Microsoft Shuts Down Xbox Entertainment [Update]

The studio responsible for developing original video programming for Xbox is winding down; Key execs depart.

Update: Nancy Tellem and Jordan Levin, two executives who headed up Xbox Entertainment Studios, have been let go as the corporation winds down the division.

In a statement released to GamesIndustry.biz, Microsoft wrote:

“Yes, we can confirm that Xbox Entertainment Studios has closed as part of the companywide restructuring announced by Microsoft last July.”

“Xbox Entertainment Studios has officially closed. Nancy and Jordan were key members and visionaries for the XES team, and we thank them for their leadership and many contributions.”

Original story follows: Following this morning's announcement that Microsoft will lay off up to 18,000 of its employees, the company has revealed it will shut down Xbox Entertainment Studios, the division responsible for original Xbox programming.

In a statement issued to GameSpot, Microsoft outlined its plans to "streamline a handful of portfolio and engineering development efforts across Xbox" This includes the shutdown of XES "in the coming month." Prior to this, it was unclear how the Xbox business would be affected by the layoffs; a report earlier this week suggested Xbox marketing employees would be let go, but that remains unconfirmed.

Some of XES' employees--including president Nancy Tellem and executive vice president Jordan Levin--will "stay on and remain committed to original programming already in production." This includes Signal to Noise--the documentary series that will cover, among other subjects, the Atari E.T. dig--as well as Halo: Nightfall and Steven Spielberg's Halo TV series. The Halo projects will both "continue as planned with 343 Industries," and things like entertainment apps and the ability to watch TV through the Xbox One will not be impacted by this move.

A week ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella offered a show of support for the Xbox division, which the company has reportedly considered selling off. But his statement made no mention of Microsoft's attempts to develop original video programming in recent years. This programming was to include interactive content, but would not affect the "gamer-first" approach Microsoft was taking with the Xbox One.

Plans for a wide variety of content in addition to the shows mentioned above had already been announced. This includes a program from JASH (the comedy group comprised of Tim and Eric, Michael Cera, Sarah Silverman, and Reggie Watts) and a soccer reality series called Every Street United that already debuted on Xbox Live to coincide with the World Cup.

XES has reportedly had difficulties in the past securing deals for new content. It was always unclear how, exactly, the original programming XES was pursuing would be released, like whether it would only be available through Xbox platforms and, if so, if it would be for Xbox Live Gold members. We also never got any hard details on how the programming would be interactive, which is what Microsoft said would make this "a unique experience."

Tellem, a former CBS executive, joined Microsoft in 2012 to lead its efforts into the original programming business. XES was founded shortly thereafter and has been pursuing content ever since. In April, Tellem said the studio's work was still "in the early stages."

This strikes me as an unsurprising move, as the expansion into original programming never felt like a natural move for Xbox. And, as noted above, there was so much uncertainty about how it would all work, even after more than a year and a half, that it might be for the best that Microsoft moves on from this venture. If nothing else, combined with the company's showing at E3, it's hard to question that Xbox's focus has indeed been the games since Phil Spencer was promoted in March.

What do you make of the closure of XES? Let us know in the comments below.

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Twitter/Xbox Live/PSN/Nintendo Network: TheSmokingManX

Discussion

683 comments
Ovirew
Ovirew

It's kind of disappointing, because I do wonder what kind of programming they would have produced moving forward.


I am interested in seeing how Halo Nightfall and the Halo TV series turn out, and I look forward to seeing how Quantum Break fares when it launches alongside the game - though I guess that's technically not the same group.  I will probably even check out this Atari ET dig, since they've been talking about it for so long now.


Either way, I am more excited about games than TV shows.

blue_shift_91
blue_shift_91

good riddance. programming comes AFTER you have a large enough audience, not before.

Terminator95
Terminator95

Get that Stallone commercial going again ? " Its not how hard you hit , it's how much can you take and keep moving forward"  How much can you Xbox fanboys take ?

Terminator95
Terminator95

Another Hit for Crap Box. And Yet again SONY Comes out on top. SONY4LIFE

onixevil
onixevil

So their vision has changed since E3 2013 conference.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

Anyone know if the documentary about the NM landfill excavation of Atari games is still going to air and if so where?

surrealme
surrealme

This is a pity. I think they could have done some cool stuff. There aren't many venues on TV that really cater to Xbox's demographic. I had hopes they might pick up SyFy's slack, though SyFy seems to be slowly remembering who their audience is with The Expanse and 12 Monkeys. Glad we'll still get to see the Halo stuff.

Martyr77
Martyr77

Another Microsoft failure. I am sorry for the people who lost their jobs and hope they find new ones soon.

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

Greatness Awaits™

Where The Greatest Play™

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

Good, this whole "TV based on Xbox" thing was stupid from the start.

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

get used to this xbox fanboys, ms shutting things down :).

sladakrobot
sladakrobot

Why not showcasing the fact that:
"The company's widest layoffs ever focus on Nokia, but will also affect Xbox."?


xboxonly1
xboxonly1

I think this is great TV shows should stay on TV we don't need a TV show on consoles, people just pirate them any way. :i think this is a step in the right direction from Microsoft :) But i also feel bad for those who lost their job :(

homey_d_clown
homey_d_clown

Another mess Phil Spencer had to clean up from the previous boss.

