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Are Consoles Becoming Too Focused on "Entertainment"?

28/08/2013 11:12 BST | Updated 27/10/2013 09:12 GMT

There was a time when there was a clear and definable line for what constituted a games console and a PC. This line started to fade as far back as the PS2 with the introduction of a built-in DVD player and online capabilities (via a LAN cable of course). With USB ports came the ability start plugging in USB sticks, playing videos of varying type and generally doing more with your "games console" than you had ever done before.

Since the PS3 and Xbox 360 the entertainment value from games consoles has been increased massively by the flexibility of these machines and their adaptability, from online gaming and buying DLC packs online, to streaming movies through services such as Netflix and Iplayers and watching a host of file formats through external devices. So, with technology improving and evolving, has this detracted us from the original purpose of a console? Playing games...

Next-Gen will give more

After E3 2013 we saw everyone proclaim that the PS4 had trounced the Xbox One in terms of price and offering. In fact, Console Deals, an online price comparison site who broke the second-hand pricing story for the Xbox One last month, were quoted as saying that PS4 pre-orders were already outselling Xbox one deals being offered at this time. Some would argue the point but ultimately, the media saw that Microsoft had really made some key errors with announcements just before E3 which they tried to resolve but by which time the damage had been done. I'm not a Microsoft fan myself but even I can say that the Xbox One will at least bring something to the table that people will enjoy. I've based this on the fact that it was launched as an all-purpose "all-in-one Ultimate entertainment system". So why were we shocked and surprised that Microsoft plugged it as an entertainment unit before a games console?

I suppose it was a well-thought out decision considering they were going to be competing against a rival who was going all-out for domination in the gaming sector. Microsoft wanted to market their product a little differently so as not to just go head-to-head on the same issues we've heard before. They wanted to make something different.

Entertainment Features

As I've said, I don't have a problem with the Xbox One, unlike many Playstation owners but I struggle to see why someone who is after something primarily for entertainment purposes, would spend over £400 on a games console which from an entertainment perspective, offers similar functions as either a media box or a PC, which would offer more functions in terms of capability.

The D-Link Boxee http://www.dlink.com/uk/en/home-solutions/boxee-box/at-a-glance is a neat solution for connecting to the internet without needing a PC or any other device. It plugs straight into the wall and into your TV via an HDMI socket, you can even use your Iphone to control it. There are plenty of these boxes available and for browsing the internet, being social with your friends online and watching films they do the trick nicely, and at a more appropriate cost. So did Microsoft get it wrong by targeting entertainment-users as well as gamers, by trying to make it an "ultimate" platform?

Why Xbox One won't fail

The fact that they went for the "all-in-one" approach isn't a bad thing but it may not have been the smartest marketing decision either. Either way, the Xbox One has a nice design, high-end performance specs and between the two consoles there isn't that much to choose between them in terms of hardware as they are remarkably similar. So PS4 is targeting online gaming, with their Gaiku cloud streaming service being a big plus, especially when they move over completely to digital downloads in the future. They have exclusive titles which have seemed to appeal more to consumers since E3, such as WatchDogs and Driveclub and there is the near-certain fact that Sony are keeping their online network service free to use (aside from premium options which may be chargeable) as opposed to the subscription-based service Microsoft run.

So the Xbox One has to compete with a host of interesting features from Sony but it's more than achievable. They have an input feature which enables you to watch TV through the HDMI (no more TV Source changes on the remote), it has a standby feature allowing instant load-up when you want to switch-on and they have their own exclusive titles which aren't too shabby, including the impressive Forza Motorsport series and the new Titanfall. There is also the Xbox Smartglass feature which enables you to use your tablet and phone as a second screen for enjoying extra content with what you're watching. All impressive stuff and in the end when the smoke has died down and release dates approach, I think it's going to be tight.