Xbox Entertainment Studios employee reveals a little about their interactive plans

Microsoft announced last week they will slowly shut down their Xbox Entertainment Studios division, but at the moment it's still in operation. Now a employee at XES, Shane Small, has revealed hints about what the group is doing to add interactive elements to its now original television shows.

Small is the latest guest for the Pointless podcast, a show hosted by Kevin Pereira, the former host of Attack of the Show on the now defunct G4 cable network. Small's chat with Pereira was recorded on Friday, the day after the team learned that Microsoft was shutting down XES, and Small admitted that for the most part they didn't expect to be part of the company's plans to lay off 18,000 of its workers.

Small is still working at his job, and he told Pereira that he is a member of a smaller "skunkworks" team that's developing a series of interactive tools for the shows that were being developed at Xbox Entertainment Studios. While he didn't offer any hard details about those tools, Small hinted that they would have allowed viewers to not only interact with the shows via a "second screen" experience but also use the Xbox One's Kinect camera. Indeed, Small says that an example of that feature may have allowed viewers to actually put their faces in the background of a scene in the show while they watched it via the Kinect add-on.

Microsoft is still developing a couple of their TV projects, including the planned Halo live action TV series, so it's possible that some of those interactive tools Small mentions in the podcast might still be used for that show when it is released. However, it's clear that he and his team had very ambitious plans for adding more interactive elements in Microsoft's planned TV show lineup and it's a shame that those plans will now have to be curtailed.

What do you think about the decision to shut down Xbox Entertainment Studios and do you think Microsoft should have pulled the plug on their interactive TV show plans?

