Marry your enemy

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
9 August, 2016
Editorial: 20
Fecha de publicación original: 21 mayo, 1996

Date of publication: 21/05/1996. Editorial 020.

When one door shuts, hundred opens

Demographic surveys of Internet, proliferating lately like mushrooms after rain, have consistently been coming up with a significant piece of information over the last few months: users of the Internet tend to watch less television, sometimes as much as 75% less than they did before. Faced with what is on offer from both media, internauts are inclined to choose an interactive world and exercise an autonomous consumption of “programmes” on the Internet, something which TV is as yet unable to compete with.

Up to now, nothing or nobody has been able to come between the TV and its viewers. Not even the ever more spectacular film business indebted as it is to special effects, nor important popular events, have managed to reduce the time each individual spends in front of the goggle box. On the contrary, the response of TV has been to project its presence on an even greater scale: it has fed off the other possibilities and excreted them as though they were its own, to the point where events almost justify their existence by being televised.

The challenge which the Internet represents, therefore, must set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power of the audiovisual business. It is no exaggeration to think that the wild race for digital TV, which we have been witnessing over the last few months, has a lot to do with the equivalent flight of internauts into cyberspace. This would also explain, by the way, increasing interest in directing the debate on the future of the Internet towards the marriage between PC-TV or the eventual appearance of some kind of technology of this type which would firmly establish itself within the domestic environment.

The breaking point, above all from the perspective of the audio-visual industry, is nevertheless shifting towards the realm of games. Up to now the Net has not been a suitable platform for satisfying the minimum requirements of the multi-millionaire electronic games industry, above all in aspects such as speed, immediacy, interactivity, sound and instant turnout of a number of players. That was up to now, or should I say until yesterday. The E3 fair, the most important in the world for entertainment and educational multimedia which ended this weekend in Los Angeles, clearly indicated that online games are about to break into the WWW with a display of resources and imagination which would leave even the most sceptical aghast. Even the days of games played via consoles connected to the TV are now numbered. Within this sector, as well, Internet will be the natural substitute for enhancing the most outstanding features of electronic games and adding some of its own, unthinkable from any other multimedia platform.

The response from the industry has been immediate and was evident in Los Angeles: to get Internet onto TV through game consoles. On display at the E3 fair were the prototypes of the kind of equipment, all of them still experimental, whose future development is based on the WWW. The player connects with Internet through the modem incorporated in his console and selects one of the preselected web sites in its memory where, logically enough, there are people waiting for opponents to play with. The images are not very good yet. Interactivity is crying out for adjustments. The speed is almost adequate. But the way ahead is clear. All the big names in the sector promise to have hybrid TV-Internet systems ready for this Christmas, at least in the US.
By that time, cable TV will already be a reality in most industrialized countries. And the audio-visual industry will have learned that if the Internet is really the most important enemy they have come up against in recent decades, the best thing to do is shack up together. And that is precisely what they are up to.

Translation: Bridget King.