Home Features Interviews Xbox’s TV division was ahead of its time, says ex-GM Shannon Loftis

Xbox’s TV division was ahead of its time, says ex-GM Shannon Loftis

Producing original series before it became mainstream.

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Microsoft was slammed for its E3 2013 Xbox One reveal — I clearly remember the mocking chants of “Call of Duty, TV, TV, TV, TV” that followed.

Love or hate Microsoft’s initial vision for the current-gen console, television was a huge part of the deal. In addition to the revelation of dedicated HDMI in-and-out ports that meant to channel your television experience through the gaming console, Microsoft also doubled-down with Xbox Entertainment Studios, an in-house studio that would produce a host of Microsoft-themed television shows.

Microsoft’s Shannon Loftis was the General Manager of Xbox Entertainment Studios, and we took advantage of a chat at PAX AUS 2017 to discuss the publisher’s failed television experiment.

“Very simply, yeah, it was a little too soon,” Loftis said of the decision to launch Xbox Entertainment Studios when I compared what Microsoft tried to do with what Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, CBS and a host of others are doing now.

“Xbox Entertainment Studios was an experiment,” Loftis continued. “Our hope was that we could create a linear television asset that would be able to take advantage of our technology. And frankly, it was actually Kinect that inspired me to go be part of that — because I had this fun brainstorming session with some of the most amazing creative people asking, ‘what happens if your television watches you?'”

Despite persistence, the division was closed down in October 2014. While active, the department released several productions with varying degrees of success. A live-action Halo television series, Halo: Nightfall, was released to critical acclaim alongside documentary Atari: Game Over. Less loved were television components that tied into Remedy’s Quantum Break.

“We gave it a good couple years,” Loftis reflected. “But, at the time that we went in and engaged, the economic models weren’t really. It was premature from the perspective that there were a lot of tech risks that a lot our Hollywood partners weren’t comfortable with. And then, just the way that you make money on television series is typically through advertising or through large-scale content subscription services.”

So if Xbox Entertainment Studios was ahead of its time, will the division ever be reinstated?

“I think we’ll be back at some point,” Loftis said, emphasising she wasn’t “announcing anything” with the statement.

Do you think Xbox Entertainment Studios deserves another chance? Why or why not?