BMW uses QR codes and your phone to control casual games on its big in-car screen

BMW is the latest automaker trying to get gaming to happen on vehicle infotainment screens while you’re charging or otherwise waiting around in your car. The company plans to add AirConsole, a party game service that normally runs on devices like Android TV or PC, into cars equipped with the curved infotainment display at the heart of its iDrive 8 system.

AirConsole delivers games over the internet, with controls handled by smartphones instead of dedicated controllers. The library of over 180 games available on the PC version aren’t exactly heavy hitters, like GoKart Go Air, Mega Monster Party, and Let’s Cook Together, which seem heavily inspired by Diddy Kong Racing, Mario Party, and Cooking Mama, respectively. Absent are any recognizable games, including ones that also use smartphones, like Jackbox games.

By comparison, Tesla has had a growing library of pre-installed games on its infotainment system since 2019, starting with titles like Cuphead and Beach Buggy Racing 2 and later adding others like Sonic the Hedgehog and Stardew Valley. In July, Elon Musk claimed Steam integration was on its way “probably next month,” but that hasn’t happened yet. Musk has also promised high-end PC games like Witcher 3, and Cyberpunk 2077 are coming to newer Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with a discrete AMD RDNA 2 graphics processor.

BMW doesn’t quite have the same gaming computer power. In an email to The Verge, publicist Bilal Mahmood said AirConsole would first arrive in the new BMW 7-series since it’s the automaker’s only current vehicle capable of handling the games. This appears to indicate that some current vehicles with the new curved display, like the iX XDrive 50, won’t get the games via an over-the-air update — but does not rule out the possibility of a hardware retrofit. New cars BMW ships next year that have the latest hardware will get AirConsole, said Mahmood.

With massive screens popping up in more cars, we can expect more automakers to follow the path already walked by Tesla. Though with handhelds like the Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck readily available, smartphone games that have high-res 3D graphics, and enough cloud gaming services to let you take your pick, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would choose a watered-down Smash Bros. clone just because it’s built-in to their BMW.