When will PS3, Xbox, Wii incorporate Internet TV?

Netflix and Hulu Plus have both taken advantage of the internet connectivity of videogame systems — Sony’s Playstation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii (still waiting on Hulu for Wii) — when it comes to streaming video content on our TV’s.

But when will Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo enter the game themselves? Doing so would offer another bit of differentiation, another perk for owners of each console. It might also further shift the demographics from what was once a teen obsession – playing videogames – to what is becoming a family pastime.

Of the current generation of systems, more than 162 million units have been sold. But neither is personally taking advantage of its online content or users.

Playstation has a subscription service, called “Playstation Plus” that offers game discounts, game demos and free offerings; but no streaming movies or tv episodes. There are options to purchase such episodes, like “A Colbert Christmas,” a special for the Holidays at $6.99. Colbert dubs it as the “Greatest Gift of All.” That’s about as VOD as it gets for PS3.

So Playstation obviously has a desire to attract monthly subscribers. That is the point to its Playstation Plus. One year will cost you $49.99, or you can try a three-month subscription for $17.99.

That works out to a little over $4 per month for the one-year plan. With both Netflix (for the streaming-only option) and Hulu Plus at $7.99 per month, if Sony were to include streaming videos its Playstation One membership, I’d have to believe more owners would take advantage.

[Vudu is a VOD service, acquired by Walmart in 2010. Vudu offers movie rentals, like an online version of a video-rental store. Today’s Pay-per-view. There is no subscription available. Vudu is also available through Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii.]

To this point, Playstation, Xbox and Wii have been sitting on the sidelines, watching other services take advantage of their systems. Fight back, I say! Game on!

Xbox 360 has a subscription plan as well, two tiers actually, in the same price line as Playstation Plus. Xbox is doing a better job with streaming features, as part of their plan includes ESPN content, streamed to your TV. I have a Playstation 3 and a Wii in my household, but no Xbox. I also have a Sony Blu-ray Player. And my Roku Digital Video Player is on the way.

  • Before we see PS3, Wii or Xbox 360 offering streaming movies or TV episodes, watch for systems to develop internet applications or apps. How about Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo apps, available via free download? That’s probably the first move for any system. Sony already has apps on its line of Blu-ray Players (free with purchase), as do every other manufacturer of Blu-ray or Media Players. I won’t even get into those… GoogleTV, Roku, Boxee Box, Sony, Vizio…all have their own set of  internet “apps” like Fandango, Amazon Video on-demand, Rhapsody, WikiTV, Vudu, Pandora, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Revision 3, the Weather Channel or Yahoo News, Sports, Weather (a sample of Vizio Internet Apps). Or take Roku, which offers many of the same apps as Vizio, but adds NHL, MLB, UFC, Mp3 Tunes, Break.com, NASA, Flixster. My point is, each media player is offering its own set of internet apps, all free with the purchase of a player. Why not offer these on the consoles themselves? Playstation Apps, Xbox Apps, Wii Apps… Nintendo’s Wii has a version of this, which it calls “Channels” on the main screen. (As far as I’m aware, the Wii Channels have remained relatively the same since their launch.) Xbox has its ESPN internet app/channel. But this is as close as any are getting to developing their own applications.

In addition to Movies and TV shows, these systems could offer rentals of their own games, possibly within the same subscription plan or on a tiered plan.

That would merge these two successful methods of video and game rentals: Netflix and Gamefly.

Gamefly is a game-rental service, currently available only by mail, no on demand. But the vidoegame systems are already capable of game downloads via the internet. You can purchase full games or game demos without a disc.

To be fair, Blockbuster recently announced a change to its by-mail rental service: they are now offering movies and games by mail.

If Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are do this, the time is now. By implementing streaming video and/or Internet apps and possibly Games on Demand (GOD?) to boot, they’d have a great shot at competing with services like Netflix and Hulu Plus on their consoles, and could really take a chunk out of game services like Gamefly and Blockbuster.

It’s been clear since Xbox (the first go-around) that videogame systems are attempting to become not only a source of gaming, but a part of our entire home entertainment system. Implementing Internet TV is the next logical move.

As of the second quarter of 2010, Sony has sold 41.6 million Playstation 3 units. Xbox 360 tops out at 44.6 in the same time period. And Nintendo Wii, 75.9 million. For a grand video-game total  (among PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii) of 162.1 million and counting…

Who will be the first to fully embrace streaming content or Internet apps?

Because it’s going to happen, and whichever is the first to act will only begin the next trend in video games and possibly home entertainment as we know it.

Messages to Microsoft’s PR firm Waggener Edstrom were not returned by press time. Sony Computer Entertainment US R&D could not be reached for comment. And Nintendo Communications PR, well, didn’t answer our phone call.

Links of interest
Netflix: http://www.netflix.com/Default?loms=abcd&mqso=80001347
Hulu Plus: http://www.hulu.com/plus
Gamefly: http://www.gamefly.com/Features/HowItWorks/
Blockbuster: https://www.blockbuster.com/signup/m/plan

UPDATE: Amazon has announced that its Amazon Prime membership (a little over $3/month for free 2-day shipping) will now include a library of TV shows to stream to your TV.

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