Microsoft to Battle Netflix & Amazon with Xbox Originals
The long-awaited announcement of Microsoft’s foray into original content programming has arrived. Today on the Xbox Wire, the company announced Xbox Originals, a content lineup that can only be viewed on Xbox 360 and Xbox One platforms. Set to start rolling out this June, Xbox Originals could just be Microsoft’s best move yet to get people to buy the Xbox One console.
According to the announcement, Xbox Entertainment Studios has signed deals for two separate projects based on the hit Halo franchise from Hollywood auteurs Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott. Moreover, we can expect “an unscripted series about international street soccer, an original drama about robotic servants in a dystopian world, and a documentary about the search for discarded Atari games in a desert landfill,” the last of which has been making headlines over the last few days as the infamous ET Atari games were found and unearthed in New Mexico.
Those projects, plus a live broadcast of this June’s Bonnaroo music festival, are all scheduled and ready to go, it seems. Meanwhile, the post also lists several projects in development, including a live-action show based on the pen-and-paper RPG Deadlands, a stop-motion show from the Robot Chicken team tentatively called Extraordinary Believers, a Survivorman-styled unscripted show tentatively called Fearless, and an adaptation of comic book legend Warren Ellis’s novel Gun Machine. Plans are also in place to develop a comedy series from JASH, a “comedy collective founded by Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Tim and Eric and Reggie Watts,” and an adaptation of the graphic novel Winterworld.
In all, this is a ton of content, and it all seems like it might actually catch the hearts and minds of those most likely to own an Xbox console: gamers. Netflix has been doing great business by creating popular original series that have earned Emmy nominations and wins, and Amazon is trying its hand at doing much the same. Xbox Originals has the chance to get tons of great attention with these series, and leading with a Spielberg-developed Halo series is a pretty smart way to do it.
Of course, there’s still a lot we don’t know about how Xbox Originals will work. Will it be offered for free to Xbox LIVE members as an added benefit of having a subscription? Or will these shows be pay-per-view, much like the current format of buying content through the Xbox LIVE marketplace?
If it’s the former, the Xbox One will seem like a much more appealing destination for users who want to see the latest in exclusive programming. If it’s the latter…well, then Xbox Originals might be doomed. Simply put, Xbox LIVE membership hasn’t been a very good deal for customers for a long time, forcing them to pay for the privilege of even getting their consoles online. Since rival Sony provides online connectivity for free (with tons of monthly free games and multiplayer access via subscription-based PlayStation Plus), Xbox LIVE has looked like not much bang for a hefty bit of buck.
But if Microsoft can also provide Xbox Originals as a freebie with that $50 per year subscription, suddenly it might have a much-needed edge in this latest round of the console wars.