Is Microsoft attempting to solve a problem which is already been solved by TV manufacturers? Facing many competing platforms, it would seem that console manufacturers really have to stay on their toes these days in order to remain viable. Not only do we have a slew of devices dropping onto markets every few months (think tablets, smartphones and PC’s), but there’s also a new outside threat – Smart TV’s.
In fact, it could be argued that these new intelligent televisions are doubly dangerous, since they also tend to be used in tandem with gaming consoles. So, what’s the threat, you ask? Simply put, it’s that newer Smart TV’s are beginning to take advantage of such things as cloud gaming (as well as increased support of popular apps, etc.) The truth is that the average person only has so much time and money to spend. With the release of every new product, game, service, app, movie and program, the average person’s schedule fills up rather quickly.
In other words, it’s not outside the realm of reason to assume that we will eventually reach a point where there are so many choices in terms of electronics and entertainment that most everyone will begin looking for a way to simplify their lives and purchasing habits. Case in point - the success of internet streaming services like Netflix, which gives its users the ability to tap into a vast library of content; signing up with them might allow a person to forgo the need for cable TV services and the like, for example. Rather than spend thousands on building a library of their own (which also requires a lot of floor space, mind you) they can have one delivery platform which takes care of their entertainment needs.
What does all this talk of streaming services have to do with Smart TV’s and the Xbox ONE, you ask? Consider that Microsoft’s new console is said to take advantage of cloud gaming technologies and many TV manufacturers are also moving in the same direction – it’s clear that a bit of a rub might develop here. If Smart TV producers begin to expand into gaming (especially cloud gaming) in any major way it could very likely impact consoles in a negative way, especially those with weaker sales figures (i.e. – the Xbox ONE). Looking for a new smart TV that will also be good for gaming? Read our Top Smart TVs for next-generation gaming (LCD and Plasma) article.
Looking at many of LG’s new TV’s which facilitate the use of GameNow (cloud gaming), it’s not hard to see why consumers might be apt to forgo consoles entirely. Ask yourself - if it were possible to deliver gaming content that was on par with that of a console like the PS3 or greater (without having to purchase any additional hardware), and it was done entirely through your Smart TV, wouldn’t you also be interested? In short, this seems to be the direction that things are headed, especially considering how cloud gaming actually works. After experimenting with Gaikai, it’s clear that all you need to take advantage of this emerging technology is some type of browser / OS, since all the hardware processes are handled remotely. In other words, we might see many new low-cost or even free services being offered by top Smart TV manufacturers in an effort to steal sales away from console makers.
Of course not everyone agrees with this assertion, industry analysts such as those employed by the International Data Corporation (IDC) maintain that such notions might not be slightly off-track. Lewis Ward, research manager of IDC's Gaming service commented that
"The console ecosystem is in a state of flux since these platforms need to support an ever-growing array of non-gaming features and services at the same time that game distribution and monetization is moving in a digital direction…at the same time, it doesn't appear that alternative platforms (set-top boxes from cable companies, Web-connected smart TVs) are positioned to materially disrupt the trajectory of the big 3 console OEM’s in 2013 or 2014.” According to Mr. Ward, “Discs will remain the console game revenue mainstay for years to come."
Certainly there are some valid considerations there, as stated, but one thing that researchers might not have considered is the overall speed with which the development of these technologies is moving. In a very short amount of time we’ve seen HD gaming explode and give way to new things like cloud-based delivery systems, some of which could seriously shake up the entire video game industry.
Additionally, both the Xbox ONE and the PS4 are now implementing cloud-based tech in order to facilitate their normal operation, thereby helping to “standardize” such approaches to content delivery. Once such things become commonplace, more and more device manufacturers will want on board (Smart TV producers being chief among them) and consumers might even come to expect these services to already be integrated. Call it wishful thinking if you like, but seeing as how rapid change is a fixture in consumer electronics and the technology already exists (and works), it’s a future that’s definitely worth considering.