What's the difference between a console and a media device? Apparently, it's the simplicity. Back in the day, gaming consoles used to serve one sole purpose – to play games. Today, that's no longer the case as consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 compete to bring radio, TV, and movie streaming to the homes of millions of families – all directly from their living room console.
Microsoft has blatantly said they intend to turn the Xbox, be it the 360 or upcoming Xbox 720/Loop/whatever we're calling it, into an all-around entertainment hub where people get get internet, TV, movies, radio, and video games all from their console.
The problem with this, according to David Perry, head of cloud gaming company Gaikai, is that the transformation from a console to a media center is making things too complex for the overall consumer. As technology continues to evolve and other media hubs being to get games, Perry believes the "public will get confused".
"For me, the definition of a console is a gaming device for the mass market," Perry explained to CVG. "They plug in a cartridge, they flick a switch and a game appears on the screen."
Perry added: "In America, for $129, Best Buy will now come to your house and help you install your PlayStation 3. We have got away from that original idea of "It just works" into this thing of maintaining and running, creating accounts on it. I think they're going to stop calling them consoles and they'll start calling them something else – media something or entertainment something."
Of course, that is the problem, according to Perry. Digital TVs are beginning to include all of the same media stuff – be it TV, movie streaming, or game streaming which is now possible thanks to companies like Gaikai who help bring hardcore games to households without the need for hardware to run it because of the cloud streaming.
With TVs now offering games, consoles are no longer the exclusive, so they must keep up with all of the TV functions. They must now add all of these features like YouTube or Facebook or Crackle, etc. According to Perry it's a mistake, but one that Sony and Microsoft are forced to make.
"The digital TVs are also including all of that media stuff. I think the mistake that the console companies are making is not a mistake of their choice – it's the evolution they have to go through."
"But if they enter the market as media hubs, there are tons already on sale – the TiVos, Boxees, Rokus and everything else – and all they're doing is entering their space, and the one thing they're bringing with them is games. The problem is, they are $500."
"Once the other media hubs can have games – and I don't mean Checkers, but things like Call of Duty – the public will get confused. With that in mind, who is able to make a TV? Sony is already making them, so it will have to take all that stuff into its TVs.
Perry's prediction is that Microsoft will make a TV.
"What choice do they have?" Perry asked. "There have been lots of reports that Apple has bought out a large LCD panel-making company. It's pretty obvious that they're on the trail too."
Maybe the Xbox 720 will be just another console – or as Microsoft likes to stress, an "entertainment hub". Then again maybe it won't be. We don't know. One thing is clear – cloud gaming is growing and with the addition of TVs now capable of streaming video games, Microsoft's next machine might be better suited as a TV.