Posted on August 27, 2007,

Editorial: Can Video Game Consoles Just Play Games?

nintendo.jpgDo you remember when video games just played video games? Oh, the nostalgia of putting in that bulky chunk of plastic in your Nintendo Entertainment System, and then blowing on the cartridge until it played.

So many spoons and old gamers’ tales used to make that thing run.

But aside from playing video games, how much else should a video game player do? Is browsing the internet really something you need to do on a system designed to play video games?

It’s novel, indeed, to be able to see the five day weather forecast or search through Google on your Wii. But how useful is it when it comes down to actually using the feature? Let’s not mention the issue of router compatability, but say you’re going out to a movie and want to look up showtimes. If you’re playing your Wii it might make sense to switch over to the web browser and see if you can come up with some listings. But are you ever going to choose to flip on your Wii over your computer to hook up on a forum or catch up on the latest gamer news?

It’s awkward, bulky, and when it comes down to functionality, it’s not all that functional. It seems to be a little more useful than, say, playing WoW on your iPhone, but less useful than trying to toast bread with a spatula over a burner. And this goes for all the next-gen consoles, not just the Wii.

People have gotten used to being able to play music and store data on their consoles like cute little mini-computers, and the way you were able to play your own tracks in Grand Theft Auto was priceless. Nothing said customizable like being able to bump Gin ‘n Juice while running over pedestrians. But is there ever going to come a point to where we’re going to plan not to buy a stereo separate from our video game consoles, or where we decide against getting a new computer because we’ve got what we need on our PS3?

ps-2.JPGRob Fahey gave a great bit of analysis in a recent article where he wrote, “Sony’s strategy here, it seems, is to add functionality until a tipping point is reached where the device has enough desirable elements that consumers can use to justify the purchase to themselves.”

But it’s not just Sony, it’s all the consoles, and it’s annoying. With the Wii it seems a little bit more friendly, like there’s a cartoon-ish novelty and self-realization about the system that doesn’t quite demand the “choose me and only me” attitude. It seems to me that it might be better to throw more money and marketing into the games rather than try to sway people by trying to see a video game system as more than it actually is.

Take for instance the GTAIV effect. An entire industry was affected by one game, and the effects were pretty far reaching. Stock values and the industry market were all changed, and all because the release date was moved up six months. This is because it’s the actual medium of the industry, not browsing or chatting or burning DVDs.

Maybe one day we’ll all gather around the newest Microsoft creation to watch the latest piece of Jerry Bruckheimer crap on the latest disc technology, and absent all this is a stand-alone system designed to watch movies. The integration will have come together with consumer satisfaction and we all will love our one-device-doing-it-all.

For now, let the consoles play games and focus on how to make that a richer experience. Xbox Live was a great step forward for Microsoft, and that’s a great reason to hook up to the internet. Nintendo is trying to reinvent gameplay, which of course has drawn many new people into the world of gaming. Sony… made a Blu-ray disc player. I guess it’s not bad, but it’s hardly revolutionary.




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14 Comments on Editorial: Can Video Game Consoles Just Play Games?


On August 27, 2007 at 9:00 am

Video game consoles had a simpler time. I think if we had this technology a decade ago, they still would cram all the features in as they advanced. Its like the present day, As time got more technology so did the consoles.

It is all about the games, but some features are great like Xbox live or PSN, the online multiplayer and ability to download games is great. Bluray players and DVD movies i dont care for. I have never watched a movie on my Xbox 360.

I can agree that many people are turned away from the complexity of newer systems, The WII have realized this and have attracted alot of old gamers that dont want the buttons, menus and all the complex features of the competition.

Overall i dont expect to see any change to old ways. As technology grows more will be jammed into consoles to attract customers and drive sales. For me its all about the games so most features are just a bonus i guess.


On August 27, 2007 at 9:13 am

I was able to convince my wife that our XBox was a good idea, because even my father had a DVD player and we didn’t, and the XBox would play DVD’s (I didn’t mention the extra 50$ for the damned controller though). Since then I have bought 2 DVD players, one for the living room, and 1 for my man-cave. I no longer use the XBox remote. Live is great for game-related things, but I think Sony is going a little too far from gaming. When I want to surf the web, I use my computer. The PS3 is still only in its infancy and will hit ti’s stride in the next 12 months or so, but because of it’s games, not because it can surf the web.


On August 27, 2007 at 9:46 am

I think the ability to put mp3′s onto a harddrive and listen to them while you game isn’t such a problem. I think that’s a good capability, but only one of the few that should be implemented on a GAMES console.

