Microsoft Shutting Down Xbox Entertainment Studios; Halo Projects Unaffected

The studio responsible for developing original video programming for Xbox will close as a result of the layoffs announced today.

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

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Twitter/Xbox Live/PSN/Nintendo Network: TheSmokingManX

Discussion

592 comments
asmodeus_z
asmodeus_z

Wise decision. Xbox should focus on their strength, which is games instead of branching out towards non core and un-proven area like TV programming or sports.

csward
csward

Yay! This is a great move. Lets hope M$ keeps moving in the right direction.

starjay009
starjay009

TV TV TV.,.. SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS... SHUT IT SHUT IT SHUT IT.....

MrMisanthrope
MrMisanthrope

Makes sense. Spencer said they're going to concentrate on games, so dropping XES is a sign they're moving away from all the "let's be a cable box!" stuff that so annoyed people, exactly like he said they would.

charlesswann
charlesswann

Halo is a bad game.  Boring, silly, and poorly controlled.  Halo is bad.  It is.

KimCheeWarriorX
KimCheeWarriorX

yay! although i wish they would discontinue the halo projects too. no sense on wasting time and money on things that arent games when being made with a game console in mind. kind of an oxymoron if you ask me.

Shouoken4Peace
Shouoken4Peace

18'000 employees? Did I read that correctly? That is so many people it's ridiculous. And in the middle of summer? Yeesh. Sad news for so many people.

Keaze_
Keaze_

"earlier this week suggested Xbox marketing employees would be let go, but that remains unconfirmed."


Best PR move they could do!  I'm sold.

Ovirew
Ovirew

I was literally thinking just a few days ago, "Oh yeah, I have that Halo TV series to look forward to that Stephen Speilberg is working on!"  I'm glad that is still good to go.


I guess none of us will really know how we would've felt about the original XBox programming, since it was killed off before most of it really reached the public.  It sounds like there were plans in mind for interactivity of some sort, but apparently everything was still in the very early stages of development.


If the Halo series and the Signal to Noise shows turn out interesting, maybe Microsoft will consider keeping their original programming going on a smaller scale. That might not be a bad idea, because if you look at networks like HBO and AMC that have really gotten into original TV show programming over the past few decades, they started off with one or two hit shows and then slowly found more hits to add to the rotation.

quidditch3
quidditch3

Wow did not see that coming. I thought the lay offs were Windows and surface related. The Xbox entertainment studio was a great idea.

Shantmaster_K
Shantmaster_K

I'm glad the halo projects aren't effected. 

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

So Microsoft are finally realising that people buy games consoles for one primary reason?

northArrow
northArrow

Without all this TV stuff, what the hell are people supposed to do with their Xbox? It's not like it has any games

onixevil
onixevil

It hasn't been a long time before we heard about the layoff of many kinect developers.

Hurvl
Hurvl

So does this mean we'll be getting more video games and less video? What will happen to their grand TVbox plans?

homey_d_clown
homey_d_clown

I personally had no interest in this, but where there any X1 owners who were looking forward to it?

chewbacca72
chewbacca72

Call me crazy, but if you're trying to sell more product, one would think marketing would be the last ones to be let go.

Vodoo
Vodoo

Wow! This new CEO isn't wasting any time cleaning house.

Former Xbox boss Don Mattrick was the one that dragged the Xbox into tv applications. Now the new boss, Phil Spencer, is getting away from tv & Kinect, and rightly so. They also need to fire the VP of Marketing, Yusuf Mehdi. He's the one that flat out lied to gamers about the capabilities of the XB1, over & over. He lied so much he's almost as bad as Nintendos' Reggie Fils Aime. Speaking of Reggie, I haven't heard him flapping his gums for a few months now.

I'm very curious to see how the Steven Spielberg Halo project is coming along. It sounds very interesting. But if history repeats itself, it'll wind up being cancelled sooner or later like the Peter Jackson thing a few years ago.

0m39AX
0m39AX

@charlesswann Oh, and Killzone has much better gameplay than Halo... wait. Surely not. 

jayjay444
jayjay444

@charlesswann If I have a choice to play Halo or any Sony exclusive I would pick Halo every single time without a doubt. 

chippiez
chippiez

@Shouoken4Peace They added 29000 with the Nokia purchase.  This is normal after an acquisition because you have function overlap.  If you already have large accounting departments why would you need another accounting department.  Why would you need Nokias IT staff?  Or software engineers.  You keep the cream of Nokias crop and the rest you give a severance package and placement services.  It's called business and it pays the bills.

chippiez
chippiez

@northArrow And PS4 gets what this year?  Drive CLub and ????  yep, nothing.  

