Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: Xbox One-Eighty — Change the Channel

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Microsoft has made so many reversals regarding the features they intended to offer with the Xbox One that it’s difficult to keep count. The lack of a number in my title should help hammer home that fact, especially including situations that could be reversals but aren’t quite on par with the largest. It’s hardy the “All-in-one Entertainment System” they originally advertised it as — though admittedly, steadily removing features didn’t stop Sony from using the “It only does everything” marketing slogan for the PS3.

There’s no way anyone who paid attention to the unveil of the Xbox One last May could forget the presentation’s overwhelming focus on TV, part of their initiative to go beyond offering a mere video game console. They spent plenty of time touting “unique” features like being able to change the channel with your voice via Kinect (which, as you may know, is no longer a required pack-in), announcing exclusive deals with entertainment programs, and biggest of all, the company confirmed their plans to spend their own money on programs and shows exclusive to Xbox One. The idea of offering an entertainment device instead of a video game console is sound, but they went about it in the worst and most haphazard way. Also coming with that is the risk of offering a “jack-of-all-trades, but master of none” console.

From Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
From Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

News about TV deals were absent from the company’s E3 press conferences, save for a small tidbit about the Halo series. (And funnily enough, their competitor spent too much time discussing them at their latest conference.) We learned this week that time and money they previously spent on this was all for naught. Microsoft is currently undergoing a change in the company’s vision and philosophy, thanks to new CEO Satya Nadella taking over where Steve Ballmer left. And saying Nadella merely swung his axe was an understatement, as over 18,000 employees are being let go — most of which were former Nokia staff. The news most relevant to this post is how they’re also killing the Xbox Entertainment TV division, meaning the 200 employees who worked in that department will also be gone.

It’s always unfortunate to see a staggering amount of layoffs, especially when the top execs won’t be shaving anything off their paychecks as compensation. But some of these initially-promising plans needed to go because they weren’t taking off. No one was buying a $400-$500 Xbox One on the promise of quality TV content, especially when a number of considerably cheaper devices contain similar features. Nadella (and the other execs) were correct in their strategy to cut it out of their plans, and you won’t find a big audience shedding a tear at what it could have been.

From the Quantum Break video game. I think.
From the Quantum Break video game. I think.

This doesn’t mean they’ve cancelled every TV program they have coming, though. The Halo TV series is still on the way, likely because it’s far along enough that it wouldn’t make sense to cancel it now. You can bet that they’ll kill it quickly if it doesn’t get the level of support they want. Additionally, the TV series being done in tandem with Remedy’s Quantum Break is still on, despite a number of sources suggesting it wasn’t. The game and series are supposed to work with each other, meaning Remedy would have to significantly retool a good portion of the game if they cancelled it now, delaying the project even further. That wouldn’t be good, especially when talking about a developer that takes their time to finish games anyway. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the game miss 2015 too, especially after all the delays Alan Wake suffered before release.

Sadly, there’s no word on whether the documentary on the burial and recent excavation of E.T. Atari cartridges is still on. I’d like to hope it’s too far in production to cancel at this point.

We’re assuredly seeing a brand new Microsoft manifest under Nadella’s rule, one that should ideally be more profitable and hopefully (perhaps against all hope) more humble. Meanwhile, though I could assume they’ve run out of “180s” at this point, that’s something I said nearly two months ago. I won’t make that mistake again, so let’s see what else they have.

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