Could BBX allow BlackBerry to create a gaming utopia?

Game Utopia on BBX?
By Chris Umiastowski on 24 Oct 2011 11:52 am EDT

I've been wanting to write on this topic for a while now, and I think having attended DevCon this past week makes it a ripe opportunity. So here goes …

BlackBerry Gaming Today: RIM has done a pretty good job proving that QNX can absolutely scream when it comes to gaming. It's right up there with the iPad2. And now that gaming SDKs such as Marmalade and Unity bake in full support for the Playbook (and BBX in the future), there is going to be no shortage of kick-ass games in BlackBerry App World.

But as it stands right now, companies like Apple are still way ahead of RIM when it comes to gaming. I think the Playbook has a form factor advantage, and I suppose you could argue that a direct HDMI connection supports 1080p video, which is extremely high quality. However that's about where the benefits end today.

Apple has Airplay. iPhone or iPad games can all be directly transmitted to a $99 Apple TV box, which then connects to a big screen via HDMI. It's a beautiful solution. And it looks like things are only improving with iOS. Check out this demo below from Real Racing 2 (you can read more about Party Play on TiPb here).

So what can RIM do today?

Today you can hook a Playbook to a TV using an HDMI cable. And you can also do multiplayer gaming for games that support it. But unless the game itself renders a multi-player output, you can't display more than one player's perspective on the screen.

And so I see a ton of things that RIM should be doing to add an awesome layer of innovation to the gaming marketplace. All of these new potential features should give the company a way to step up the power of BBX. Given how much focus they had on gaming at the Devcon keynote this year, I think they need to do this stuff. Quite frankly, if they don't they'll just look lame.

BlackBerry needs to support DLNA

For those unfamiliar, DLNA stands for "Digital Living Network Alliance". In plain English, DLNA certified equipment rides on top of your existing home network. It works with wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi. But we'll focus on Wi-Fi because for gamers this is what matters. RIM should be supporting DLNA within BBX. Game developers wouldn't even need to do anything different. RIM would simply need to create a DLNA media server app within BBX that outputs the game to a large TV without the need for an HDMI cable. This would be RIM's answer to Airplay, but without a $99 separate Apple TV type of box required.

But it can go a lot further. Imagine if one BBX device is the host of a game (the master device), while other BBX devices can use something like BlackBerry Bridge to connect into the master. Then a bunch of friends could play any multiplayer game without all of them needing to own a copy. The master device would initiate the multiplayer game, and the guests would use their BBX superphones as remote controls. The master device would also function as the DLNA media server, streaming the video output to the TV.

RIM is all about open standards. DLNA is an open standard whereas Airplay is proprietary. This means that Apple is unlikely to ever support direct output to an HDTV unless that TV happens to be manufactured by Apple. A bunch of buddies who all have iPhones or iPads will still need a $99 Apple TV box in order to share the content on a TV.

This puts RIM in an interesting position. They could conceivably take a leadership position in mobile gaming. That said, I'm not holding my breath for it. It's more like a dream. And I say this as an investor rather than as a consumer … because I'm a busy dad with 2 kids. I don't really have time for games. But I pay respect to the millions of hardcore gamers who live and breathe this stuff.

Competitively, Android also supports DLNA today. There are third party apps that can let you serve your content out to your TV. So RIM is really racing against Android if you ask me.

RIM needs to move fast

Back in April this year, Mike Lazaridis and Alan Panezic were at the Playbook media briefings in New York. Ronen from BerryReview reported that Lazaridis told him DLNA support was coming and Kevin was told the same thing by Panezic during his briefing by Alan. Yet here we are more than 5 months after the launch, and RIM has not certified the Playbook with the DLNA. Maybe it's coming with Playbook 2.0? We can only hope.

Open standards always seem to move faster than closed standards, so I think it's smart that RIM is embracing them. HTML5, WebGL, C++, and hopefully DLNA soon enough.

What do you think?

How do you feel about the potential future of multi-player gaming on BBX where you don't need a set top box, and not every player needs to own a copy of the game? What else would you like to see RIM do? Perhaps they can add support for game rentals to App World?

Tell us what you think? What else can RIM do to bring some awesome innovative features to BBX?

Reader comments

Could BBX allow BlackBerry to create a gaming utopia?


I'd like to see OS2 for the Playbook and some BBX handset hardware before I worry about anything else right now, thats what RIM needs to be worried about...

Oh and I forgot to add 1st, like the other losers so do I get a hero cookie?