When I buy a games console, I like to be able to see there has been more fuss about the games on it then anything else. With the PS3, the emphasis has been on blu-ray, NOT on the games. Microsoft have made less of a fuss with the HD-DVD player to which I thank them and put more effort into pushing useful new services, such as live. The reason I liked the Wii marketing so much was because they did actually focus on gaming. Granted, it can search the web (a feature I’ve never used) but it’s emphasis is still on the disc in its drive.

The fact is though, if I want to browse the web, my PC takes under a minute to boot up and be ready to go (with, might I add, a film review site bookmarked).


On August 27, 2007 at 9:51 am

I use my PS3 for web browsing frequently, but I have both my PS3 and my PC hooked up to my HDTV in the living room, so I’m a bit different from “the norm”.

However, I don’t plan on purchasing any blu-ray movies any time soon. I recently visited Blockbuster to look for used video games, and saw that the Blu-Ray titles were $35 !! I can go to the movie theater twice for that cost….


On August 27, 2007 at 10:30 am

The future is here. You’re going to have to face the facts, consoles have become multifunction devices. As long as it’s trivial to add X feature to said console, the console company will try it even if it only adds a few thousand sales. It’s not some random occurance that we’re seeing here, it’s the new trend.

It’s not just limited to consoles too. Cellphones have gotten way rediculous in functionality. A cellphone is now a gaming, walkman, GPS, email, internet gateway, and portable data storage device… just to name a few. Eventually cellphones will get so complicated that the term swiss army knife device will no longer apply.

I can see consoles heading that way too. Practically all electronics today offer some feature that is beyond its primary function. It’s simply the sign of the times.

Dick Hurtz

On August 27, 2007 at 10:33 am

Just because the wii adverts show girls and grandparents using the wii, does not make it reality.

Its just an advertising campaign, Dont believe everything that people tell you.


On August 27, 2007 at 1:02 pm

@ (apropriatly named), If you have not seen firsthand the Wii turn non -gamers into casual gamers you either have too many Xcore gamer friens or simply don’t get out very often. Friends that bought it for their kids play it once they go to bed, and they haven’t owned a console since high school. My aunt is addicted to boxing and she hasn’t played video games since she played Super Mario on my NES.

Stop watching Wii comercials all day, put down the controler, step away from the PC, and visit us in the outside world. We can bowl on my 45 year old neighbors Wii, I’m sure he’s in the middle of a round right now.


On August 27, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Phones used to only be around to make calls. Nuff said


On August 27, 2007 at 5:15 pm

Yeah, and they had those danged wires attached to them and used dials, and real bells for when they rang.
‘the times they are a changing’
-Bobby D.

Games only please

On September 17, 2007 at 12:48 am

The only I want a game system to due is play games. Ok maybe music IF I can make it part of the game. On my xbox I like listening to the doors song “the end”. Great song when your in the mist of a huge fire fight. But enough of that.

Game systems are starting to get out of control with all these add ons. If they want to make it a add on for those that want it (xbox 360) great due that. I helps to keep the price down. Sony’s PS3 is way to exspensive. A movie player of any sort most people won’t use. Besides most people don’t want to replace their already exsitting movie collection. That could get very exspensive. All I want is game experience.


On June 3, 2008 at 9:44 pm

:arrow: well i have an x box not the x box 360 i have noticed that they are not making any more x box games :!: or i just havent look in the right store. i like haveing a music player built in and a dvd player ,but my sibilings just wont stop watching movies :evil: i am tired of it .thats just me.

Well i think Video game consoles had a simpler time. I think if we had this technology a decade ago, they still would cram all the features in as they advanced. Its like the present day, As time got more technology so did the consoles. For me its all about the games so most features are just a bonus i guess.


Stop watching Wii comercials all day, put down the controler, step away from the PC, and visit us in the outside world. We can bowl on my 45 year old neighbors Wii, I’m sure he’s in the middle of a round right now ! :razz:


On June 3, 2008 at 9:47 pm

the 1 i just sent wasok i guess :mrgreen: :shock: :???: :smile: :cool: :grin: :oops: :roll: :wink: :eek: :lol: :!:


On June 21, 2008 at 3:40 am

I actually like the Wii web browser. It’s cool to be able to watch YouTube videos on my TV, it’s great for when I want to see how well a WiiWare/Virtual Console game was reviewed, and it actually adds gaming functionality in the form of Wii-compatible flash games! It’s also great for the people who’s computer takes longer to boot up than a Wii (which means pretty much everyone).