by then.
Microsoft might have given us a glimpse into that future with SmartGlass, a new application that offers various gaming and media functions on the Xbox 360 through smartphone and tablet interaction. No, SmartGlass itself isn't the future of the industry; the app, while impressive, isn't the technological spectacle that, for example, the Kinect was when it wowed spectators at E3 a few years ago. SmartGlass's gaming applications appear lacking and who knows if the media content it provides will ever catch on.
However, the development of the application, the decision to reveal it at the biggest video game expo in the US despite its limited gaming potential, and the generally positive buzz it generated is an indication of the industry's growing dependence on media. Comparethe original Xbox 360 dashboard to the look it sports today and it’s clear the emphasis on the system's non-gaming capacities had greatly risen since it debuted in 2005. SmartGlass is the next step in the 360's media progression, but it is also a precursor to what's coming next: not just more media, but the prominence of multiple forms of media and media-device integration on consoles.
Considering the broadening video game audience, the rise of mobile gaming, and the decline in third-party exclusives, the success of future systems might very well depend more on their media capabilities than on games. That isn't to say video games won't be vital to the success and quality of a console - but whether or not a system is viable in the market might depend on how well it fits into people's everyday lives. Games will still be there for the core gaming audience, but as HD content and streaming media grows, Microsoft - along with Nintendo and Sony - are likely to make more aggressive plays for tech and media enthusiasts to maximize profit.
While consoles have technically been multimedia devices for some time now, their days of being a gaming system first and media player second might soon be over. Games are already sharing the stage with media at E3 and streaming video and music has already proven to be popular among console owners. SmartGlass suggests this cohabitation of games and media is headed towards an inevitable marriage. And as Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony battle for people's living rooms armed with hi-tech, multimedia wonders, the first casualty will not be the death of the console, but rather, the death of the console as we now know it.
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