New Media Technologies Case Study: Video Games Consoles The aim of this case study is to provide you with information which you will be able to refer to in the exam. You should retain this document and use it for revision before the examination. The four key areas which you must refer to in the exam are: Interactivity Miniaturisation Why institutions like new media technologies Convergence Video Games Consoles Definition Console games are more commonly referred to as „videogames‟. These games are played on a device called a videogame console and are designed especially for electronic game play. Console machines need to be connected to a television set much the same as a video player, as image and sound is delivered to the gamer via the television. Due to this these machines are commonly found in the living rooms connected to the entertainment system. The player interacts with the game with a specialized controller, a hand held device with buttons and triggers used for actions and joysticks or game pads for movement. Due to the fact that these controllers are specifically designed for game play, their layout and functionality create a vivid playing experience. The plug and play function that is part of the console game design is another draw card for many gamers. This means once the game is purchased there is no need for installation, this opens the gaming market to people who may not be competent with computer installation procedures, and makes the console machine easier to use for beginner gamers or children. 1972 marked the beginning of the console market with the introduction of the Magnavox Odyssey. Although the potential of the market did not become recognized until 1985 with the release of the Nintendo entertainment system (NES), selling 6 million units worldwide. Nowadays videogames are the fastest growing segment of the entertainment business. The videogame console is host to a large range of varied game play including genres such as racing, simulators, adventure, fighting and action to name a few. As apposed to a computer games, videogames can only be played only on specific console systems, and this has create a competitive market where industry leaders want the best games to only become available on their console systems. Features of Videogame Consoles One of the most common feature found on most videogame consoles, including early systems such as the Nintendo entertainment system (NES), is the ability for multiplayer game play LAN (Local Area Network) and on-line are other forms of multiplayer gaming which many of the modern consoles support. Online gaming for console systems is a recent feature, which has only been introduced with the recent generation of consoles. (Xbox, Playstation 2) There are many features which are now incorporated into modern day videogame consoles which make them a much more valuable accessory to any household. The current genration of game consoles (Xbox, Playstation 2) come complete with CD and DVD playback, creating much more versatile entertainment machines. The Xbox also includes a hard drive to store game progress and music. This can then be accessed by some games and played back as the soundtrack of the videogame. Videogame Industry The market is currently dominated by media giants Sony (PlayStation) and Microsoft (XBox), with Sony being the undisputed market leader. Both companies are late entrants in the videogame market, yet they still managed to corner the industry in less than a decade. PlayStation made its debut in 1994 and managed to dominate the market in four short years, taking the industry by surprise. Sony was able to achieve this by developing better gaming technology and delivering superior graphics and sound quality with its console. By the time the PlayStation 2 was introduced in 2000, Sony had already established itself firmly in the market. Microsoft launched the Xbox in 2001. It was touted as a Trojan horse, as part of a grand ambition by Microsoft to sneak a computer into the living room disguised as a toy. Microsoft‟s strong financial background and existing expertise in the computer industry gives it an edge in developing a console that can compete with the PlayStation, on both the technological and marketing. The other significant competitor is Nintendo. It was the incumbent market leader before Sony entered the market. It made a series of bad business decisions over the past two console generations and ultimately lost huge market share to Sony. Nintendo positions itself on delivering a new gaming dynamic instead of competing on developing superior gaming technology like Sony and Microsoft. In the current videogame market, it is conceding the high-end to Sony and Microsoft and focus instead on making less expensive games and devices. Competition in the $28 billion worldwide videogame industry looks set to get more intense with the launch of the next-generation gaming consoles. 1. Why do you think that only three market leaders have emerged in such a large entertainment business? What prevents other console manufacturers from competing? 2. What advantages can you think of that video games consoles have over other technologies such as interactive TV or the internet? 