Thursday June 25, 2009
Access to online services is now part of the PS3 and Xbox packages. By Mike Wilcox. VIDEO game console makers have been touting the potential of their latest hardware to be used as versatile media convergence devices since they launched and, while gaming remains at the top of the list, exciting new social functionality continues to emerge.In unusually subdued fashion this month, Sony Computer Entertainment Australia launched an innovative free service for its PlayStation 3 console called VidZone. Provided by London-based VidZone Digital Media, this free online service offers streaming music videos. With the PS3 console connected to the internet, owners can browse a library of 10,000 video clips (and growing) across a variety of musical genres. Video clips can be paused, fast-forwarded and so on, plus unlimited playlists can be created for such activities as aerobic sessions, parties or simply enjoying back-to-back hits. We were also able to enjoy the full VidZone service from a PlayStation Portable (PSP) using the remote play mode, which allows wireless access to some of the PS3's functionality.While viewing the video clips is gratis, there are future plans to also allow the purchase of certain music videos, ringtones and music tracks for use on mobile phones. Banner ads are the other revenue stream that makes this service free. The majority of advertising at the moment is for PlayStation games, although this will no doubt change as more advertisers come on board.Although Sony probably isn't expecting to make a great deal from the VidZone service compared with game sales, it's still a win-win scenario. This new digital music video jukebox expands the PS3's non-gaming functionality, thus appealing to a wider audience, while the service's upkeep is handled by an external party.While VidZone is free to download from the PlayStation Store, naturally any use of the service will affect the data quota of broadband accounts.Also with innovative streaming news of its own, Microsoft announced earlier month that it planned to improve quality and extend availability of its US-based movie download service. When the rebranded service launches locally this year, the new Zune Video Marketplace will offer Xbox 360 owners with an Xbox Live account high-definition movies in 5.1 surround sound, with the unique attraction of instant start playback. Another unique aspect of the new service is video sharing. Up to eight people located anywhere in the world will be able to rent and watch the same movie in a virtual living room environment where they can chat with each other during the movie.An exact launch date and rental pricing details are expected in coming weeks.