RIM might not be moving as fast as they should but they are definitely moving.

We have heard rumors about Blackberry TV, to mimic Apple TV; I bet you they are they are already thinking along the lines of this article.

I would not count RIM out just least they have seen the light on the need to build an ecosystem and offer multiple services.

I like this app developing move where RIM is saying you can have apps in the BlackBerry app world whether they are built for BlackBerry or Android. Excellent move, IMO

In my opinion i might think will be a improvement for PlayBook and BBX, but first i would like to see one of the BBX devices in action, than we can have whatever apps and games we would like.

Form factor game set match!
Look at the PSP and iPad. PB is right in the middle with a big screen and sweet sound! No rumble kit yet tho. What about a BT gamepad when hooked up to HDMI?

FIRST - The potential for gaming with the BBX would be endless but that would require everyone who wants to play to own a "controller " - the playbook.

That's the idea... as it would be if a similar offering were presented by Apple, or Android-based device makers. I'm not exactly sure what the alternative would be? Unless RIM decided to try to Kinect everybody?

Though, with the technology discussed in this article and RIM's adoption of Android apps through its player, the PlayBook would technically have the upper hand as it could serve as a "host" in one of these multiplayer games and - through developer support on the app side - connect with other non-RIM devices playing the same Android-based game (think along the lines of cross-platform gaming). As you said, the potential for gaming w/ BBX would be endless.

I'll add to that the need for themes on OS7 and BBX in the future. That is one area where the BB had all the other devices. Look at how many themes are available for OS5 and OS6 devices. Come on RIM, pull your head out of the sand....

Liquid Graphics "broke" the theme builder for OS7 devices, no idea about QNX/BBX. Apparently the issue's being addressed as we speak, though.

They talk about all these great ideas and concepts that look amazing on paper and online to all the faithful but when it comes times to execute said concepts its like they are attempting to run through molasses on a cold Canadian day. NEED to put these ideas into motion quickly. one thing RIM can learn from their competition is to announce a great idea then release it within a month before hype wears off.... been a faithful/hopeful bb user for 5+ years and want to continue to be but competition is looking awfully promising lately

Remember kids! Slow and steady wins the race. The way I see it, there is only so much "innovation" any one company can do at a time, so lets not rush development and then complain about half-baked goods. I think RIM is taking a page out of Apple in the early 90's, where after a lot of stagnation and humiliation in the computer world, came busting out the seams with great ideas. I know RIM will deliver, they just need time to eliminate as much of the bugs as possible.

I also think they are really depending on this to future proof their business for years to come. You can't (re)build a house without a strong foundation, and that is exactly what RIM is doing.

Apple learn that being first didn't matter, but that if you fell too far behind you could never catch-up. Once Windows became the dominate OS, developer didn't want to "waste" time on the little Apple Market. And consumers didn't want a machine that wasn't compatible with the work computer, or with their neighbors computer....

RIM is a lot like Apple... they started out with a great product (RIM = BlackBerry, Apple = Macintosh) but let the competition slip by them. Apple learn their lesson. The question is will RIM be like Apple was and only be a niche manufacture?

Chris, Dan Dodge talked about this in interviews on the day the PlayBook was announced. He mentioned the ability of QNX to share resources with other devices across networks. But it doesn't just have to be about gaming. Using multiple BBX devices to create a single system is an idea that can be brought into many industries.

Any industry that needs a rapid response system would be greatly served by a mobile platform that can be fit into a suitcase and retain the same capability as a communications van.

Your idea is being actively pursued by RIM but it could be an area where their lack of software development could hinder the ability to bring it to market.

What ever happened to the BBTV or RIMTV box that was floating around in rumour land? Was that debunked already? I was thinking that this was the answer to AppleTV - a direct copy.

But I agree with others - they need to show and prove those BBX devices now, and need to hurry. Blackberry world next year is too late, IMHO -- Unless they can unveil everything one hit after another. No more half-baked products with *potential*. Prove it when it's shown.... not show it then prove it 6 months later.

yahoo app would be great... again. what happened to the app that app that we had a few years ago?? ESPN ff app would be pushing it i guess...

some idiot said the speakers on the playbook my opinion they are the best speakers on any tablet.

"But as it stands right now, companies like Apple are still way ahead of RIM when it comes to gaming."

Thanks for the update, I had no clue...

I'd like to see a BT game controller or at least a USB wired game controller for gaming.

Maybe a mini controller for portability.

Or better yet, ability to use your Blackberry Phone as the game controller.

