November 14, 2010
When the NHL introduced GameCenter LIVE, it was an innovative way for fans to consume content. From live games with the ability to choose home or away feeds, highlight packages, condensed games, and classic games, GameCenter LIVE quickly became an available alternative to those who travel a lot or fans that prefer to multi-task while watching games on their PC.
In addition to NHL Center Ice and GameCenter LIVE, last week the NHL unveiled an app for Playstation 3, Roku and Boxee users that allows for streaming of out-of-market regular season games and select playoff games through those devices.
You must already own a GameCenter LIVE account in order to use the app. For PS3 users, if you're not already a Playstation Plus member, the app will cost $9.99 to download.
The same blackout restrictions apply to streaming on PS3 as it does to your PC and regular Center Ice. Any national and in-market games will not be available to view (think Versus, NBC). Full-length replays of games will be available (with no blackouts) 48 hours after they air.
In addition to live games, users will be able to browse through current standings, player profiles with stats and season schedules without missing any action.
To get a hands-on experience with the new PS3 app, we took a field trip to the NHL's offices in New York City and received a demonstration from Alexandre Simon, Sr. Director of Digital Business Development for the NHL.
Users will notice many similarities between GameCenter for your PS3 and your PC, according to Simon, except for a few minor things.
"The main difference on the computer is that there's a chat feature, picture in picture and four games at once," said Simon.
"It'd be kind of hard-pressed to chat with a joystick, so it didn't seem like it was worthwhile. And picture-in-picture is just not how Sony's engine works. On the PC, the classic game archive is completely separate from the current season and archive season games; it's even a different videoplayer. So you really need to leave one environment altogether to go into another environment, whereas on PS3 they're really tightly integrated."
Speaking of the classic game archive, "The Vault" currently features over 500 classic games dating back to the 1960s and includes Stanley Cup deciders, All-Star Games and even the memorable tilts between the Russian Red Army squad and the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s. Simon said there are about 300 more games to be added over the next few weeks.
There's no chat feature for the PS3 app, but Simon notes that the integration of social media is something the NHL is looking at for the future.
"That's definitely something we're thinking about on the PC side; like check-in (FourSquare) and kinds of social elements where you can be able to comment on games, have it posted to your Facebook and all that. So as we start to roll in that functionality to the PC version, we're going to be looking to our different connected device partners like Sony to replicate some of that functionality as best as their platform presents it."
For those with XBOX 360s and Wiis, there's uncertainty about whether or not the GameCenter app will appear on those systems in the future. The deal for this season is exclusive with SONY and with the NHL's broadcast rights up for renewal after this season, there's no telling how that might impact GameCenter's availability on devices going forward.
Day One was Wednesday night and as with any new addition to the technological world, there were some bugs. Out-of-market games were blacked out and some feeds were choppy, but according to Simon, those issues were resolved quickly.
After testing out the app on Thursday night, it's safe to say that despite the lack of the popular picture-in-picture and mosaic features on the PC version, the ability to stream through your PS3 is a nice addition to the already jam-packed GameCenter LIVE technology.
Instead of having to lug a laptop or be tied down to your PC desk, you can flip on your PS3 now, open up some pops and enjoy a night of puck.
The NHL has given fans so many different ways to consume their product and tried to reach newer demographics with their technological models over the past few years. From the interactive approaches like Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare, to the consumption of live and past games via GameCenter LIVE, it's clear that the league is doing all it can to separate itself from the other "big three" when it comes to technological dominance.