OPINION: When it comes to the act of ‘selling’ TVs to customers, it’s always been rooted in how good TV or films would look on a screen. You go to Currys or John Lewis and see a row of screens, all showing the same footage like they’re in a synchronised dance.
But there’s been a sea change in the audience TV brands are looking to cultivate. Yes, picture quality and accuracy are still touted as a must-have feature, and talk of interfaces/apps has grown as more have become available, but what I’ve noticed most is how integral gaming has become to their offering.
Back in the days of CRT TVs, you just had to plug in the game console and start playing. In the move to LCD/Plasma and digital, a ‘PC mode’ was essentially the equivalent of a game mode by disabling the TV’s processing. Gaming didn’t seem to be all that important, and the visual quality wasn’t all that great either. I remember playing Crysis 2 on a Samsung LED TV, and the game looked drab and boring.
From your cheap TV to a premium OLED and almost everything in-between, it’s nowadays rare to see a TV that doesn’t ship with a game mode as standard. Gaming has only become more popular with the PS5, Xbox Series and Nintendo Switch consoles, as well as the boost the HDMI 2.1 standard provides to enable slicker and faster performance.
I mention all this as I was in Berlin to see Panasonic’s latest 2023 TVs, and gaming was a big component of what they were bringing to the market. As another journalist mentioned at the event (and I have no problems stealing a good thought from another journo), gaming is perhaps the biggest growth area for TVs going forward.
It has become a territorial battle between the TV brands who are all looking to appeal to a generation for whom gaming is not just a hobby but a competition with the rise of eSports. Screens smaller than 50-inches were at risk of being forgotten about, but now – as well as being a screen for the bedroom or second room – they’re being repurposed as gaming monitors.
LG and Samsung have led the way by adding as many features as possible to turn their TVs into a gaming monitor. Sony focused on the PS5 with their ‘Perfect for PS5’ campaign, while Panasonic, Philips and the rest lagged behind in their feature count.
That’s no longer the case, especially for Panasonic which has gone all in on gaming. The ‘Hollywood to the Home’ slogan of a few years ago is still there, but joined by ‘True Game Mode’ and ‘Game Mode Extreme’. Its 2023 TV launch provided a big splash in the gaming pool with the announcement of its partnership with Activision Blizzard’s Diablo IV.
There was much talk about the darkness of Diablo games (visually speaking) matching Panasonic’s skill with displaying dark detail on its TVs, and much of that went over my head as I’ve never played a Diablo game before, but I understand the point they were making – Panasonic TVs will make your games look and play better.
There’s a whole market, and a younger market at that, that’s into gaming with a more even mix of male and female gamers. That’s a prime audience for a TV brand to appeal and persuade, one willing to spend their cash on the best possible screen for their gaming sessions.
Gaming is the ‘new’ frontier, and don’t be surprised to see it become the factor in where people spend their money. Video games aren’t going anywhere, and TV brands have finally woken up to the power and sway gaming can have.