Confirming the rumor from earlier today, Microsoft has announced that they will be shutting down their original TV programming division, Xbox Entertainment Studios. The unit was formed near the launch of the Xbox One with the intention of producing original programming that would only be available on Xbox Live. It was part of Microsoft’s initial plan for the Xbox One to be a one-stop entertainment hub for the living room. That plan seems to have shifted lately with Microsoft bringing their focus back toward gaming and away from other forms of entertainment on Xbox.
Xbox Entertainment Studios will be shutting down, but current projects will continue
Currently running projects at Xbox Entertainment Studios such as Signal to Noise and Halo: Nightfall will be completed as originally planned. Signal to Noise is a documentary based around the rise and fallof Atari, while Halo: Nightfall is a television series based on the Halo game series. Halo: Nightfall is meant to introduce new characters and storylines that will be picked up in the upcoming game Halo 5: Guardians.
Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft Studios, commented on the closure by saying “I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the accomplishments from the entire team in XES. They have built an impressive slate of original programming and pioneered interactive entertainment on Xbox, such as the innovative reality series ‘Every Street United’ that succeeded in uniting audiences around the globe during the recent World Cup.”
And, although Xbox Entertainment Studios is closing, some of their projects as well as other forms of video programming will continue to be available on Xbox One. “Xbox will continue to support and deliver interactive sports content like ‘NFL on Xbox,’ and we will continue to enhance our entertainment offering on console by innovating the TV experience through the monthly console updates,” Spencer said. “Additionally, our app partnerships with world-class content providers bringing entertainment, sports and TV content to Xbox customers around the world are not impacted by this organizational change.”
Xbox Entertainment Studios was formed in September of 2012 when Microsoft hired former CBS entertainment president Nancy Tellem. That decision was made by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who left the company less than a year later. Microsoft has since shifted both its executives and corporate strategy and it seems like Xbox Entertainment Studios, along with original television-style programming, was not a part of the new vision.
The new vision for Xbox specifically seems to focus on games, with Spencer saying “Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for a mobile-first and cloud-first world, and games are the single biggest digital life category in a mobile-first world. Success in this category, by growing a robust Xbox business, brings additional value to Microsoft.”
Microsoft also announced today that they would be laying off 18,000 employees, the highest in the company’s history. Xbox Entertainment Studios currently employs 200 people. It seems like those employees will be a part of the layoffs but it is possible that they will be transitioned to other departments.
Spencer finished his remarks on the Xbox Entertainment Studios by saying “change is never easy, but I believe the changes announced today help us better align with our long-term goals. We have an incredible opportunity ahead of us to define what the next generation of gaming looks like for the growing Xbox community. I have a great deal of confidence in this team and know that with clarity of focus on our mission and our customers we can accomplish great things together. We already have.”