Last month Microsoft announced a new head of Xbox who declared that he would lead the Xbox team with a "gaming first" philosophy. This month, Microsoft rolled out their extensive plans for producing a slew of original television shows for the console.
Timing aside, those involved say that this new initiative won't impact Microsoft's work on gaming.
In a meeting last week with press, Nancy Tellem, Microsoft's entertainment and digital media president, and Xbox Entertainment Studios executive vice president Jordan Levin, both pointed out several times that they don't believe their work on television will impact the console and its games in anyway.
"It's also probably worth saying that none of the activity we're pursuing is coming at the expense any of the investment that's been made in the platform overall or gaming overall," Levin said. "There isn't shifting of resources away from gaming to this. I mean, the nice thing about playing in a device like this, again, that's nonlinear is there's no finite space restrictions. We're simply a new service that is meant to increase the value proposition for the audience, and if they want to opt in, great, and if they don't, then we'll react and respond. But we're not, there's nothing that's getting displaced in the process of what we're trying to build."
Tellem said she's become a fan of the Xbox One as a gaming device and often uses it in discussions with people from Hollywood. And while structurally speaking, she said, her team is a part of Xbox, philosophically it has it's own approach, one that could eventually break free of the Xbox.
"I think the interesting thing is the service we're building, which includes games and whatever ... it should be on everything, it should be a service that lives, and it will be," she said. "So I think, depending on the concept of what you're doing, you'll be able to do more, and that's just technology right now. Certain types of interactivity that we're building will work really well on the console, but if you want to watch what we're offering on your Surface, it may be a few of those and not all of them. And so, you know, but the important thing is that we're on all these platforms. That's gonna be the most important thing."
Still, for a company and a product just recovering from a series of marketing and publicity blunders and a major management shift, the timing for this news does seem odd.
It was almost a month ago exactly, that Phil Spencer was named the head of Microsoft's Xbox branch and announced his approach to that job.
"Xbox is a gaming brand and [Microsoft] took the person who was at the head of the gaming franchises to lead the Xbox team," Spencer said in an interview with Polygon last month. The appointment, he said, "really shows a commitment" to games on the platform that was first introduced to the world with a focus on entertainment.
"With me you're going to get a focus on gaming first and a best platform to play games on," Spencer, formerly the head of Microsoft Studios, said. "It's not a focus we ever lost but it's one I'll be accentuating at Microsoft. It's really going to be a gaming-led focus with Xbox and my new role allows us to execute on that."
The shows, tech and reasoning behind Microsoft's grand experiment with television