3. Provide reasons as to why the video game industry is rapidly growing. Consider how the industry has embraced and exploited advances in technologies such as on-line gaming and global gaming networks. Future of Videogame Consoles In May 2005, Microsoft unveiled its next- generation console, the Xbox 360, in a much- hyped marketing campaign on MTV. Sony followed just days later in announcing details of its PlayStation 3 (PS3) at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) videogames trade show in Los Angles and was released in March 2007. Nintendo have also entered this new generation with the Wii. As part of the strategy by both technology giants to dominate the living room, the new consoles are no longer just gaming machines; they are designed to be high-definition centerpieces for home-entertainment systems. These consoles have state-of-the-art hardware technology and are slated to deliver cinematic quality graphics. Digital convergence is the key feature of the new consoles. They offer features such as wireless remote, wireless controllers and built- in DVD player. Their online and networking capabilities allows for communication with other digital devices such as cameras and music players. They are designed for high-definition displays and can also function as a set-top box for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). Look at the powerpoint presentation on how video games consoles have developed over the decades then answer then discuss the following points: What has remained a common feature throughout their development? In what ways has miniaturisation affected their development? Provide reasons for this (consider consumer demands/needs). The aim of the games console is ultimately ‘home entertainment’. How true is this when we look at the new generation of games consoles? Convergence and the Video Games Console: Technological convergence is already a common phenomenon in today‟s ICT devices. Computers are able to function as video and audio players, even having editing capabilities which is traditionally the area of professional broadcasting. The integration of internet connectivity, mobile telephony, computing power, media storage, digital camera, mobile gaming and digital audio player are already apparent in many of today‟s devices such as mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Where do Video Games Consoles fit into this idea of „technological convergence‟? Computer games Computer games play a major role in digital convergence. According to Mark Cavazza, author of “Computer Games and Digital Convergence”, computer gaming is at the crossroads of several major trends in the Information Society: interactivity, digital media content, on-line or virtual communities, and mobile computing. Thus, it is able to achieve a unique integration of creative content and technology. Online gaming is an example where entertainment, social interaction, computer and internet technologies meet. Convergence makes new experiences possible in terms of interaction, realism, aesthetics and game play. Convergence is also present in videogame devices. The Sony Playstation 2 functions both as a game console and DVD player, while Microsoft currently supports an online gaming community of two million subscribers on its Xbox Live. The 'International Data Corporation' IDC has found that more than 25 million game consoles were sold in 2003 with many containing either modems or broadband connections. The evolution of gaming consoles into more interactive and dynamic devices is a significant milestone for gamers, manufacturers and the industry as a whole. The new generation of videogame consoles is set to bring digital convergence to the next level. The Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 are designed to be high- definition centerpieces for home-entertainment systems. The consoles offer features such as wireless remote, wireless controllers and built-in DVD player. They possess online and networking capabilities, and can be used with other devices such as digital cameras, video cameras and digital music players. For example, the Xbox 360 can connect wirelessly to Windows XP and Vista-based home PCs. This would allow the digital music, photos, and movies stores on the PC to be streamed to the television through the Xbox. The consoles are also able to perform online gaming, live chatting and even video conferencing. They are designed for high-definition (HD) displays and can also be used as a set-top box for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). Convergence can also be in the form of industry practice. Eventually, Microsoft envisions part of the Xbox Live marketplace being run by the gaming community itself, where players can design, upload and sell contents to other users. This type of practice is currently common amongst the PC-based online gaming community, but not console based online gaming arena. Thus, the practices of two different gaming platforms are likely to converge into one in the future. Technological convergence will make it possible for the manufacturers to widen the appeal of videogame consoles and target their audience beyond the traditional gamers. With the value-added features, these new consoles can be the centerpiece of home-entertainment systems linking to other audio-visual devices such as televisions and stereos. This is believed to be part of the strategy by both Microsoft and Sony to gain expand the market and gain dominance in the living room. Future As to the future of digital convergence of computer and videogames, it is possible to imagine more dramatic evolutions for digital media, in which films, television, computer games and virtual reality would converge. 1. What are the major trends of the ‘information society’? 2. What new experiences in video games are possible through convergence? 3. How have gaming devices evolved? 4. List the capabilities of the new generation of games consoles (XBox 360, Playstation 3). 