What do you do when you’re in your car? The answer is that, increasingly, you spend less time driving it than you might think. The Swiss start-up AirConsole reckons that by 2025, as much as 30% of the time people spend in the cars will be devoted to interacting with content served up through vehicles’ technology and entertainment system. As part of that trend, the company is today announcing what it bills as a world-first partnership with BMW, which will see its gaming technology installed in the automaker’s vehicles.
“The car is the next living room,” says Anthony Cliquot, CEO of AirConsole. “It’s where we will consume an increasing amount of our content – and that includes playing games.”
AirConsole is best-known for developing technology that allows people to use their smartphone as a games controller, so that they don’t have to buy a specialist console to play games on their television screens. The company has worked with more than 10,000 developers globally to co-created close to 200 games that utilise this technology, which have so far been consumed by more than 15 million players.
Having seen demand for its technology increase among consumers playing games on television screens at home, AirConsole’s attention turned to other locations where people have access to screens. The automotive market, where manufacturers have steadily improved in-car entertainment technology, including larger screens to display navigation and entertainment content, was one obvious candidate.
“It made complete sense for both sides,” says Cliquot of AirConsole’s partnership with BMW. “If your car really is just going to be another living room, we need to provide the opportunity to play games in it.”
To that end, AirConsole’s partnership with BMW will see the German car maker’s vehicles equipped with the technology to do exactly that. Car drivers and their passengers will be able to use their phones to play games on the screens in their new BMWs, with AirConsole making a selection of its games catalogue available from the beginning of the alliance. Players will be able to play alone, or in multi-player mode, with everyone in the care able to take part.
BMW has already equipped its some of its new 7 Series models with the AirConsole technology, and will roll it out across the rest of its fleet in 2023. The automotive giant chose AirConsole as a partner through its BMW Startup Garage program
Importantly, game-playing functionality will only be available when cars are stationary. In part, this reflects the obvious safety issues – there must be no question of drivers being distracted when the vehicle is on the move. But it is also an issue of connectivity – game players will need a good-quality and consistent data connection to play the games.
Nevertheless, Cliquot expects people to spend significant amounts of time playing AirConsole games. Electric cars take a while to charge, he points out, so gaming could be one way of passing the time spent in charging stations. Indeed, there are multiple reasons why people spend time in cars that aren’t actually on the move – from time spent waiting around when picking friends and family up to journey delays and other hold-ups.
“We think this will have really wide appeal,” Cliquot adds. “We’re not targeting gamers specifically, but the far larger market of all those people who play games when they have a bit of time to spare.”
BMW is also convinced that its customers will value the innovation. “This will make every waiting situation inside the vehicle, such as charging, an enjoyable moment,” argues Stephan Durach, senior vice president of BMW Group Connected Company Development.
For now, AirConsole’s deal is exclusively with BMW, with the company receiving a fee for each new vehicle that rolls off the production line with its technology installed. But in time, Cliquot expects other manufacturers to follow suit. “Our goal here is really to create a new industry standard,” he says. “It’s in everyone’s interests to create a vibrant ecosystem around gaming in the car.”
The partners are also excited about future possibilities. AirConsole has already begun working on solutions that would allow gaming while the car is on the move – limiting participation to players with screens in the back of the vehicle perhaps, and finding new solutions to the connectivity issue.
For now, however, AirConsole and BMW regard today’s announcement as groundbreaking. The model of using your smartphone as a controller, they argue, is preferable to games that rely on touchscreen technology, providing a superior experience but with a device that most people already own.