Game Consoles: Not Just for Blowing Up Stuff

Video gaming consoles have come a long way since the early Atari 2600 and other devices. We’ve gone from pixelated little cartoon characters to almost life-like “meat puppets” that live out adventures in an immersive three-dimensional world. The Xbox 360, Playstation, and Wii provide a window onto interactive entertainment enjoyed by millions of consumers worldwide. And now they do so much more than just play games.

In fact, according to an article in the LA Times, Microsoft reports that Xbox 360 users spend more than half of their time online with the Xbox Live service watching video and listening to music; less than half of that time is spent playing online games. Now, if you add back in the amount of time spent playing games offline loaded locally from a disc, then gaming still dominates but it is still interesting that other forms of entertainment are taking hold using the gaming console as the hub.

This news was part of Microsoft’s announcement that it was adding applications for HBO Go, Major League Baseball, and Comcast’s on-demand video service for its subscribers. This is in addition to existing services including Hulu, Vudu, YouTube, Netflix, and ESPN. Microsoft already has more than 20 million subscribers to the Xbox Live service who pay a monthly fee to access the video and entertainment content. That’s almost one-third of all Xbox owners worldwide. If Microsoft were a cable company, this many subscribers would nearly it tie it with Comcast for the top position.

People still have plenty of reasons to stick with their cable or satellite subscriptions, but as the monthly fees rise, the alternatives begin to look more attractive. If you can access the content you want over a broadband connection — even if that requires an additional monthly fee of $10 or more — it looks like more and more consumers may join the “cut the cord” movement. It looks as though streaming video may be the path to the appealing “a la carte” pricing for entertainment programming, and there is a herd of millions of video game console camels like the Xbox 360 that already has its nose under the edge of the U.S. consumers living room tent.