Video Games (digitalmediabuzz)

The story below was posted on DigitalMediaBuzz.com in Dec. 2009. Story is posted here for archiving purposes only since original was lost when the site went down.

The future of the gaming industry is beginning to rest more on a console’s versatility than the actual gameplay.

That notion isn’t such a bad thing, says Microsoft’s director of programming for Xbox Live Larry Hryb.

“Multiplayer gaming has surpassed moviegoing as society’s imaginative escape of choice,” Hryb says.

“Games are at the center of attention and are very social.”

The social features that are found in games are now connecting users to the growing social media world found typically on a personal computer. With the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, Sony and Microsoft have developed social networks of their own, allowing users to connect, share info and play together.

In fact, both networks recently expanded their features when they rolled out updates to include other social networks. Sony introduced Facebook to the PlayStation network, while Xbox Live now integrates its users with last.fm, Facebook and Twitter.

Integration like this opens the doors for much more. “We added value to our system with the original Xbox Live feature and now we view it as the killer application,” Hryb says. “It’s even better that these other consoles have followed suit with their own networks. “It’s only going to make our industry stronger and better.”

The notion presented by Hryb is that competition equals better results. He said the aim to provide the industry’s top choice increases innovation.

Hryb, better known to Xbox Live users as his gamer tag “ HYPERLINK “http://majornelson.com/”Major Nelson,” says that Xbox Live now carries about 20 million members with a new account being created every five seconds. Of those members, 32 percent are female.

The numbers and connectivity alone are now appealing to content creators and advertisers who are looking to flood the networks. The power of the user base added HYPERLINK “http://mashable.com/2009/11/24/xbox-live-lastfm-stats/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Mashable+(Mashable)”one million new accounts on last.fm in one week since the upgrade.

Sony’s initial approach to social networking took a change for the better in recent months as third-party developers created a flurry of mini-games on the PlayStation Home network.

“In the early days when we built Home, we really were building a social network for gamers,” platform director Jack Buser says. “Through that, over the last year, it’s developed into a game platform, first and foremost.”

In addition to that change, PlayStation users also saw the addition of streaming Netflix to the system – a feature Xbox customers already enjoy.

Both systems provide downloadable content in the form of online marketplaces, including HD quality TV shows and movies. These shops, built in the same mold as the iTunes Store and Amazon Video, deviate the need for a desktop computer or Apple TV hookup.

In addition, Microsoft has already started development on an IPTV service that will sync with the Xbox 360. The service, which is seeing heavy testing in overseas markets first, will add another arsenal to the gaming console and its quest to pack everything into one box.

With the consoles now possessing the ability to stream movies, play Blu-Ray (on the PS3), access Windows media libraries, play games, connect with friends and mingle with the online social world, they are turning into one-for-all media hubs.

And when that occurs, the possibilities expand. “For software makers and enthusiasts, the rules of the game are quickly changing,” HYPERLINK “http://www.popsci.com/entertainment-amp-gaming/article/2009-01/future-gaming” Scott Steinberg writes. “That means for us, the desktop computer and HDTV-huddled masses, there’s never been a better time to come out and play.”

As the major gaming consoles evolve into these media hubs, and computers for some, the industry will benefit from it.

Users no longer have an excuse to need to leave the gaming network. The console has brought, and will continue to bring, everything to them.

“It’s exciting,” Hryb says. “It’s not just about games anymore. There is a lot more going on and a lot more in store for the consumer.”