5. What are the implications of technical convergence for console manufacturers? Computer Games - Consoles: Implications for Consumers, Manufacturers & Developers Next-generation Consoles Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo released their next-generation videogame consoles.. As these new consoles, namely the PlayStation 3(PS3), Xbox 360, and Wii, are evolving into digital entertainment hubs, it will have implications for consumers, game manufacturers, game developers and the ICT industry at large. Consumers and the Industry The manufacturers plan to expand their target audience of next- generation consoles to beyond the traditional gamers. Sony and Microsoft are using technological convergence as the key to expanding the market. Their new consoles are designed to be feature-packed and powerful entertainment platforms for the entire family. The consoles are able to network with other devices such as digital cameras and MP3 players. They can also function as DVD player and set-top box for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). Nintendo, meanwhile, uses innovative controllers and simpler games to reach out to non-gamers, like elderly people who want to sharpen their mental faculties. The consoles‟ high-end graphic output and advance networking capabilities implicate the consumers and the ICT industry in another manner. In order to enjoy the full potential of these new consoles, consumers will need the peripheral support such as broadband internet connection and high- definition television (HDTVs). The success of these new consoles could boost the take-up rate of broadband and HDTV, or alternatively, be hindered by their popularity. Manufacturers The competition in the videogame market has implications for console manufacturers beyond that of the key industry players. The success of the PS3 is vital not only to the future of Sony‟s videogame business but also to the company as a whole. Videogames are a major source of profit for Sony, accounting for about a third of its operating income. Sony is also counting on the PS3 to jumpstart key technologies it has spend years and billions of dollars developing, namely a new chip call “Cell”, the Blu-ray DVD technology and the Super Audio CD (SACD). Sony developed Cell together with IBM and Toshiba Corp. If the PS3 does well, it could be the first of a series of Cell-based audio-visual devices that would stream movies, music and other kinds of digital entertainment throughout the home. On the other hand, Sony‟s proprietary Blu-ray disc technology for the PS3 is up against Toshiba‟s High Definition DVD (HD-DVD) to be the next-generation movie format leader. With the vested interest in Blu-ray, Sony is likely to swallow high drive costs to keep prices down. Game Developers The next-generation consoles will also have an impact on the game developers. The smaller developers might not have the capability to handle the cost and complexity of making games for the new consoles. The average development cost for a blockbuster videogame these days is already in the millions of dollars, and the costs will rise with the arrival of PS3 and Xbox 360. Many of the small, independent game companies today may be forced to consolidate or be acquired in order to compete in this new gaming environment. Alternatively, Sony suggests that they can specialize in developing lower-end titles for the PlayStation Portable (PSP). On the other hand, Nintendo‟s Wii will have modest hardware and graphic capabilities compared to Sony and Microsoft. This could also provide a niche market for small developers that cannot afford the huge budget required for PS3 and Xbox 360 development. New for 2008 - The Nintendo Wii What is Wii? “To truly understand how Wii revolutionizes gaming, you have to try it for yourself. Quite simply, Wii is for everyone. The ease of use and interactivity of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk allows for a unique social gaming experience for the whole family. You don't just play Wii, you experience it.” Nintendo Why do I need Wii? “Wii is not just a gaming console, it's a reason to get together with your friends and family and play today's hottest games. Wii offers legendary Nintendo franchises like Mario, Zelda and Metroid, as well as all new classics like Wii Sports and Wii Play. Create your own Mii character to star in Wii games. Play friends online over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection or use the Internet Channel to surf the net from your sofa. You can even download classic Nintendo games using the Wii Shop Channel. Take a look around and see why your TV is not complete without Wii.” Nintendo WiiConnect24 WiiConnect24 enables Wii to stay online 24/7 and download updates - even on standby. Wii Tech Experience the joys of gaming or surfing the net with a wireless Wii Remote and tuck in the compact Wii console near your TV to fit your lifestyle. Easy to set-up and easy to use, Wii is ready for you (or anyone) to play. Wii Chic - The compact white style makes Wii a natural addition to any television setup. Lie Wii down flat or show Wii off with the console stand. Wii Harmony - Wii packs 4 controller ports and 2 Nintendo GameCube™ Memory Card slots to make it fully backwards compatible with all Nintendo GameCube™ titles. Wii Size - Wii is just 8.5” long, 6” wide and less than 2” thick. Try stacking 3 DVD cases together and you’ll see how cute Wii is. Wii Talk - Up to 4 Wii Remotes can communicate with Wii. And Wii links to your TV with an AV Multi-output port featuring component, composite or S-video. Wireless - Wii communicates wirelessly with the Internet via your router or a Wii LAN adapter. Wii also connects wirelessly with Nintendo DS. Wii Brains - Wii is driven by 2 cutting-edge processors from the best in the business - a PowerPC CPU developed with IBM and a custom GPU from ATI. Wii SD - The SD memory card slot means you can enjoy slideshows of your favorite photos on TV. Drag an MP3 onto the card, and you can have a soundtrack as well! You've got Wii Email - Watch the disc slot emit a cool blue glow whenever you have email, Wii friend messages or an update from WiiConnect24. Wii Sensor Bar - The slender Sensor Bar works silently with your Wii Remotes to turn those arm waving moves into game-winning moves.