Microsoft ceo Steve Ballmer has gone on record saying he believes the Xbox 360, with all its achieved in five years of giant toppling sales, is not in fact a games console at all. It is a family entertainment centre. Ballmer spoke with USA Today (via Eurogamer) saying “It’s a place to socialise. It’s a place to watch TV. We have Hulu coming. It’s the only system where you are the controller. Your voice, your gestures, your body.” Right now, his focus is on Kinect after it sold a whopping eight million units since release and the market its brining to the 360; “I think about my own family. My wife used to say, ‘No, no, that’s the machine the boys use,’ and now she says, ‘Yeah, I want to go watch movies. Let’s go play the dance game.'”
For years, the big three platform holders have been trying to rally gamers into calling their systems family entertainment centres and this generation is probably best suited to claim that title. However, between the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, I would consider Microsoft’s unit more of a games console that the rest – which is why it has sold so incredibly well so far. Nintendo may not offer DVD playback (officially) on the Wii but they were the first to really crack the multi-generational market with Wii’s sitting in households that wouldn’t ordinarily except traditional games consoles. And when the PS3 was trying to find itself after a turbulent few years, Sony would and sometimes still do, promote the system as a Blu Ray player over its game-playing capabilities.
But the Xbox 360, to me, is all about the games first and foremost with Microsoft cleverly bagging exclusivity deals for titles and add-ons and everything else it offers supports your choice for buying one. Though I have to agree that possibly the term ‘games console’ doesn’t do the system justice. Before the latest gen of platforms, the main reason to turn on either a PS2, Xbox or GameCube was to play games. The former two had DVD playback but I would imagine the ratio between gaming and viewing to be vastly one sided. Nowadays however, powering up a console offers a lot more options. You could watch a movie on Sky Player, listen to music on Last.fm, tweet from the dashboard or go on Facebook, all the while connected to Xbox Live and receptive to any game requests your friends may have. Maybe you’re feeling bored and hop on to see what your friends are up to. Or, like me, start downloading an XBLA game or two and peruse the video section to see what’s on Inside Xbox while you wait. The PS3 boasts similar levels of entertainment as does the Wii (to a lesser extent) so even though I still favour the name games console over family entertainment centre, I would agree that the Xbox 360 is as much about gaming as it is about entertaining.