Gaming consoles: child’s play or the next big media disruption?


I will openly admit I was a gamer in my younger years. Not all games — sports-based ones mostly. But I have owned pretty much every console since the introduction of the Atari 2600 in the late 70s.

To this day I still will grab the latest version of Madden Football to keep my skills intact. Not everything is best on a tablet!

These games are a’ changin’ yet again. As we see every five to six years, the next generation of gaming systems is on the way at the end of this year.

Both Sony and Microsoft will launch the latest PlayStation and Xbox systems in the fourth quarter of 2013. Each promises a dynamic shift in the way game systems are used in the home.

Today, they are already fully online-capable with access to prominent streaming services like Netflix, as well as rich online communities where gamers can game.

But we can expect all of this to move to the next level. These new systems are being built as the centre of your home entertainment, news, and information environment — a one-stop shop, as it were.

Microsoft has already had its moment at the E3 Conference to announce the Xbox One (the name might be misleading to some, as this will actually be the third-generation system from Xbox). On June 10, Sony will announce the details behind the PS4 (the fourth generation PlayStation).

Why is this important?

These new consoles intend to collapse a number of technological innovations into one central system. In theory, all you will need is an HDTV and you will be able to watch television, movies, access the Internet, take incoming phone calls, listen to music, and access premium news content.

All without the use of a remote. Just simple hand gestures and voice recognition will allow you to control this new hub.

Does that sound overly innovative? Is it radically different from features seen in today’s marketplace? No … but all packaged together? Maybe. Can this be disruptive? Definitely!

We need to keep in mind that the last round of systems was built for gamers. These systems appealed to a larger market with some expanded features (PS3 included a Blu-Ray player at launch), but at the core they were great gaming machines.

Things like streaming audio and video were hardly prevalent in 2006, when these systems launched. But they grew and evolved with the needs of users.

So now imagine gaming systems built to provide the world’s best gaming experience, yet simultaneously focused on the needs of all users. Think of how advanced these systems will be in their ability to evolve and grow.

Microsoft and Sony are both attempting to position themselves as replacements for subscription service TV, radio, newspapers, and home computing. Even tablets will be at risk as the systems advance.

Some of this might seem far-fetched, but so would MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter just 10 years ago. These consoles are a real threat to traditional media and something everyone should be aware of.

You’ve seen it in movies: You walk into a room, tell the TV to turn on, tell it to turn to a channel, ask it the headlines of the day, get today’s weather forecast, check your calendar, etc. 

All of this becomes a reality in a few short years with a centralised brain controlling everything. This is what is at stake.

Many in mainstream media might see gaming as a non-issue, a tertiary platform for kids posing no real threat. Well, those kids are now in their late 20s and early 30s and part of a core audience every advertiser wants to reach.

Think of all the data that will be collected by Microsoft and Sony through the usage of these systems. How that can then be harnessed to deliver very specific and very targeted marketing messages to users.

There is no stopping technological innovation. You must embrace it. You need to think about how it can help/enhance what you are doing today and what ways there are to monetise it.

I, by no means, have the answers, nor am I saying this will be the next big thing … but it could be. Smart people at smart companies are looking forward to things like this. The question is, are you one of those people?

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