Nielsen has released numbers showing that a very large number of consumers have realized that the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Wii sitting under their television does more than just offer video games. On all three consoles, the percentage of time spent streaming video is bigger than ever, up a combined seven percent over last year. On the Xbox 360, streaming video accounts for 14 percent of the console's active use, 15 percent for the PS3, and a whopping 33 percent on the Wii. In general, Nielsen concludes, that increased time isn't necessarily coming at the expense of gaming, but instead is additive to the time consumers were already spending on their consoles.
What does it mean for the future of your living room? Hopefully more and better streaming video options to meet the higher demand. Microsoft's decision to overhaul the Xbox Live Dashboard to foreground video apps and universal video search wasn't made in a vacuum, to say nothing of its rumored pursuit of a TV executive. Expect Microsoft to continue to aggressively push for more living room time while Sony tries to build "a different kind of TV set" that presumably will also find a coherent way to stream video. Meanwhile, the company whose console sees the highest percentage of video time, Nintendo, seems more focused on rethinking the controller with its Wii U than cutting video content deals. A lot can change in a year, but right now it's clear that the console wars aren't just about gaming anymore.