Playing Smart with TV and second-screen gaming

Playing Smart with TV and second-screen gaming
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

January 13th 2014 at 4:44PM

Qualcomm's Julian Harris on why the second screen could have a big future, and how Smart TV can lead the revolution

For the last couple years developers have been experimenting with second-screen gaming with mixed results, but arguably have so far failed to develop a significant and engrossing experience for smartphone users when it comes to TV gaming.

Smart TV has also yet to take off, with many awaiting for Apple’s long-anticipated foray into the space to do to the living room television what it did to the mobile market.

One company making tentative moves into both markets is global mobile and digital firm Qualcomm, which has developed its Snapdragon 600 processors to power a number of new Smart TV devices from companies such as Xiaomi.

The chipset supports HTML5, although the firm still currently recommends standard app and game creation to be conducted in a standard development and production environment.

The firm has also developed open-source technology AllJoyn, which is designed for peer-to-peer communication, used in titles such as Rollercoaster Rush New York and Tower Bloxx New York

This technology can potentially also be used to swipe an object or transfer information across from a user’s smartphone to their Smart TV, or allow a mobile to act as a controller for games on their television. Such technology appears to quietly be ushering in a new way of playing games on the Smart TV, particularly those taking advantage of the second-screen, which could elevate those experiences from the simple match-three games that dominate the space today.

Can second-screen gaming succeed?

Speaking to Develop, Qualcomm senior business development manager Julian Harris said there were enticing stats emerging from research conducted by the likes of Google which suggests 50 per cent of smartphone owners used their mobile while watching TV.

“That's an enticing fact, you know you've potentially then got an audience that is engaged not only in the television but also by another device in their hands and you can debate for a while which of those is the first or second screen,” he says.

“Another interesting stat from those guys is there's going to be a three times increase in the quantity of content that comes in to homes by 2016. So when we start to add that up, there's a lot of content, consumers are already sitting down in front of their television and using a second device, not necessarily interacting with that TV, but look at what they could be doing as a result. So there are certainly tremendous growth opportunities in this market.”

But is second-screen gaming really an application consumers are clamouring for? Harris believes while the use of smartphones when also watching television may often be completely separate from the big screen experience, the fact these devices are beginning to pull together could spark an interest in real second-screen experiences.

“At the moment there isn't that level of interaction, there isn't that capability available of interaction with the screen nowadays anyway,” he says.

“But because we know we've got consumers with devices in their hands, we know they've we've certainly got our licencees who are announcing their devices, we've got Android as a common platform, and suddenly you can see that things are starting to pull together as opposed to perhaps pulling in opposite direction.

“At the moment they are independent, but is that because people want them to be independent? Or is that because that's the only option available to them today?”

'Get stuck in'

Harris has one message for developers – get stuck in to second-screen gaming and Smart TV development. He says that game developers are likely to be the ones who drive innovation in the space in terms of how applications can be used.

“It is almost inevitable that games portfolios will be amongst the first, because the games guys will step up,” he states.

“A lot of these guys are coming to the Snapdragon processor because of that performance and console-like gaming experience, so it makes a lot of sense to interact with the Smart TV environment.”

Whether Smart TVs can really take over the living room hinges on whether a manufacturer, like Apple, can loudly convince consumers of the benefits over a normal television and the current living room ecosystem, and also on the developers to deliver an experience that competes with or is better than just using a mobile and owning a console.

Harris admits he isn’t sure if Smart TV combined with second-screen gaming will win out, particularly in the face of technology such as Microsoft’s SmartGlass which enables mobiles and tablets to interact with the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and has yet to take off itself. But he is confident of the great opportunities open to developers who get in early.

“To a degree it's going to be horses for courses, but what a wonderful opportunity for the games publishers to take advantage of this environment,” he says.

“I think the level of interaction and connectivity, again thinking of AllJoyn as an example, is going to push these guys to think about new gaming experiences as well.

“I know things you can't do on consoles, but there are things you can do on smartphones and TV. An example is swiping stuff from your smartphone and tablet to your TV, there seems to be, in some ways, some advantages Smart TV has over console.”