With the introduction of Xbox One last November, Microsoft has been working to position it’s next generation of gaming consoles as primary streaming devices for the modern living room. Recently at the Newfronts, Xbox Entertainment Studio’s (a Microsoft entertainment subsidiary) unveiled an extensive slate of programming to be released exclusively through its consoles and eventually their Windows 8 platform.
Microsoft is among a multitude of brands strategically moving towards long-form digital content, similar to linear telelvision programming. In order to increase access & content consumption via their consoles, Microsoft eliminated their Xbox live paid subscription, previously needed to unlock Netflix, HBO Go and other streaming apps. The access and introduction of content by Microsoft is expected to greatly impact how consumers view and engage with their consoles.
The release of “Xbox Originals” includes documentaries, reality shows, scripted dramas, and comedies as well as live streaming events. With Microsoft making a big bet on original content, they have partnered with well established celebrity producers and events such as Steven Spielberg, the Bonnaroo music festival, and the Jash Comedy Crew (Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Seth Green etc.) in order to ensure success.
Although most of the programming is based on already popular material, Microsoft has said they are experimenting with new story-telling features, such as a “choose your own adventure” style experience where users are given the option to shape the narrative at certain junctions within the show. Microsoft remains uncertain if the experience is feasible or a desired feature for Xbox users. but they will continue to experiment and refine ways they can add interactivity to traditional video content.
What appears most promising about Microsoft’s new venture is that they are poised to take advantage of a shifting consumer behavior by combining certain aspects of digital video with traditional TV. Video game consoles could potentially find success where many digital video platforms have seen limited traction, by providing users a TV viewing experience combined with the flexibility of digital channels. As a result, we could potentially see the birth of a Microsoft TV channel, and If Xbox Originals gain significant followings, Microsoft could have a platform setting the precedent for digital video ad buying for the next generation. To remic Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Meyer at the 2014 Newfronts, “We’re at a critical moment for video consumption.” We couldn’t agree more.
Written By: Steven Frey & Carol Cai