The current console generation has brought game systems major strides closer to becoming living room "hubs", letting users interact with all kinds of media from streaming music to video rentals and Blu-ray discs. But while PlayStation 3 users spend a bigger share of their time on the system on multimedia, Xbox 360 users play online games more.
Research firm 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.
Nielsen says the consoles' launch tactics do play a role in the way these stats shake down. Microsoft has always marketed its Xbox 360 largely on the back of its Xbox Live network and multiplayer content, while PS3's launch was marked by the decision -- a little controversial at the time -- to put a Blu-ray drive inside the console even though it helped create a very high launch price.
Although the consoles' exclusives and slightly different demographics play a role, the primary differentiating factor is the total share of online playtime, Nielsen concludes, as detailed in the chart below:
Both consoles see watching DVDs and Blu-ray videos as their second most common usage -- PlayStation 3 users spend 27 percent of their console time watching Blu-rays, which is "on-par with offline gaming and, in fact, surpasses online gaming" on the hardware.
"However, by comparison, DVD viewing occupies only 11 percent of time on an Xbox 360 (Blu-Ray format is not supported by Xbox 360)," adds Nielsen. "In sum, the PlayStation 3 stands out for its use as a DVD/Blu-Ray player as well as a gaming console."
A quarter of console users say that video-on-demand and streaming services are their third most common use: Netflix, MLB Network, ESPN3 and similar options account for 20 percent of Wii users’ time, 10 percent of Xbox 360 users’ time and 9 percent of PlayStation 3 users’ time.
Nielsen reflects on Wii's leadership in this category: "Compared to the other two consoles, the bulk of time on the Wii is in the form of offline gaming; the system trails in use for online play. This may reflect the lesser emphasis on online applications and gameplay for the Wii in general. In terms of streaming, Netflix was introduced this year for the Wii, but its lead in share is likely a function of the fewer hours per user that is being divided up... overall, the Wii is most defined by its use for traditional offline gaming."