Game Consoles, Web 2.0… Really?

The big story of last week was the launch of the two new gaming consoles, Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. With the launch of these two platforms, the gaming generation upgrade is near complete. So far, Nintendo is being viewed as the unlikely winner, and PlayStation 3 as the big loser.

Regardless of who wins, the proliferation of these new kind of networked devices makes you pause and think about the overall strategic implications of these devices, especially for the new-fangled Web 2.0 services.

Huh? Well, that would be my reaction, but hear me out. Both Wii and PlayStation are now shipping with internal browsers. Several other devices (PSP, Mylo, Nokia E and N Series phones) have almost fully featured browsers. In other words, we are transitioning from PC-as-browser-base to “browsers everywhere” reality.

The increase in the number of browser end points means more opportunities for companies that are offering web services – everyone from Google, Yahoo to Microsoft. A Meebo IM client designed specially to run on the Wii? Flickr slideshow application for Sony PlayStation 3, or a tiny widget for Yahoo Music for music playback?

Note from Liz: This week I stopped by Yahoo to meet with Patrick Barry, who directs the company’s digital home group. Barry talked about the thinking Yahoo has put into “the lean-back internet,” on a TV screen 10 feet away and accessed with the limited tools of a remote.

Barry toggled between a few DVR and media center setups, which included TV-ready Flickr slideshows and video search, saying everything but Yahoo groups, message boards, and shopping might find a life on the big(ger) screen. While most of the interfaces for these things are pretty terrible, the coolest mashup of TV and web services is for Yahoo’s popular fantasy sports leagues on Intel Viivs. Stats and league standings run alongside a sidebar, with chat (“smack talk”) coming in SMS-style. The idea is for sports fans to “leave the laptop out of your lap and eat your chips,” says Barry.

These web-based services (or widgets) can especially shine on connected devices like Wii and PlayStation 3. This is a thought I just cannot shake off! If you would like to share your thoughts, let us know.

The post first appeared as part of GigaOM Weekly email newsletter dated November 19, 2006