Posted by John on October 25, 2011

Extending the lifespan of PS3 and Xbox 360

As Nintendo prepares its Wii U console for release in 2012, Sony and Microsoft continue to extend the lifespan of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by adding new functionality.

The six previous console generations have averaged five years each, but Sony and Microsoft look determined to ensure their current machines have a significantly longer lifespan, even with competitor Wii U coming soon.

Microsoft is finally expected to announce an Australian release date for Xbox 360 voice control via Kinect this week, almost a year after the peripheral was first released in this country.

At a media event tomorrow, Microsoft says it will share its “vision for entertainment featuring natural user interfaces” and the first Australia media preview of voice control on Kinect for Xbox 360.

Microsoft angered many Australian Xbox 360 owners at the Kinect launch last November by making no mention of the delay and heavily promoting Kinect’s ability to control the Xbox dashboard and applications like movies with your voice.

At this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in June, Microsoft’s 90-minute press conference was dominated by Kinect, with many games presented that players can control with their voice, including Mass Effect 3 and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Solider.

Earlier this month Microsoft announced two new Australian television partners will be coming to the Xbox Live service with ABC Iview and SBS On Demand. YouTube, Crackle and The Daily Motion will also be accessible via the Xbox 360 console before Christmas.

The streaming video services add to the Foxtel on Xbox 360 subscription service and Microsoft’s own movies on demand service available to Xbox 360 owners.

Microsoft’s David McLean says over 215,000 Xbox 360 owners have tried the Foxtel service and Microsoft expects the ABC and SBS content also to be popular.

“Couple that with the unique experience that comes with Kinect through the wave of a hand and soon to be voice command, we are creating brand new ways for people to interact with their entertainment,” Mr McLean says.

“The Xbox Live service is growing rapidly, as is the demand for digital content. Last year we saw 51 per cent growth in overall Xbox Live subscriptions year-on-year in this market. Australians really have an appetite for using their Xbox for more than gaming, and these partnerships are just the beginning on delivering on our entertainment vision.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s leading online movie rental subscription company will soon offer movies on demand via the PlayStation 3 console.

QuickFlix entered into a streaming agreement with Sony in July to deliver content direct to Bravia television and Vaio computer owners , and now the partnership has been extended to the PS3.

“Over 1.3 million Australian consumers who own an internet connectable PlayStation 3 will have access to Quickflix’s on-demand movie streaming service,” says Quickflix chief executive officer Chris Taylor. “This is a significant moment in the evolution of IPTV delivered entertainment in Australia.”

In the US and UK, PS3 is estimated to account for over 30 per cent of the rapidly growing movie streaming market.

The price for a subscription to the new Quickflix service has not yet been revealed, but the company promises unlimited movie viewing from a constantly updated catalogue.

PS3 owners are already well-served for movie-watching options. In addition to the console’s capacity to play Blu-ray and DVD movie discs, Sony launched its own movies-on-demand service in Australia in May 2010. The PS3 service features movies available to rent or buy from studios including Fox, MGM, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros, Disney, Roadshow and Sony Pictures.

The MUBI online film library is also accessible via PS3, offering independent, international and classic cinema.

Sony Computer Entertainment Australia managing director Michael Ephraim says that movies-on-demand is the future, although he admits it is relatively “early days” yet.

When asked by Screen Play whether Sony’s own movies-on-demand service is paying its own way, Mr Ephraim says “we haven’t announced numbers. I think like any digital movie service right now, it is early days.”

But Mr Ephraim says Sony does strong believe that digital distribution is the future for movies. “We are improving on the service every day, the range of titles are as competitive as any other movie service you can find.

“But it’s a long-term plan. We’re still in a transitional period. I think for the next three years disc-based movies are still going to sell as digital movies grow. I think we’re on par with the growth that other services are providing, whether it is paying the rent right now, it’s never meant as a short-term revenue, it’s a long-term strategy.”

Mr Ephraim does not believe there is demand from consumers, developers, publishers or retailers for a successor to the PlayStation 3.

“Not at this point,” he says. “We’re just starting to hit the mass market with the price. We’re adding more and more functionality to it every couple of months with firmware upgrades.

Mr Ephraim says sales of both disc-based games and digital content on the PlayStation Store were continuing to grow. “It’s thriving right now. There’s no need for another console. In fact, I think retailers are looking for rationalisation of the console market. “


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