In no small part due to the growing popularity and influence of streaming services like Netflix, multimedia has become increasingly relevant to home game consoles—to the dismay of many and to the convenience of many more. At this point in the hardware cycle, however, the concept has developed into the go-to hot button for manufacturers and a veritable reservoir for marketing. Microsoft’s TV-centric reveal of the Xbox One spawned dozens of subsequent campaigns and promotions, all aimed at how integral the viewing experience is to the system as well as how exclusive much of the proposed content will be. Nintendo’s Nintendo Direct broadcast deserves to be factored in as well, despite its freeform nature. Furthermore, as yesterday’s Gamescom 2013 events showed, Sony has clearly taken its own multimedia direction for the next console generation towards movie adaptations of popular games. As the New York Times points out, this is to say nothing of the cable streaming possibilities inherent in the company’s recent deal with Viacom, nor does it address the immense streaming possibilities that Sony’s partnership with Gaikai brings with it.
Sony’s Gamescom presentation revealed the impending release of a Gran Turismo movie as well as a film adaptation of Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs. What’s interesting here—beyond, you know, the movies—is that, while largely unprecedented on Sony’s part, the announcement looks strangely familiar. Although only tangentially similar (as it stands now), Sony’s motion to capitalize on the popularity of its games forms a noticeable parallel with Microsoft’s May-announced Halo series. In fact, the only true division between the two is the Xbox Live exclusivity of the Halo series.
Incidentally, that exact factor—distributing content exclusively through a system’s multiplayer service—could also be on Sony’s next-gen agenda. The repeated pushing of PlayStation Plus—from shifting the network to a pay-to-play model by putting PS4 multiplayer behind the paywall to pairing the subscription with PS4 launch bundles—affirms the company’s devotion to its network. Any sort of system-exclusive media content would invariably benefit from such a change and the additional subscribers it would generate. And with PlayStation Plus already predicted to grow by 900% thanks to the change in model, any potential content from Sony stands to benefit greatly.
It’s also worth noting how downright strange the actual movies are. Game-to-movie adaptations are notoriously horrible, and Sony’s flagship titles are some unlikely contenders. Gran Turismo is a racing simulator…and therefore not exactly brimming with storytelling canon. Equally strange is that the Watch_Dogs movie has already been announced, and that it was only mentioned by Sony at Gamescom. The game is a multiplatform title after all, and one that isn’t even out yet. That Sony already has the go-ahead to steer the IP in this sort of direction further alludes to the possibility of PS-only content.
Of course, Sony has yet to comment on many of the more decisive factors, so this should all be taken with a grain of salt. Exclusivity was never mentioned for the movie announcements, nor has any sort of PlayStation-exclusive streaming service been announced. Narrowed distribution is particularly unlikely (but still entirely possible) in the case of movies, simply due to the inherent production costs. With that said, the fact remains that a stark two movie announcements surely won’t be the end of Sony’s multimedia expansion.
The underlying question here—one bolstered by Microsoft’s content direction—is whether or not exclusive PlayStation streaming, or even movies, would be a positive addition to the PS4, and, derivatively, the Vita and PS3. Barring the genre’s horrible track record, movie and television adaptations of popular games could prove to be a lucrative avenue for both Microsoft and Sony if networked effectively and if the market responds positively. However, the ever-present pro-game attitude of next-gen buyers isn’t exactly laying the red carpet for a slew of explicitly non-game content.
How far will Sony take the movie craze? Will Microsoft respond with yet another verbatim turnaround? Is exclusive streaming on its way to the PlayStation Network? And just how terrible could a Gran Turismo movie be? There are far too many maybes at play to form any hard conclusions, but the sheer number of possibilities—and some damn probable ones, at that—is rather staggering. The statement to take away from burgeoning multimedia ties isn’t one of ostracism directed towards Sony or Microsoft. Rather, gamers on both sides of the next-gen fence now know with certainty that, despite multiple obvious differences between the two holiday competitors, the next console generation is becoming more and more multimedia heavy.
How about you, readers? Where do you think the two bickering titans—excuse me, next-gen contenders--will take multimedia in the coming years? Are you even interested in movies or television shows based off of games? More importantly, would you pay for them? Let us know in the comments below.