Video games are no longer as simple as guiding a mustachioed plumber through a horde of mushrooms to rescue a princess from an angry turtle. Mario’s heyday is long gone, and so too are the gaming consoles he once roamed, devices that lacked the power of a flip phone.
Consoles of today, like Microsoft’s Xbox One, are multimedia units capable of connecting users to the untapped resources of the internet, and giving them access to a range of communications apps, including video conferencing.
Apps like Skype on Xbox One are currently thought of as leisure time distractions, but the idea of making a video call through your gaming console is gaining traction as a form of social media.
For a start, you can view your video calls in the 4K, big-screen glory of your television, which is far more immersive than your little smartphone. And secondly, it ties video conferencing in with all your entertainment platforms, from the games you play to the television you watch to the sites you browse.
A New Video Platform
The link between Xbox One and Skype is an obvious one, seeing as they’re both owned by Microsoft. The evolution of the former to accommodate the latter wasn’t much of a stretch either. Sega’s Dreamcast console from 2000 was the first to offer gamers a direct connection to each other over the internet, although initially only in text chat rooms. In the almost two decades since the Dreamcast’s release, communication has evolved through audio-only connections, and finally the live, in-game video calls and live streams used by millions of gamers each day–more than 100 million unique users visit the online gaming site Twitch every month.
While Twitch caters for the desktop crowd, console gamers have also been enthusiastic converts to online gaming. Xbox Live, the online community for the Xbox One, has almost 60 million subscribers, and Sony’s PlayStation 4 console has attracted more than 34 million members (PlayStation doesn’t have video calling, only unfulfilled rumors that video conferencing platform ooVoo was going to make its service available).
The online community these console gamers enjoy is almost as feature-rich as a fully-fledged social network.
Facebook, Twitter, and Skype on Xbox One
In addition to Skype calls, Xbox One users can also directly connect with Twitter and Facebook. It’s cumbersome to navigate around these social giants using a game controller and clicking a letter at a time, but the premise is sound. The additions fill out the platform, making it more than a gaming console. Users can also access live TV, on-demand services like Netflix, and search the internet. Of course, you can also buy the latest games direct from your TV and download them to the console.
The one drawback is you must access these functions one at a time. Microsoft did have a feature called Snap that let users open multiple windows at once, but it was scrapped as too large a drag on the console’s overall performance–these performance issues are why many gamers prefer the higher-end processors of desktop computers. That’s a blow as it limits the flexibility of the console, but the power it frees up does help Skype’s performance.
Using the Skype function is a simple method of navigating through the menus to the app and clicking on the intended contact–they’ll show up when you add your Skype account details, or you can find them via Facebook. You can see the process in action below.
The service has been freed from its link to the gaming camera Kinect, so you can now use any webcam that connects with a USB–which opens up the vast majority of offerings, and lets you use HD models with all the fancy features. Independent reviewer Ted’s Guide recommends the Logitech C920 webcam, which is nice because you can pick one up for less than $80 on the Logitech site.
That makes the Skype via Xbox One experience as good as any smartphone or tablet platform and gives the gaming console a better chance to stand alone as a quality venue for your social video calls.
The Future of Console Video Calling
Just as Microsoft’s rival Apple revolutionized digital communication by converging a bunch of technologies within the iPhone, so too could the Xbox One potentially stand as a new all-in-one communications platform.
We’ve recently seen new forms of social media emerge following this same principle. Video conferencing apps Airtime and the almost-Sony-partner ooVoo allow users to enjoy the internet together by allowing third-party live streaming of concerts and other media.
Bring back that Snap function, and the Xbox One could do the same thing. It already has a built-in audience in the form of the millions of gamers using its console. Of course, this would require users to evolve from the habits of consuming social media apps on handheld devices and being passive viewers of big screen TVs. Ultimately though, the superior visuals on the large screen coupled with integrated social media could make console networking a success.
We’re already chatting to each other while we push the modern Mario around his digital world. Wouldn’t it be nice to speak face-to-face after the action ends?