The electric car manufacturer Tesla has been installing a powerful infotainment system in the Model S and X since 2021, which can compete with a Playstation 5 in terms of performance. An AMD Ryzen with an RDNA 2 graphics chip works in the Tesla and makes it possible to play Cyberpunk 2077 at the performance level. For safety reasons, only passengers are allowed to do this while driving. Now BMW is coming with an interpretation of the game console on four wheels. PCGH was invited as one of the world’s first outlets to test the N-Dream Airconsole in the new BMW i5 and was able to ask CEO Anthony Cliquot a few questions.
The Airconsole is a free gaming platform for casual games. Users can choose from over 180 different games, such as Mega Monster Party, Music Guess, Go-kart Go Air, Let’s Cook Together or 8-bit games. In the meantime, the first indie games from Xbox and Playstation 5 or PS4 have also found their way to the Airconsole, such as Overcooked. The Swiss company recently announced that titles from the developer studio Team17 will also enrich the platform. Worms WMD Mobilize is one of the best-known games from the Finnish developer.
All video games are available for free on the Airconsole website, as a smart TV app or as an app for Amazon Fire TV. The smartphone is always used to control the video games. Before it starts, all players have to scan a QR code with the smartphone camera and can then use their phone as a controller. However, all games are not streamed, but run natively on the hardware. In the BMW, this is a chipset from Qualcomm. However, an Internet connection is required to authenticate the players, since Airconsole needs to know which smartphones are now participating in a session. If the internet connection fails, the game automatically switches to the pause menu.
How does it play in the car and what is the difference to mobile gaming?
According to Cliquot, the big difference to mobile gaming via smartphone is that on the one hand you have a large screen at your disposal and on the other hand the situation in the vehicle makes it perfect for local multiplayer titles. As a result, Gokart Go Air is a kind of Mario Kart clone and can be played by several passengers in split screen at the same time. In the hands-on test, the multiplayer approach worked well and is a lot of fun. However, it is challenging to see something from the rear seat bench on the central display. When asked, BMW’s press spokesman Martin Tholund said that the Munich-based company was working on offering the air console on several screens in parallel. Especially in the current BMW i7 with the optional theater screen, it would make sense to be able to play in the rear as well. Finally, the Theater Screen is a 31-inch 8K touchscreen with a built-in Amazon Fire TV Stick. It is a pity that at the market launch in autumn 2023 you can only play in the park position.
A big plus for gaming in the car is the audio experience. As Airconsole’s Anthony Cliqout explains, spatial audio allows for an in-vehicle gaming experience that’s not possible with regular smartphone gaming. 3D audio can be used to pinpoint exactly where an opponent is in the Zombie Attack shooter. In unison, the sound experience is beneficial in games like Music Guess. Here, short audio snippets of pieces of music are played and each player has to choose the right answer from one of four possible answers. With an appropriate audio system, the musical outpourings can be enjoyed. A sound system from Bowers & Wilkens is installed in the test car, the all-electric BMW 5 Series.
Why no FIFA or Cyberpunk 2077?
On the stage in Berlin’s “Von Greifswald”, Anthony Cliqout couldn’t help but come up with a charming spike against the typical BMW driver. At the Airconsole – currently – only arcade games are offered. In the BMW, this can be an advantage, because does the typical customer know how to connect a controller to the infotainment system via Bluetooth? Jokes aside: The video games on offer are all easy to learn in terms of game mechanics and should simply be fun.
The learning curve should be flat and the control option of a smartphone should be used. In a triple-A game à la Cyberpunk 2077, the tasks to be completed are more extensive than in arcade games. When staying in the car, there should also be the opportunity to quickly play a round without hours of grinding and the like. N-Dream, the company behind the Airconsole platform, is open to new collaborations with game developers. There is still a competition running until June 8th, in which you can submit your own game concepts. The winners get “full funding of the game”.
Also worth reading: Air Console: BMW applies for a patent for video games in vehicles
Airconsole with free games
The integration of video games from the Airconsole platform can be used free of charge for one year from vehicle delivery. After this test period has expired, a monthly subscription to the BMW Connecteddrive Store is required. The Entertainment Package costs just under five euros per month and, in addition to Airconsole, also contains other entertainment apps that can be used in the BMW, e.g. B. Spotify or football broadcasts. All games on the Airconsole platform can be played at no additional cost. In contrast to the version for the web browser or TV and Fire TV, all games are delivered without advertising banners with the BMW integration.
According to those responsible for BMW, you are on a journey that will start later this year. The integration of other platform providers in the infotainment system is planned. After all, according to the Senior Vice President Connected Company Development at BMW, Stephan Durach, you want to work with aggregators and not with individual app providers. The BMW start-up garage is ideal for this. Contact to N-Dream and Airconsole also came about through Bernhard Horst. Because all games are calculated locally directly in the BMW and only the verification of the smartphone controller requires an internet connection, data volume is saved compared to cloud gaming such as Nvidia Geforce Now.
For the future, however, the desire remains to be able to play games while driving. A separate screen would be more practical for the rear passengers in particular and would be a possibility for entertainment on longer car journeys. When the market launches in autumn, there will be 15 different games from the Airconsole range of more than 1,180 titles. If you want to turn your BMW into a rolling game console, you need at least BMW Operating System 8.5. The new 5 Series will be rolled out first before other BMW models get the new operating system via an over-the-air update.
Video games in the car – unnecessary safety risk for the driver or entertaining entertainment for the passenger? You can use the comment function to let us know what you think. You would need to be logged in to PCGH or the Extreme forums to comment. If you don’t have an account yet, you could consider registering for free, which has many advantages.
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Disclaimer: PCGH attended the event at the invitation of BMW and would like to thank BMW and N-Dream for the interview opportunities. The manufacturer did not exert any kind of influence on the test report, and there was also no obligation to publish it.
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