I feel bad for those who lost there job, and wish them luck.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Isn't this something we already knew?

kane6911
kane6911

i can understand why this happened they underestimated how much this would cost to have your t.v network on your console. i think it was great ideal but microsoft doesn't have what it takes to make movies in it's studio's. they are focusing on the right stuff now like games and more content which in return yield more profits. one thing i can say about this company if doesn't make money they leave it alone. unlike sony who just keeps doing the same thing thing over and over. smart move microsoft well played. put the money to good use and make more and better games than your competitors like sunset over drive great game.    

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

Microsoft has dodged a bullet. Getting into TV programming was never a good idea.

isshiah
isshiah

Games? Games? 


Games?

greaseman1985
greaseman1985

This is great news, and in line with what the Xbox brand's focus should be: GAMES! Microsoft tried to expand the successful Xbox brand to other things, and it took their focus away from games.

4kgamer_lmxxx
4kgamer_lmxxx

Wake me up when it says: ""Microsoft Shuts Down The Whole Xbox Division" :p

generalxsl
generalxsl

I'd think over 10 million is large enough...

generalxsl
generalxsl

Hah you wish. Over 10 million units sold. Haven't you been watching the numbers? Catching up with the quickness. 360 out sold PS3 with over 85 million units. PS3 is all but abandoned while the majority of loyal xbox live gamers still play on 360... Just waiting for the right price and more games. Have your time... Enjoy it.

console_war_vet
console_war_vet

@jenovaschilld  I don't see why it wouldn't. The film is basically already complete and has been screened at various conventions (Angry Video Game Nerd had a review of the film a while back). The trailer for the movie only gave us a "Fall" release date. You'll be able to watch it on Xbox Video, I'd imagine.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@Martyr77 Oh that is nothing, MS shed some 110,000 jobs here and abroad in both direct and ancillary jobs under Steve Ballmer and terrible decisions like windows 8, phone, enterprise, and business. Steve Ballmer was the classic picture of a CEO leader who made a decision and stuck with it-  even if the lights at the end of the tunnel had a train attached. Even when the winds of change started blowing the other way he would just double down at the cost of hard working men and women who all were frantically waving warning flags. 

With industry leaders, publishers, and beta testers all screaming WTheF with windows 8 beta, Ballmer's stance was they will learn to love it or else. 

Those kinds of leaders are great when things are going well, but can be disastrous when things do not go the way you plan and are not nimble enough to adapt. I am more hopeful for MS now - they are much more willing to listen to consumers and adapt, as much with the fiasco related to policies XB1 was going to launch with. 

chippiez
chippiez

@Aaronp2k You do know that all profitable publicly held companies do this, right?  Every couple of years, the bean counters and upper execs identify the waste (the poorest performing 15%) and the overlap in engineering positions resulting from acquisitions and eliminate them to improve investor returns and productivity (seriously, have you ever had a 15th percentile employee in your department??  They're a drain on everyone).  It has nothing to do with the state of MS.  They're still having some of their best quarters ever and their stock price is the highest its' ever been.  This is sound corporate stewardship... nothing more, nothing less. 

wookiegr
wookiegr

@xboxonly1 Just like Xbox One selling itself as a TV box with TV pass through and a Kinect controlled TV programming guide.

chippiez
chippiez

@Thanatos2k Yes--- this is a total non-story click bait item.  Nothing to see here.

xantufrog
xantufrog

@Thanatos2k I think they just updated the old article to say "hey, it's happening!"

thebeachguy90
thebeachguy90

@kane6911 LOL silly pathetic apologist. If this were Sony you would be singing a completely different tune.  Good little fanboy you are.

surrealme
surrealme

@kane6911 Mostly agree, but the success of Netflix original programming is a good indication that it wasn't all that crazy.

sandman338
sandman338

@isshiah Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive, Halo MCC...meanwhile at Playstation, Driveclub!

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

@sladakrobot @Aaronp2k  im just winding the fanboys up a bit. bit of just revenge for all the crap iv read on sony articles.


anyone who isn't a fanboy ignore me :).

Terminator95
Terminator95

@sandman338 @isshiah SONY = Twisted Metal , God Of War, Uncharted 4, Gran Turismo 7 on 1080P ! eat it Sand man.

Martyr77
Martyr77

@sandman338 @isshiah  WOW a racing game, a Infamous ripoff, and a terrible graphics remake of old Halo games?!?! How can you lose?!?!

4kgamer_lmxxx
4kgamer_lmxxx

@greaseman1985 @4kgamer_lmxxx You never know, anythings possible. :p


Once upon a time, nobody could've predicted Sega's fate. ;D

Terminator95
Terminator95

@Aaronp2k No your being honest. SONY is more reliable and better value End of discussion !

kane6911
kane6911

@4kgamer_lmxxx that's not, and sega was doomed because they didn't support thier consoles. not because of sales where bad