Xbox boss Phil Spencer has spent the last few months reforming the Xbox One's image through a series of high-profile U-turns. Or, to put it another way, scraping the last slimy traces of Don Mattrick off the Redmond office walls. Kinect became optional, Xbox Live Gold dropped its entertainment paywall and the focus shifted from nebulous entertainment content to being "all about the games."
Today brings us the news that this cycle is almost complete as Microsoft plans to shut down Xbox Entertainment Studios, sadly as part of the largest round of layoffs in company history.
Microsoft announced that 18,000 employees were going to be made redundant over the next six months, the overwhelming majority from Nokia Devices And Services Division in an effort to become a more "agile" organisation. Naturally we wish everyone affected the best of luck.
However, Microsoft also confirmed that Xbox Entertainment Studios will close doors before year's end. This division is responsible for creating exclusive television content, such as Halo: Nightfall, Every Street United (the football-themed show that ran throughout the World Cup) and Believers. The closure will massively reduce the amount of exclusive programming heading to Xbox One, but Spencer has reassured fans that Halo: Nightfall and Quantum Break's tie-in material will remain unaffected.
This news leaves me fiercely ambivalent. On the one hand, its good to see Microsoft honing in on the gaming aspect of the Xbox brand, but on the other, exclusive programming will be needed in order to justify the Xbox One's claim as an "all in one" device, given the fact that its entertainment functionality can be duplicated by most smart TVs. I wonder if Microsoft will look to release a new cheaper SKU without HDMI throughput as a dedicated games device as opposed to an entertainment hub. Thoughts?