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Living Room Gaming: The Big Picture

Is the living room gaming scene fleeting or just getting started up again?

Admittedly, some of our most interesting news happens when Valve decides to announce something cool. This week's announcement? Big Picture Mode is finally here.

Is the innovation coming to the living room enough to start drawing people back to it? In an age where many gamers have moved towards mobile platforms; with cheap, bite-sized games they'll play for a few weeks and delete, is there still a place for "immersive" gaming? If so, what's the best way to move forward with it?

Big Picture might just be the fancy interface needed to seduce gamers back to the TV. But then again, what are some of the problems that have always existed in the living room and how does the outlook look for the future?

More importantly, what advantage is there in even bringing gaming back to the living room?

The Rise of Second-Screen
Microsoft has recently announced it's "second-screen" technology with Xbox SmartGlass. Sony has games doing the same with the Vita. And well, the WiiU is second screen-enabled device right out of the box. The technology allows consoles to stream a "second-screen" with additional gameplay displays, interactions, etc. There's some real potential with this kind of tech - and since many people (at least in the US) are using their mobile devices while watching TV - it won't be a far stretch to get them used to this concept and gather their full attention.

Controller Innovation
Hardware developers seem to have finally realized that controllers aren't for everyone. Mobile has exploded, perhaps partially, because "tapping" is easy and extremely intuitive. Gesture and voice controls are cool too (Kinect), and with the variety of input methods now available, it seems the reservation regarding controller-based gameplay has been all but overcome. Designing UI specifically for users playing on TVs or other large displays is likely to only enhance the interactive experience. Players who would have never used a gaming console because it was overly complex may be pleasantly surprised at what they can play with today.

Decline of Social
With Zynga seeming to always be on the decline, and Facebook losing its share in the gaming market, those users are likely going to look to other outlets to fill their gaming void. Is that answer mobile? Perhaps, but even that has proven itself to have a limited lifetime per game. Many are small experiences with little replayability beyond a few hours. With consoles and other entertainment devices increasing their emphasis on "social" through sharing mechanics, etc. - players who were once motivated to show off their cows in Farmville may soon migrate towards showing off achievements in AAA game x, y, z. Does this mean they'll all immediately migrate to consoles? No, probably not, but the reverse exodus - as it were - will happen gradually.

So, what does it all mean?
Steam Living Room

This isn't to say that all gaming is going to revert back to living rooms, but there's certainly some good potential if it does happen. Coming from someone who grew up playing games in front of a TV and not tapping a 3" screen - it would be a welcome event.

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