Source: Pointless Podcast

John Callaham
  • Meh. All the planned/announced shows didn't interest me in the slightest.
  • +1 meh
  • Premature dismissal. I have no interest in soccer but I've quite enjoyed Every Street United thus far. The interactive elements nicely complement it, and it sounds like they had a lot of neat things in store, like Kinect integration. It is super disappointing that Satya killed XES before it even had a chance to prove itself. So dumb.
  • Agreed. SHould have just fired 15000 office and windows vista/7 emloyees.
  • I agree! Sat sucks can't support Xbox video why should I? What is the proof I will have access to my content in 5 years? If you Microsoft will not support your own video service all in???? I don't feel trust.
  • I think Nadella might have gone too far. This is the kind of business that will make Microsoft a more lovable brand. You can continue as much as you want in productivity but everyone knows the money is in consumer products right now and bussiness like this one. Besides, they haven't even made any loss as of yet....
  • Yeah but most gamers don't even care or don't even knew Xbox had a division like that. And btw, maybe we will see entertainment studios back in a different way. According to one of the Last memo's, they want to see how the Halo tv show and quantum break show will do to consider this option.
  • This. Who gave a damn about it?
  • Anyone with a heart maybe..? =/
  • They would've started caring once the two Halo series and the Quantum Break series started showing up, then they would've checked out some of the other offereings. More people use their Xboxes for non-gaming purposes than for gaming purposes. Satya is incredibly near-sighted to kill this off before it  had a chance. I'm all for parsimony, but Microsoft rolls in billions of dollars in profit every quarter; they can afford to experiment with a 200-person entertainment team. It made little sense to kill Xbox Entertainment Studios. Microsoft has been chasing the curve for a decade. Why? Because they prematurely kill off experiments like this one before they have a cance to take off.
  • Killing this might end up being one of the worst tactical errors Microsoft has ever made. Microsoft is definitely swimming upstream without original programming, especially when they have 360/One in so many living rooms. There is a reason why Comcast owns TV channels. MS ability to negotiate for video content deals with other networks will be severely hindered if they don't own any exclusive programming of value. At least they are still going forward with the Spielberg Halo show, so there is still some hope for them to come to their senses. Access to Netflix was a major reason for Xbox Live subscriber retention for a very long time. Using free games to keep people subscribed will only work on a niche of consumers interested in hardcore games. A hit TV show exclusive to Xbox Live like House of Cards would grow subscriber numbers and maintain subscriber retention better than any video game can. Netflix just passed 50M subscribers charging double the price of Xbox Live. And Netflix doesn't have the Xbox advantage of controlling the dashboard promotion of content. Netflix has to buy its way on the Xbox dashboard to promote a new season of Orange is the New Black.
  • I dont think PS4 has been outselling Xbox Ones on the promise of original entertainment programming. Just saying. Not saying its not important and not trying to deal the "its about gaming" card... Besides, those areas are obviously is unique depts within MS/Xbox... But as a dedicated and loyal 360 owner, if we take stock in the here and now, PS4 is looking mighty attractive. A Halo TV series isn't going to be my deciding factor. For some, maybe... But I'm not the only person on the planet who would say this.
  • XES was more about interactive TV than individual shows. 
  • I was kinda waiting for this, but I already know bigger things and features are coming this year. Its a Heart break warfare at MS right now.
  • I think it is a dumb decision to not have this dept. msft should jump ahead of all competitors in EVERY category, not just the categories that there competitors are in. And stop being so slow to do things. Jeez. Being innovative shouldn't take a decade.
  • Ever heard the phrase "jack of all trades, master of none"? Microsoft need to focus on the important stuff, not do 50 things badly
  • They definitely have the resources to do so. But then again I dint know how this company still exists with their employees being told not to share any code with each other ...
  • i believe they should abandon xbox console division completely and focus only on PC gaming.Its been too long that microsoft has abandon PC gaming.A prime example is the DX11(5 years seriously).They would not even release DX12 until they faced competion from Mantle.Also Steam OS and Linux as a gaming platform is starting to get attention.I hope they learn that Xbox as a console is a dissapointment and they would jump back to PC gaming industry.
  • Dreaming a bit to much aren't u? That's never going to happen. Its more likely they will use Valves support for Xbox PC games they have mentioned before to grow back into the PC gaming market like they want to.
  • They should do both. Microsoft is one of the best in gaming industry
  • Like I said, they want and will do that.
  • LOL
  • Why do most of you "PC Gamers" have to act like that? ONLY you should have all the fun right? =[
  • i didn't mean to offend you however  during the era of vista PC gamers and xbox gamers could play together(unity)  but microsoft totally abandon that and started focusing only on xbox moreover when was the last time when a major title(microsoft games) hit PC??.Cmon they can at least launch old titles like halo 3 or gear of wars 3(i dont think this games still sells for xbox 360 or One) but no they only focus on xbox  and this is the reason i dislike xbox 
  • Do you not know how long DX12 has been in development for?
  • No this was a good idea.
  • the released a soccer show that nobody in the US even watches soccer ? why did they now start out with SiFi  
