Scrolling through the Xbox One specs and PlayStation 4 Just recently, I was amazed at how much the concept of a game console has changed over the past 15 years. In the late 1990s, I settled in an attic where I had plenty of room to play on the Super Nintendo entertainment system, which I later migrated to the original PlayStation to take advantage of multimedia CD playback.

Looking at next-gen offerings from Microsoft and Sony, it seems like incorporating video, TV, music, and your photo collection (and possibly social media) into the combination of games and unlocking achievements is now an integral part of owning a game console. This is the main selling point to deliver the ultimate entertainment experience in living rooms and homes across the developed world.

But wait — why wait for Xbox One or PlayStation 4, when can you stream video and music from computers over your home network and from the Internet to your existing Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo consoles?

But before that, this: the original Xbox

Before we get excited about the current crop of console-based media centers and next-gen devices like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, let’s think a little about the original Xbox.


It was the device that gave Microsoft a foothold in the console market and also provided a platform for homegrown developers to move media centers into bedrooms and living rooms. The Xbox Media Center project was known to eventually become XBMC. software currently available for Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and many other operating systems and devices.

Although the Xbox was limited to standard definition video, it was instrumental in bringing media and games into the same devices as game consoles gradually evolved into networked entertainment hubs capable of displaying photos, TV, video, music, and of course running games.

The original Xbox was the starting point, and if you can get a hold of it, you’ll have a competent media center for a penny.

Xbox 360 media centers

Upon release, it became possible to play media stored on a networked computer through the Xbox 360 — if you were lucky. Unfortunately, the software provided for this in Windows XP and Vista (namely Windows Media Player 10) wasn’t perfect, leading to a lot of frustration. Various solutions have emerged over the years to strengthen the connection between a Windows PC and an Xbox 360 (TVersity, for example), but perhaps the best option is PS3 Media Server (which Tim listed in his article, 6 servers). Despite the name, this software is perfect for streaming music, videos, and photos from your PC to your Xbox 360.


As Matt discussed in Using Your Xbox 360 as a Media Center — Is It Worth It? there are many other online video streaming options available to Xbox 360 owners. In addition to Netflix (see below), there are:

  • BBC iPlayer (UK only)
  • DailyMotion
  • EPIX
  • ESPN3 /
  • Hulu Plus
  • Syfy
  • TMZ
  • tonight show
  • YouTube
  • Zune Marketplace and Pandora are also available to Xbox 360 users (the latter only through a browser-based UI), while TVersity can also be used for audio streaming.

All in all, Xbox 360 users have plenty of options to transform their game console into a media center!

PlayStation 3 media center

If you’re planning on streaming from your PC to your PlayStation 3, you’ll need the PS3 Media Server app, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.


As well as providing a convenient and easy way to stream media to PS3 (although TVersity can also do the job), PS3 Media Server also has a selection of plugins available that can deliver media from other services, including XBMC plugins. Main the reason for using it, however, is to transcode file types that the PS3 cannot play in the original format (because you can connect a PS3 and Windows PC over a network without a PS3 media server).

Not to be overlooked are some of the features that have been introduced to the PlayStation 3 since its launch; for example, adding apps like LoveFilm, YouTube, Hulu, SyFy, BBC iPlayer and many more are also available on Xbox 360.

As with the Xbox 360, Pandora can be enjoyed on the PS3 with a «10-foot» user interface via a browser.

Nintendo Wii

Even though the Nintendo Wii is very small and doesn’t have built-in DVD playback capability, it can still be used as an effective media center if (like the original Xbox) you don’t expect HD video.


If you want to stream video from your PC, you will need to use the OrbCaster software for Windows and Mac, which will allow you to view streaming video in the Opera Wii browser. Keep in mind that Orb is closing soon, so grab the OrbCaster while you still can!

Another way to listen and watch DVDs is to install the Homebrew Channel on your Nintendo Wii and install the WiiMC app. Great guide by Justin on how to turn your Wii into a media center with WiiMC should be filled in here.

Nintendo Wii U

Tools have been released for the Nintendo Wii U to (which we recently reviewed) allowing PC streaming, and as you’ll see below, Netflix is ​​also available.


However, at the time of writing the application, the application Vidiiustreamer was not available for evaluation, so while there apparently are tools for streaming video from a desktop computer (although it has been converted to MP4), it’s still not a completely reliable service.

Also disappointing is the lack of built-in DVD and Blu-ray playback on this device, though hopefully a workaround can be found in the near future.

Don’t forget Netflix!

Are you successfully setting up your console as a media center using media streaming from your PC or NAS or, if you’re having trouble, you can still enjoy TV and movies with Netflix.


As you will learn from reading How to access Netflix on almost every platform known to man How to access Netflix on almost every known platform How to access Netflix on almost every known platform there are Netflix apps/widgets for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii that can be purchased from each console’s respective store. Multiple platforms mean you can pay whatever you want for Windows Mac or Linux games.

Meanwhile, Wii U owners can access Netflix via an icon in the Wii U menu. The first time you launch, you need to download the full app, but once that’s done, you can sign in or register with the service and start enjoying the library of videos and TV shows on offer.

Future: Xbox One, PlayStation 4

On the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii, it’s important to note that none of these consoles were designed to be media centers. Each was released with a second thought in media playback capabilities.

For example, the Xbox 360 first introduced built-in compatibility for data transferred from a Windows PC, provided it worked, and of course the DVD drive. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 3 was also capable of streaming media and had a Blu-ray drive. Only the Nintendo Wii comes without media playback, and users rely on the Shopping Channel and Homebrew Channel apps to enjoy the multimedia experience.

The future, however, is different. Both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are designed with tools that act as unified game consoles and media centers. They are essentially home entertainment hubs, and while the details are yet to be finalized and confirmed as to what each device will do, this approach marks a fundamental change in how Sony and Microsoft see the importance of their devices. , recognizing changes in how consumers relate to games.

Image Credits: Xbox Video, Microsoft Xbox, Dennis Hurd

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