Can Xbox Become a Home Media Brand?

Can Xbox Become a Home Media Brand?

Every so often, a game system will achieve such widespread distribution that its name becomes the replacement noun for the actual act of video gaming. People might say, “Want to play Nintendo?” instead of saying, “Want to play some video games?”

Console engineers rocket over the moon when they achieve that honor, and for good reason: It means their own system has become the very definition of entertainment. Microsoft says that the Xbox brand has achieved that distinction, and has become a recognized “home entertainment brand,” capable of acting as an instant media spokesperson unto itself.

“The vision for Xbox is straightforward: All of the entertainment you want. With the people you care about. Made easy,” Microsoft’s VP of Corporate Communications, Frank Shaw, posted on Microsoft’s blog late last month. “That is why you’ve seen us invest in partnerships with ESPN, Netflix and Hulu. That is why we’ve baked social directly into the experience with Xbox LIVE – connecting gamers, friends and families across the globe. That is why you’ll see Xbox marketed more as an entertainment brand this year.”

Even better, Shaw wrote, is that this “entertainment brand” is marketing itself as the user talks to the Xbox and Kinect in order to issue commands.

“Here’s a personal example: my daughter talks to the Xbox while watching movies and just assumes it will do as she says. Through the magic of Kinect, she says it, Xbox does it. For her, and millions like her, Xbox is the gateway to games, music, movies and TV shows – in short, it is central to entertainment.”

Shaw said that there will be plenty more examples of the Xbox’s multipurpose capabilities at E3 2011. In the meantime, can we truly say that the Xbox has reached the level of familiarity that Shaw claims it has? Do we associate the Xbox 360 with music and movies as readily as we associate it with games?

This is the kind of question that can only be answered after gathering heaps of anecdotes from families with young kids, but even without expending the effort, it doesn’t seem apparent that we’re at a point in history wherein the name “Xbox 360” has graduated to mean “movie player” and “TV show player” as well as “game player.” That’s partially because there’s a whole lot of competition out there: When a family calls a video game system “the Nintendo,” it’s usually because said families aren’t intimately familiar with the video game machines on the market. But everyone is familiar with DVD players, Blu-ray players, MP3 players, cable boxes, etc. Just because the Xbox 360 can play movies and stream television shows, it doesn’t mean every family is using it for that purpose.

Moreover, the Xbox 360 can’t play Blu-ray movies; it’s hardly an all-in-one machine to begin with. Sure, Netflix is in high demand, but so are Blu-ray titles. If a family wants to pop in their Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, they’re going to turn on their Blu-ray player, or, heaven forfend, their Playstation 3.

Shaw does have a good point about users like his daughter needing to refer to the Xbox by name before issuing any voice commands via Kinect, but the ratio of Xbox 360 to Kinect owners is still quite small. Most Xbox 360 owners who watch Netflix are getting there via their controllers.

So Shaw’s dream of a world wherein the word “Xbox” is synonymous with all forms of media is a long ways off. Maybe, however, there are numerous families that refer to every game system they encounter as “the Xbox.” That’s not so bad. In fact, for core gamers who want to see Microsoft focus its efforts on games above opening up the console as a family entertainment center, that’s just as well.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

1 Comments

  1. Really became happy to knew the announce of Microsoft. Cheers.

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