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Panel: Gaming Consoles Have Work to Do as Media Hubs

24 Apr, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Robert Tercek, president of interactive content company General Creativity, said today looks a lot like it did a dozen years ago, when it comes to the digital living room.

“The vision was that the battle for the digital living room was going to be Sony and Microsoft duking it out,” he said April 24, speaking at the L.A. Games Conference.

And while the two companies today have two of the biggest gaming systems, replete with dozens of digital media applications, Tercek thinks “they’ve fallen behind the pack.”

“I would have said five years ago it would have been the major gaming consoles,” that led the way as media hubs for the living room, Tercek added.

But so many connected devices, from smart HDTVs to Blu-ray Disc players offer everything the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 offer. And that could spell trouble for future iterations of gaming consoles.

“Right now it’s easy [to consume content] through consoles,” said Martin Rae, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. “But at the end of the day it’s about the availability of content.”

And gaming consoles may not have enough of it, panelists said, pointing out that live TV is scarce, and the channels available via cable and satellite are nonexistent on American gaming consoles.

That could change, and soon.

Bill Wheaton, SVP and GM of the media division for Akamai, a cloud content technology company that provides a good chunk of the backbone of Internet delivery. He called the 2012 Olympics “the biggest event on the Internet ever” and predicted 30% of worldwide viewership would take place via Internet-connected devices, with the “most likely device being the [gaming console],” he said.

Still, content owners are waiting for gaming consoles to catch up in a lot of areas, according to Robert Nashek, EVP of digital entertainment for BBC Worldwide Americas. His company has more than 700 episodes available on the PlayStation Network, and more than double that available on Xbox Live. But BBC also makes games, and while tying those two together on a gaming console should be simple, “It’s proved more difficult than it should be,” he said.

“Are they ready to take advantage of these cross-promotions?” he asked.

Gaming consoles are better than other devices when it comes to tracking what users watch and do, and they do offer opportunities for people to upload their own content and have it take off, panelists agreed. But live TV must come next, Tercek said, adding he had just canceled his own cable subscription.

“People are watching more hours of TV, but if you look at any living room, everyone has [another screen like an iPad or laptop] on as well,” he said. “TV is becoming radio, background wallpaper. And you won’t see many cable channels showing up on these gaming devices any time soon.”


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