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Forward-looking: Thanks to a new entertainment feature, groups stuck waiting in certain BMWs will soon have another way to pass the time together. At first, the AirConsole platform seems like another delivery method for mobile games, but it could make an interesting comparison against other game platforms.
Next year, BMW cars featuring the company's latest iDrive infotainment system will have access to casual local multiplayer games through AirConsole. Occupants can control games on the car console's screen with their smartphones.
The AirConsole service offers a selection of almost 200 mobile-like casual games which users can run through a browser, Android TV, Google TV, Amazon Fire TV, or soon BMW iDrive. When AirConsole games run on a screen, they offer a QR code that users scan with smartphones to turn the phones into controllers. Subscriptions start at $2 per month, or customers can play for free with ads.
Requiring smartphones for AirConsole seems cumbersome. However, using phones as controllers allows users to play local multiplayer games on one screen, offering a couch-co-op experience while waiting in your car.
The only way to get a similar experience is to use a Nintendo Switch with the Joy-Cons disconnected and the screen fastened to the inside of the vehicle. Perhaps playing Mario Kart is preferable to playing a knockoff clone. However, an AirConsole subscription is likely cheaper than a Switch with a game if all passengers already own mobile devices.
Last year, BMW unveiled its iDrive 8 system, which combines an instrument cluster display and touchscreen on a single curved 200ppi display. AirConsole will be another feature added to the infotainment system in 2023.
Car companies are offering various new options to keep passengers entertained on long trips, some targeting luxury customers. The 2023 BMW i7 xDrive 60 — shipping later this year and starting at $120,295 — includes a 31-inch 8K screen with built-in Amazon Fire TV to bring a home theater experience to backseat passengers. Tesla vehicles have offered video games in their infotainment systems for a while, with Elon Musk promising that Steam integration is on the way.