  • It coincided with the World Cup. That was the best time to launch it. If you haven't checked out Every Street United, you should: I don't care much for soccer but I've enjoyed it. The later episodes (episode 5 and onward) are quite good. The earlier episodes were interesting, but could've been condensed.
  • Was this released? They poorly advertised it if I missed it???
  • Umm, have you not been on Xbox One at all during the past two months? They had ads everywhere--in the Store on the games page and the movies & tv page and in the apps page (where there is a special app just for Every Street United), and on the home dashboard where there was a special section, during the entire World Cup, for World Cup stuff. They've released 6 out of 8 episodes so far. I don't know how it was possible to not see at least one of those advertisements over the past 8 weeks. Go check them out if you have any interest in soccer. The later episodes in particular are pretty interesting.
  • Skimmed over it and read pointless and then hoped they would do a pointless quiz like the 100 v 1 (or whatever it was called) on the 360
  • 1 vs 100 was fun on 360, then they killed it.
  • Played it 6 times. And it was gone.
  • I think this shows the decision was right. If your starting to make programs you should be putting all your effort into making good quality programs that people want to watch. Not getting distracted by second screen experiences, or integrating kinect. People don't watch a series because it can have their face in the background. If they want to develop a second screen experience it needs to be consistent on all shows not just xbox exclusives. E.g. Most popular second screen experience at the moment is twitter. Otherwise people will just forget it exists.
  • This guy doesn't like extra features. Still uses typewriters and stamps.
  • Here we go again...
  • Interactive game shows would be nice
  • I'm not too keen on interactive elements in TV shows, personally if I wanted Interactivity my Xbox/playstation do exactly that.. Deliver an interactive story. What disappoints me is that they have given up on bringing original shows, it would have made all the difference in making the brand more recognizable and promoting Xbox Video, where the competition (Amazon, Netflix, Google) are smoking them in this regard.
  • As I heard about the changes that Microsoft is producing tv series with the possibility to interact as a user I really was exited. The first soccer series "All Streets United", even for american's it's worth to watch (XBox God Users for free I guess). It contains a survey and a mini game "picture search" per Episode and I really like the style. But in my opinion it hasn't the user interaction the user wants. I want to take influence on the series on aspects like story or character development... it maybe should work like Steam instant accessYou can take influence during the creation phase of the series and enjoy the series afterwards. That would be cool... that would gain like I think an great impact on the market. This is even supported by the app system of OS XboxOS (Win8, WinRt) etc. You can provide more content f.e: forum, interactive features like chat, polling etc. much more than the movie itself. That is one aspect of Microsoft it can play big and can be a game changer! Or make series that every buyer of a xbox one or gamer wants to see... f.e.: series about pro gamers (reallife or fake), series about games, series about ...   Greetz from Germany,
  • That's a good idea! I wish you were CEO of Microsoft instead of boring Satya.
  • Not sure where I stand with this, there are bound to be alot of people who own / looking to buy the xbox 1 as a entertainment hub as opposed to solely gaming on it. With-in that segment, some may not play any games at all however that may be a small minority now but whose to say it won't be in the in the future? Interactive TV could fuel the growth in that segment, going to wait and see if this was the right move or not. Furthermore live action series could also push game sales based on said series.  
  • All they needed to do was creat a subscription based system to stream all Xbox Video content, hell even at three times what Netflix costs a month I would have probably paid it. Do that and they would win.
  • Xbox Live Gold with PlayStation Now-esque game streaming, Pandora-esque Xbox Music streaming, Netflix-esque Xbox Video streaming all rolled into one monthly package for $20. Call it Xbox {insert clever name} and dominate the entertainment industry. This needs to happen.
  • Microsoft now sucks! If you will not go all in and support Xbox video with your exclusive content. How am I as a consumer to trust that it will be here in 5 years? Why should I invest in your content? If you wont don't think its worth adding on to???????
  • Here is what they need to do. Xbox Music/Video is now a brand on all M$ products. They need a content generator for it. You can't just buy other peoples shows that are on all other products. Example. Masterchiefin Halo needs to make a decision. A or B. It is OWNED by M$ but Airs live on Sci-Fi. During the commercial it says you can vote A or B on the bottom or side of the screen. Advertisers would FINALLY have their commercials watched instead of fast forwarded through. Those commercials can be charged more for. During that commercial break, people get to see LIVE as the votes come in. Powered by Azure/ Xbox Live... in the corner... etc. Sprint does this on The voice... if you're a sprint user text... blah blah.... instead of that... they would say boot up Xbox Video on your iOS, Android, Widows and vote. No OS is left ot... BUT they have the opportunity to show people their ecosystem... THEN when that series goes on sale. We can watch that show several times with different choices for fun! Where would it go on sale? Xbox Video. How do I get it on my TV? Grab an Xbox. Give them a link. OR buy miracastt. Give them a link.... ETC. This would not be hard to code. The hard part is making compelling programming... But they own SEVERAL IP people would LOVE to see a show about. :). There... Sponsors get their ads watched, consumers get input on their TV show. Fun, and easy to implement.
  • Just bring on the DLNA client app. The 360 got this how come the 'One' doesn't. Damn MS is going miles backwards.