Microsoft will be launching a dozen original television programs that will be broadcasted exclusively on its devices. The shows, which the Redmond, Wash.-based multimedia giant is dubbing Xbox originals, will include documentaries, reality shows, comedies and scripted dramas.
Each project is being developed by Xbox Entertainment Studios, a subsidiary formed in 2012 to create original programming and interactive television content for the brand’s Xbox consoles and Xbox Live service.
Since its launch on Nov. 22 last year, Microsoft has been marketing the next-gen Xbox One as an entertainment supercenter – a device that allows you to watch television shows, control the system with just the sound of your voice, share videos and Skype – oh, and you can also play video games on it.
This isn’t the first time a nontelevision network has decided to give original programming a shot. Netflix has created a number of successful original programs, including “Hemlock Grove,” “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black” and “The Ropes.” The first of these programs was “Lilyhammer,” a Norwegian television series about a fictional New York gangster. The show premiered on the streaming service on Feb. 6, 2012.
“What we’re interested in is giving subscribers a reason to stay on our platform,” said Nancy Tellem, president of Xbox Entertainment Studios. “We’re really focused on the fans of the Xbox, the millennials, many of whom are not subscribing to cable, and use a console as their entertainment device.”
What type of entertainment will these shows provide? Microsoft’s original programming will include a six-film documentary series called “Signal to Noise,” which will be produced by Academy Award-winning producer Simon Chinn. The documentary will be made up of six different informative programs that explore technology, and each will be led by a high-profile, well-known Hollywood director. The first film will be led by Zak Penn, 46, and will delve into the collapse of gaming giant Atari following the launch of 1982 game “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.”
“We view ourselves as a premium service,” Jordan Levin, executive vice president of Xbox Entertainment Studios, told Forbes.
Another program entitled “Humans” is a scripted drama about robot servants that suddenly begin to develop free will. The series will be made up of eight 60-minute episodes and will air on the Xbox platform on television in the U.K. sometime next year.
Xbox Originals will also cover the airing of live events, including music festivals like Bonnaroo. Microsoft will also launch a free app for all Xbox Live subscribers, allowing them to watch each performance on two of the festival’s stages, as well as switch between multiple camera views and join the artists backstage.
Will this maneuver finally give Microsoft the edge over Sony? Since the console’s launch one week after Sony’s PlayStation 4 launch last November, the Xbox One has been struggling to catch up with the PS4, which is priced $100 lower.
Last week, Microsoft revealed 1.2 million Xbox One consoles were “sold in” to retailers from January to March.
"This quarter's results demonstrate the strength of our business, as well as the opportunities we see in a mobile-first, cloud-first world," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement. These figures are somewhat low compared to Sony’s PlayStation 4 sales, which were announced at 7 million worldwide on April 16 since its launch on Nov. 15 last year.
Earlier this month, Microsoft announced more than 5 million consoles had been shipped to retailers since the next-gen device launched on Nov. 22 last year.