Why is Microsoft still so focussed on television?
Xbox Originals is a good idea, or at least it could be. Microsoft will create and produce their own original television content in order to capitalize on the franchises they currently own. They have thrown some rather large and tantalizing Hollywood names in the mix, including Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott, and it all sounds pretty exciting. Two of the biggest names in the film industry combined with an IP like Halo – it’s a match made in heaven.
The only problem is that games and TV are like apples and oranges. Microsoft has a “long and rich legacy in the content business,” according to Jordan Levin, the Executive Vice President of Xbox Entertainment Studios, but games content and TV content is not the same. “Games have been part of our DNA for at least the last 15 years, and creating original TV content is a logical step in our evolution”. Is it? Is that really the next logical step? I have yet to hear of another game developer deciding that creating games just isn’t cutting it anymore and it’s time that they tried their hand at television. It seems Microsoft is bored, maybe they decided they created the perfect game, so now they can move to try and create the perfect TV show.
Microsoft is running the risk of adding yet another gimmick to the Xbox One. So far, their foray into television has not been popular with gamers, and they could potentially widen that gap by abusing their franchises for TV. There are of course shows in the pipeline unrelated to Xbox games, but if we have learned anything from the last six months of console warfare it’s that gamers want games, not television. Gamers want to play games – that is what a console is for. Xbox Originals is an interesting idea, but it isn’t in the least bit warranted.
It does have a trick up its sleeve, however; adding interactivity to its programming. In the past, this interactive capability has included real-time voting during the presidential election and plans for the future include managing your fantasy football team as you watch live sports. The potential is there, but the idea isn’t without its challenges.
Reminiscent of the very first games that involved the Kinect, it’s a simple case of “Does anyone actually want this?” The idea of interactivity seems a bit confusing, why would someone want to interact with the TV show they are watching? Until we see proof that these features work seamlessly and actually enhance the experience, I will remain a sceptic. And we still don’t know how this interactivity will play into that Halo show.
The bigger problem of course is Microsoft’s unbundling of the Kinect. Now that their supposedly indispensable piece of kit is an optional extra – unavailable until later this year for people who buy the Xbox One console by itself – Microsoft has effectively neutered Xbox Originals before it’s even begun. How can their defining interactive experience take off when half of your install base can’t make use of it?
Big names won’t be enough to successfully carry Xbox Originals. Microsoft is a company that certainly has enough cash to throw around to get celebrities involved, but a good show is not just Halo plus Spielberg. We have no idea what is going on behind the scenes, who knows what monstrosity might be in the works? Names are meaningless. I want content; show us something definitive, prove that you’re making a quality Halo show instead of just telling me how great it will one day be.
Microsoft can make or break Xbox Originals at this year’s E3. They will obviously talk about how amazing they think it will be and how we should all be super excited, but they are still trying to rebuild their fractured image. Phil Spencer wants to prove to the core gamer that the Xbox One is capable of serious, fantastic games, but if they spend just a little too much time focussing on Xbox Originals at E3 we could have a repeat of last year’s catastrophe.
If they can pull off both games and TV on the Xbox then they deserve massive congratulations. But, in this writer’s opinion, something will have to give.