Current generation game consoles – Sony’s PlayStation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii – have a lot more going for them than gaming. Their technology gives content creators new ways to reach untapped, as well as existing, audiences. The choices range from over-the-top services and second-screen possibilities to gesture and voice recognition.
Over-the-Top (OTT) Challenges Traditional Delivery
Today’s game platforms feature Wi-Fi connectivity that lets users buy, download and stream content to their TVs via apps or proprietary online services (i.e. PlayStation Store, Xbox Video). What this gives providers is a chance to extend branding through both content and “channel” apps.
Subscriber-based Xbox Live recently added a slew of these channel apps for Canadian users. Those with a year-long Gold membership – comparable to a premium TV cable package instead of basic – can get, for example, Astral’s Disney XD app. It makes episodes of popular Disney series available for streaming. Similarly, subscribers to specialty TV/live event offerings, from MLB.tv to Crackle to Miss Universe and more, can receive their paid content through Xbox Video and PlayStation Network.
When Netflix first launched in Canada, it was available just on the three game consoles and computers. Only later did it expand to other connected devices and smart TVs. In fact, Netflix and Sony have recently announced that in the US, PS3 is the “largest TV-connected platform in terms of Netflix viewing.”
Second Screens: A New World of Information
Nintendo’s newest game console, Wii U, is well positioned to take advantage of the increased buzz that surrounds the second-screen experience. Its free TVii (pronounced “TeeVee”) app combines TV from your cable provider and online videos in concert with the GamePad touch-screen tablet controller. The GamePad becomes a remote control as well as a TV programming menu which can present in-depth details: plot description, cast members, Wikipedia page when available, plus an episode guide. In the US, TVii also allows renting some shows and movies through Hulu or Amazon Instant Video.
The app can accommodate several individuals living under the same roof by attaching specific TVii profiles to them. Like other streaming services, TVii uses this data to recommend shows based on your viewing activity and preferences.
Social integration is also a big part of TVii. While watching an episode, TVii snaps frequent screencaps called “TV Moments” which can be shared via linked Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as through Nintendo’s Miiverse network. Check out this IGN review to learn more.
True Connections Via Voice and Gesture
Kinect, Microsoft’s motion- and voice-control technology, hit the market during the 2010 holiday season. Since then the webcam-like peripheral, which hooks up to the Xbox 360, has spurred TV companies and cable providers to explore its potential.
The Telus IPTV-based Optik TV service in British Columbia and Alberta lets subscribers use their Xbox 360 as a set-top box. They can access 500+ TV, movie and radio HD channels. Additionally, Kinect owners can use hand gestures to pause or scroll through a show. They can also use voice commands to literally tell a show to pause, rewind, stop or play. This, of course, extends features Microsoft already offers existing content-streaming services (Xbox Video, Netflix).
Kinect appeals to creators of kid- and family-friendly TV content, especially in the educational space. Sesame Workshop and National Geographic each launched season two of their Kinect-exclusive shows this month. Thanks to the device’s camera, kids can appear directly on screen and interact with the show’s characters.
It’s clear that game consoles offer many opportunities for TV content, with more to come in 2013. Some analysts expect the next Xbox 360 to integrate Kinect technology by default. Microsoft’s new console and the next gen PlayStation, are expected to arrive later this year.
Here’s a recap of game console TV features:
|Console||Wii U||PlayStation 3||Xbox 360|
|Peripheral technologies||GamePad||Kinect (motion control + voice control)|
|Content network/ services (owned or gateway)||Through TVii app:
* Cable TV
* Online videos (incl. YouTube)
* Hulu Plus
* Amazon Instant * Video
|* PlayStation Network / PlayStation Store
* Hulu Plus
|* Xbox Live
* Xbox Video
* IPTV (Optik TV)
* Disney XD
* Hulu Plus
* Miss Universe