Microsoft and Sony see their latest consoles as much more than simply games machines, but could they become your one entertainment device to rule them all?
After Microsoft’s recent unveiling of the Xbox One, the successor to the Xbox 360, you could be forgiven for not even realising that it plays games. Of course you can expect the typical car racing games and shoot-em ups, but on the day most of the focus was on the home entertainment features — such as the built-in Blu-ray player, internet video and optional tuner for watching television. It’s clear that Microsoft is trying to position the Xbox One as the central hub for all your entertainment needs, rather than simply a games console sitting in the corner.
In many ways Microsoft is following Sony’s lead, as the PlayStation 3 already has a strong home entertainment focus and the upcoming PlayStation 4 will certainly build on that. These boxes aim to be your gateway to the world, because Sony and Microsoft realise that the real money comes not from selling hardware but from selling content. Between games, movies, TV shows and music, they hope to squeeze far more money out of us in the long-term than they made from selling us the box in the first place.
Getting a foothold in your lounge room is obviously great for the tech giants, but is it great for us? Gamers naturally won’t have any qualms about snuggling one of these shiny new consoles alongside their other home entertainment gear, but do we really want to go the next step and give it pride of place? Would non-gamers consider buying a games console simply for the home entertainment features? Would they decommission their other home entertainment gear?
A jack-of-all-trades entertainment device like a games console is more likely to satisfy the needs of a single tech-savvy user than the needs of a busy household. Sticking with a dedicated Personal Video Recorder for watching TV and a Blu-ray/DVD player for watching movies is more likely to keep the peace, rather than forcing less-tech-savvy members of the household to grapple with new technology when they only want to perform simple tasks that shouldn’t require firing up a games console. These dedicated devices are also likely to be more reliable, especially when it comes to recording television.
Using a games console at the heart of your home entertainment centre makes more sense if you’ll be the only person relying on it. This way it’s less likely to be called upon to handle several jobs at once. If it is, you’ll know exactly what’s likely to be affected and be able to compensate, rather than accidentally failing to record someone else’s favourite show because you were installing a software update. If your Personal Video Recorder is considered “mission-critical” infrastructure in your home for recording everyone’s favourite shows, think twice before handing over such an important task to a jack-of-all-trades device.
The Xbox One has one impressive trick up its sleeve which could tip the odds in its favour. On the back you’ll find an “HDMI pass-through”, letting you run other home entertainment gear through the Xbox One and onto your television. This would make it easier to place the Xbox One at the heart of your home entertainment system yet still keep using dedicated home entertainment gear such as a Personal Video Recorder or Pay TV box. The PlayStation 4 will also pack its fair share of surprises and you can bet competition will be tough to win that special place in your lounge room.