Dedicated Gaming Consoles Died Long Ago

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

I have been pretty vocal in my feelings over the prospect of a device like the Apple TV taking away meaningful market share from Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo in the home console market. I really don’t think that those companies have much to worry about in the near future. However, I think that in my aim to argue my point I have failed to mention that there is a fundamental point we're missing: dedicated gaming devices are already dead and have been for a while.

“Omni-devices” always beat single-function devices

A few months back I wrote about Jawbone, and the fitness band market as a whole, being in trouble due to the advent of smart watches. Here’s my favorite graphic I’ve used on the site all year:

Clearly, Garmin and TomTom were destroyed by the smartphone. Nobody buys dedicated GPS devices anymore (except in very rare cases, of course) because their phones do it already. Smartphones doomed dedicated GPS devices and I suspect that smart watches will doom the dedicated fitness wearable market as well. Carrying this argument on to dedicated gaming consoles and you could make the argument that the PS4 and Xbox One will be doomed by the advent of set top boxes that play games. It would be just another instance of an omni-device reducing an entire industry into an app.

But here’s the thing…

I think we’re talking about game consoles as they were 10 years ago, not how they are today. My PS4 isn’t just a gaming device, it’s also where I watch a lot of my video entertainment as well. Here’s a sampling of media apps I have on my console:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • HBO
  • Amazon Video
  • YouTube
  • Plex
  • MLB.TV
  • NHL
  • Vudu
  • Spotify
  • NFL Sunday Ticket
  • EPIX

There are a few more, but that about covers it. The Apple TV and other set top boxes certainly will have more apps available (which is why I will be getting an Apple TV), but the apps that I have on my PS4 are pretty good and are honestly better than any app on the current get Apple TV. If you take a look at the Xbox One, they have even more media apps. They even have the ability to plug your cable modem into your Xbox and use a custom Xbox interface to control your cable (yes, including a the guide). These are pretty powerful media devices in their own right.

And it's not like people aren't using these apps, as of 2012 the PlayStation 3 had the most used Netflix app on any platform, even though the PS3 was a pretty lousy media player in most other regards. These things are sold as gaming devices, but that far from all they're used for. The big difference with “game consoles” and “media boxes” is that the former does games great and TV well enough and the latter does TV great and games just well enough. The new Apple TV looks to be raising the bar with its media apps and could make a play at displacing the current gaming big dogs, but I don't see it with this year's model.