Even in ordinary fourth-quarter cycles, November is the month gamers wait for all year. This is when most of the hottest high-profile titles hit the streets after months and months of gaming preview teases. This year, is special, however -- as both Sony and Microsoft will launch their next generation of hardware, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, respectively. And this time -- six or seven years since the last generation -- they have to catch up with the multi-screen living room.
Although Microsoft has tested out some rudimentary second-screen ideas on its SmartGlass app, Sony is already talking about upping the game.
The company announced that its PlayStation App will launch on November 13 (iOS and Android) in North America, just before the console release days later. Among the features available will be managing player profiles and compare trophy accomplishments with friends. But those are the table stakes in console second screens. The smartphone and tablets will also be able to exchange messages with others who own the app, and send alerts to friends about shared activities and items.
Supported titles will also allow full second-screen functionality. The Playroom game installed on all PS4s, for instance, will allow the user to draw a picture on their devices and throw it to the game world.
Even cooler will be the spectate feature that allows friends to actually watch on the device your live gameplay on the home console.
Yes, oldsters -- video gaming is a spectator sport. People all across this nation sit in and watch, kibbitz, cajole and even cheer on their buds as they hack, slash, shoot, run over pimps and pushers and spelunk through "Call of Duty," "Left for Dead," "Resident Evil," and "Tomb Raider." In fact, the second screen could open up spectatorship to become more interactive and cooperative. Imagine onlookers being able to direct the player if devices gave the spectator scouting capabilities. The onlooker could be a player assistant, performing supply or healing tasks.
The amount of user engagement and devotion that goes on in video gaming is unrivaled in other forms of mass entertainment. It is the defining medium for at least one generation. My daughter and her friends talk video game tactics, characters and memories with more critical acumen and passion than most cinemaphiles and TV obsessives. And yet after decades of evolution in the gaming industry, we still have barely cracked the code in aligning marketers with the passion of gamers. Perhaps the second screen and next-gen consoles with more integrated TV, film and connected functionality will open up new entry points for advertisers.