Market niches become filled after awhile. And when they do anxious manufacturers, hoping to wring a few more dollars out of their product, will look to expand their usability. Gaming consoles, while widely used, are still a niche product--they appeal to people who want to game. Once gamers have had their fill, what’s Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony to do? Teach their consoles a new trick is what. Make them devices that are equally at home with fraggers and media viewers by broadening their ability to stream media from the Internet.
True enough, Xbox, PlayStation, and the Wii already have such capabilities. But their repertoire is limited. What’s needed is a broader selection of media content, so that more people will be inclined to purchase. PlayStation users, for example, can watch the BBC and Weather Channel, while Xbox and Wii users can tap into Netflix. But what about regular TV? There the options are more limited.
Microsoft is hoping to rectify this. It's now in ‘secret’ negotiations with Disney to bring ESPN to the Xbox. Microsoft is taking the view that Xbox Live is more than a gaming community. It’s also a cable channel, with 20 million monthly subscribers, and 1 million daily users. (Numbers comparable to the Cartoon Network and TBS.) Microsoft already has an interactive game show, “1 vs. 100”. And it is looking to make itself a “bigger player” in film and television viewing.
There’s a definite logic to such moves by console makers. There are a lot more of us who watch TV than game. And gaming consoles, already present in many households, are reasonable platforms for streaming media from the Internet. But what happens if this new market focus supplants gaming? Right now console gamers are getting a lot of TLC from console makers. Should they no longer be the industry’s ‘golden child’, will console gamers be orphaned in favor of soap operas and reality TV?