Xbox Entertainment Studios, a division of Microsoft’s Xbox team, is working on bringing their own network of original TV content to Xbox One and 360. The studio is currently developing over 12 projects, including a series based on Halo that was announced alongside the Xbox One, to be implemented into Xbox Live. Microsoft plans on competing against Netflix and other streaming services with original content, as well as live coverage of major events, such as the Bonaroo Festival happening in Tennessee this summer. For gamers, a lot of that original content may be based on Microsoft game franchises.
The Halo series, the only game-based series greenlit so far, is being executive produced by Steven Spielberg. While no official release date has been given for the project, one can assume it would look similar to the commercials released prior to the launch of Halo 4, perhaps drawing inspiration (and learning lessons) from the Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn webseries. While Halo is the obvious choice to build on, seeing as it is one of the best-selling games for the Xbox brand, it is interesting to note that there has been talk that Forza may be getting a series as well. While the idea of turning a racing game into a viewable media might seem familiar, Microsoft has been in talks with their studio to produce it since before the release of Xbox One. The Forza project has not been announced. Perhaps the box office disappointment of the Need For Speed film, is putting any Forza adaptation in question.
Other projects not dealing with Microsoft Intellectual Properties are a reality series revolving around street soccer to be released before the FIFA World Cup, and a new drama series entitled ‘Humans’ in partnership with Channel 4 in the UK, produced by Kudos. There will also be a comedy sketch show with the comedy collective JASH, comprised of Sarah Silverman, Tim and Eric, Reggie Watts, and Michael Cera, as well as a Robot Chicken-esque animation made by Seth Green’s Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. The first of these projects to be released will be the live coverage of the Bonaroo festival. Of course, the success of these projects will determine how many more will be produced and released. With only six committed shows so far, there are many more projects being developed that may not see the light of day if the initial effort fails.
There are of course concerns about what these projects could mean for their favorite games. President of Xbox Entertainment Studios Nancy Tellem, former president of CBS Television, discussed Microsoft’s endeavor into television on an interview with Bloomberg TV.
“We’re looking at franchise building and looking at certain levels that can really expand the franchise or build the successful franchise that can live not only in television but also in game as well… Whether it’s from a game like Fable or Age of Empires or Gears of War or Forza, which is an amazing car racing game, or Halo. These are the things that frankly if we weren’t attached to Microsoft everyone would yearn to have. This is an amazing platform to work from.”
Others might find solace in the fact that it’s Xbox producing these shows rather than Hollywood, taking a page from Ubisoft, as Tellem talks about the number of Intellectual Properties that are available. Some of these programs will even be interactive, so there’s potential for game tie-ins and video game elements.
In the video above, Jon Erlichman takes a tour of Xbox Entertainment Studios, pointing out that the team members writing on a glass wall is somehow ‘tech office appeal’. However, it does explain that the studio plans on broadening the reach of Xbox beyond the 48 million currently subscribed users on Xbox Live. While this number includes both Xbox One and 360, Tellem implies during the interview that this service is going to be optimized for the Xbox One, due to the interactive elements that the studio wants to implement into the projects being produced. Details on this have been limited.
What is most interesting is the fact that Xbox is openly going to be competing with Netflix, as well as being open to producing – or at least distributing – these projects with other companies. While Netflix certainly has the advantage in the field, with rumors of another price increase, Xbox owners might want to switch to a viable alternative if the selection is adequate. With Xbox implementing this service with its Xbox Live Gold subscription ($60 a year), the price point of a year is currently better than Netflix (priced at $96 a year). If Microsoft is able to profit from these projects in the works, they may be able to outbid Netflix in the future for movies and third-party television. This service may not make swarms of consumers run to buy an Xbox, but it may sway the undecided and make the hardware more appealing.
In the full interview, Nancy Tellem also explains that the Xbox-exclusive content will be viewable on other Microsoft devices. The nature of the service allows content creators freedom in the the format of their programming, meaning episodes of a TV show can be 60 minutes or even 9 minutes. Tellem also doesn’t consider PlayStation to be a threat in the TV market.
What do you think? Is this project something to look forward to? Let us know in the comments below!