If they want a gaming platform they need to get game prices under control. You won't get the user base using a game platform in which the games are 7x the price of another platform. Apple was smart about pricing in iTunes right from the start. They pushed developers to have 99 cents as their price so it would be an impulse purchase. RIM clearly isn't pushing that.

The big difference isn't just Apple pushing for cheaper prices. The big difference is that there's more competition. Right now, if you want a strategy game, you have a couple of options at $7 each (examples). Apple has a lot more options, which means that the developers need to try to undercut each other to still get sales. On the PlayBook (and BlackBerry phones), why would a dev sell a game for $1 when they could sell just as many at $7? As a dev (amateurly) I know I look at what price similar apps are set at before I set my own tag. The only thing that is going to push down the prices is more competition. On the bright side, with the DevCon announcements, it is going to be a lot harder for developers to justify ignoring BB.

A deverse product range in the future with high and low end phones is not all that different from business vs consumer and consumer to gamer. Different products for all, lyering your OS to deliver the needs of the product.

Don't worry Chris, I'm sure DNLA is coming. 60 days... Or summer... I'm sorry but RIM will never move fast. Did you see the DevCon Keynote? All tales of RIM falling behind are false. They're perfectly happy where they are. Everything is A-OK. At this rate by the time we get anything RIM has promised iPad will be up to iPad 4 with 3D holigrams. I love RIM to death, but I have zero faith they'll come through for you with DNLA in the forseeable future.

What about using the Blackberry Bluetooth Presenter, already around shouldn't need to much modification.
One thing I was glad not to see at DevCon were the BBX smartphones, they say they are coming out next year and thats good enough for me. I think they have a rep of moving too slow because of the announcement / Buy now ratio. I would like to hear things like we have BBX phones buy it Tuesday. If they showed it off last week I would be drooling over it for six / eight months before I could get it. Thats my 2 cents

The words "BBX, Blackberry, and Utopia" in the same sentence make me laugh. Utopia? Uh, lets take of those rose coloured glasses and just try to find a small measure of reality.

What strikes me as important is that the technology, and hopefully RIM will take this DLNA challenge on, will be able to used in so many other ways yet to be conceived.

Yeah .... initially it's for gaming ..... but it won't take long before the creative types find many, many other uses for this technology within (and external to) the RIM framework.

I think gaming on phones is a joke. Games on phones should be kept to kill time when waiting somewhere that you're not at home. I am a huge gamer, granted I don't have the time to play like others but when I do want to play I'm not looking to my phone or tablet to get game play. Everytime some one asks me if I play angry birds I say no I have a ps3. I'm all for having my berry do everything but I don't think even the iphone and ipad can compare to a full fledge gaming system. Really holding your ipad as a controller?? Come on! With my Kinect I don't even have to hold anything! They should concentrate more on making the apps work and getting BBX to be flawless. The only thing dlna would be useful on a cell phone is to stream pictures to the TV to show everyone and maybe music. Before getting it to stream movies and such they need to increase the storage capacity internally and externally. I like high quality videos. I have one video in my collection that's 43 gigabytes! They really need to stick to what's important.

Simply stated, anything RIM can do with the PlayBook SHOULD be done, regardless of who it caters to. There's plenty of possibilities for any user. RIM is slipping out of relevancy in North America. That's a fact. Sure they are a global force in all those 2G areas, as well as those emerging 3G markets, but in the US, even the carriers are pushing consumers to other platforms regularly.

With the PlayBook and QNX/BBX (whatever it eventually is called after the lawsuit), RIM has a world of opportunity to once again become the leader in this market. For the most part, the tablets are all still on the same page with each other. Nothing really stands out other than the iPad2, and that is where the PlayBook can "leapfrog" the competition.

I think that with Alec Saunders being in charge of developer relations (hopefully becoming the future face of RIM- along with Kev CrackBerry), the company as a whole is being given a breath of fresh air. It's not stagnant anymore, and they really seem to be pushing things to their limits and beyond. With that said, anything is possible with this platform. If used to its capabilities, no one gets handcuffed by it. Embrace everything this platform can do. There is a way to please everybody.

DLNA is important in the business world too... New projectors will support DLNA and having the ability to walk around the stage with your PlayBook untethered to any cables is worth its weight a few times over. This has been one of the most hotly anticipated new features for me but I`ve seen no sign since the initial stammerings its even being pursued. I hope I`m wrong and if I am, I`ll buy another PlayBook!