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

@northArrow They will have that time manipulation game soon and project spark. But then, they're the only two exclusives I'm jellous of.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@onixevil  From what I continue to read the Kinect is still inaccurate way to much. Its inaccurate as much as 30% of the time, both with voice controls and gestures.  If that is to be successful, it needs to be accurate at a minimum 95% of the time. (just my opinion on that).  Nobody is going to want to play  game, that does not play right as much as 30% of the time. the Kinect still has lots of potential.  But still needs a lot of work as well.

KimCheeWarriorX
KimCheeWarriorX

@Hurvl they will die a well deserved death. i want a friggin game console, not an all-in-one. i think ms is finally starting to realize that thanks to their change in management.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@Hurvl they can still buy content if they are interested. Their challenge is determining what content would be successful to xbox1 owners.  Netflix has it easy , they always know what their customers watch.  That's how they knew House of Cards would be successful. MS I'm sure has data, but how good is it? They were dead wrong about the whole TV idea and Fantasy Football.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@jake198624  MS has had an interest in TV for a long time, They had a relationship with NBC for 16 years.  But its good that they are doing away with this studios idea.  I knew it was a bad idea from the start. If they want content they can just out bid other people like what Netflix did to HBO with House of Cards.

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

@jake198624 Kind of like music. All the bands and musicians worth listening too are discovered by radio and word of mouth, not tabloids and endorsment.

DVONvX
DVONvX

@chewbacca72 yeah, but the PR people at MS are terrible. They need to clean house in that department.

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

@Vodoo I think Don Mattrick is the worst thing that has ever happened to XBox. I was a fan untill he started messing it up. I'm guessing it was Mattrick who turned the 360 dashboard into a billboard? The only good thing that ever came of that was that I discovered 'Of Monsters and Men' through the music adverts.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@Vodoo  You left out Balmer.  Balmer was  a problem for the company too and could have prevented a lot of Mistakes with Xbox and Win 8.

kachan64
kachan64

@A-Typing-Llama Even Satya Nadella said Xbox One isn't a TV in a interview. So I think doing that is a good move alongside the kinectness bundle.

The next thing they need to do is to make a new hardware just like the ps4 planned then they're on track...

k2milestone
k2milestone

You forgot about planetside 2 and h1z1

Hurvl
Hurvl

@DVONvX @chewbacca72 Like with many things, you only hear about the things that don't work, like when PR people greenlights something that later turns into a scandal, so it's easy to assume that they're all weird. On the other hand, I don't doubt that MS *could* do with some fresh faces at their PR department. They haven't had an easy time lately, but people who hate them will still hate them no matter what they try or who they hire.

MrMisanthrope
MrMisanthrope

@MooncalfReviews "Silly," as compared to ... those ultra-serious games where mushroom people ride dinosaurs? If Halo is silly, _all_ games are silly. It's a meaningless criticism. As is "boring": "There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people," and so forth. Anyone who thinks it controls poorly either doesn't ever play console shooters (PC Master Race) or is too young to have been around when the first Halo released and has only ever lived in a world with dedicated grenade/melee buttons, and so has no idea how much it did for the genre.


Opinions are subjective by nature and blah blah blah, and there's nothing wrong with arbitrarily disliking anything you want, but if you're going to complain about a classic, you need to bring your A-game. "Boring and silly" doesn't pass muster.

rampage-05
rampage-05

h1z1 was announced to drop this year? Thought they were still in pre alpha? We also get last of us remastered and Destiny. Other than that 2015 will be big year

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@MrMisanthrope I need to bring my a-game to put my opinion across that Halo is dull, uninspired trash with a terribly cheesy, childish storyline and guns all copied from the original Perfect Dark? Why would I make such an effort just to stand 1% chance at convincing a handful of deluded Halo fans that their favourite franchise is trash?

And BTW, I was an Xbox owner when the first Halo came out (original Xbox was the best console of that gen). And guess what? There were (and still are) many people who thought it was crap.