It used to be that games consoles were for just one thing. Gaming. But ever since the PlayStation 2 shipped with an internet connection and the capacity to play DVDs (Sega's earlier Dreamcast had the former, but not the latter), manufacturers have had their beady eye on the living room. Now it seems, the leading machines have completed their arduous and extremely expensive journey from teen bedroom to family lounge.
New findings from giant research company Nielsen suggest that PS3 and Xbox 360 owners spend over a third of their console time doing things other than playing games. As Gamasutra reports:
Nielsen's latest game industry survey found that Xbox 360 users spend 62 percent of their console time on games -- with their playtime evenly split between online and offline play. PlayStation 3 users spend a little more than half of their console time doing things other than gaming -- and when they play, it's "relatively more" offline versus online play than its rival.
That's a lot of screen time going on non-interactive pursuits. With these two machines, the next most favoured use is watching DVDs and Blu-rays, followed by streaming video content. Sure, users could still be doing all this other stuff while their consoles are stuck in the bedroom, but at least the platforms are moving into the traditional territory of 'the first screen' – i.e. the TV.
As for online play, Xbox has always been more heavily marketed on its Live multiplayer system, and has tended to attract more 'hardcore' gamers. PlayStation 3, meanwhile, was aggresively pushed for its multimedia potential – Sony didn't spend a billion dollars fitting the thing with a Blu-ray player for nothing.
Meanwhile, despite a lot of fuss over Twitter and Facebook support, social networking is a low priority across all three consoles. And it's also interesting that the Wii, the machine most often credited with pulling gaming into the family space, is the one that's used most traditionally, with 57% of time spent playing games offline.
The figures may be slightly different in the UK, thanks to less reliable broadband speeds, and the longtime lack of a major third-party video streaming service like Netflix. But does this vaguely match your console-using habits?