There are at least four reasons players should be excited about the TV push
Concerned that Microsoft's investment in TV will dilute Xbox as a gamer's brand? You're unlikely to have been reassured by the announcement yesterday of 12 "Xbox Originals" for Xbox Live - not to be confused with Werther's Originals - the first of which are slated to roll out this year. Some readers are particularly bothered by the prospect of TV programs based on established videogame franchises like Gears, Forza and Halo: the worry, naturally, is that these shows, each rife with "interactive elements", will take the place of new games in the series.
Allow me to puncture your assorted fears in swift succession, like a fencer stabbing a flock of morose-looking balloons. Firstly, Microsoft is demonstrably well aware that people buy Xbox for the games first and foremost, as all the urgent language around the appointment of erstwhile Microsoft Studios boss Phil Spencer as Head of Xbox makes plain - if it had any doubts on that front, the backlash to last spring's entertainment-first Xbox One reveal ceremonies should have put those doubts to bed.
Microsoft can also afford to have its cake and eat it. The company has spent over a billion dollars on games for Xbox One to date, and the result is a launch line-up of impressive diversity, notwithstanding a few utter turkeys like Fighter Within, with more announcements to come at E3. There's clearly enough money in the jar to support both a push into "broad entertainment" waters - a bit of a no-brainer, given the rate at which people consume films and TV on Xbox 360 - and the on-going expansion of Xbox as a gaming platform.
Perhaps most importantly of all, though, "broad entertainment" is a door that swings two ways. The emphasis might be on creating new TV properties for the moment, but the overarching goal is simply to own franchises that excel wherever you find them, be it on an Xbox console or a tablet or, I don't know, in the form of a holographic projection sprayed across the face of the moon. Thus, it's likely that the first Xbox Originals will be adapted into videogames, should they find enough of a following. Not every IP will stand up to this kind of treatment, but there are four upcoming shows in particular that seem particularly germane.
Look at Humans, a 2015-bound eight episode drama created in partnership with the UK's Channel 4. According to release materials, it takes place "in a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a 'Synth' - a highly-developed robotic servant eerily similar to its live counterpart". The story revolves around a family who buy a secondhand synth on the cheap, "only to discover that sharing life with a machine has far-reaching and chilling consequences". Ooh er. If I were running the show at Microsoft, I'd think strongly about handing that particular mixture to Telltale, creator of the Walking Dead Xbox Live Arcade series.
Gun Machine, meanwhile, might be a good pick for Airtight Games, developer of Quantum Conundrum and the forthcoming spectral sleuth 'em up Murdered: Soul Suspect. It's "a hardboiled detective thriller based on the New York Times bestselling novel by Warren Ellis", executive produced by the same. The series charts a detective's search for a serial killer who's partial to guns that are associated with legendary murders. It's not hard to imagine how this might benefit by association with Soul Suspect's crime scene investigations, in which players wander around piecing together bits of evidence to unlock the next stage of the story.
As a dyed-in-the-wool sci-fantasy nut, I'm most excited for Deadlands and Winterworld (neither of which, admittedly, has been approved for release yet). The former is in fact based on a pen-and-paper role playing game, like CD Projekt's forthcoming Cyberpunk 2077, and unfolds in "a genre-bending alternative history of the Weird West, filled with undead gunfighters, card-slinging sorcerers, mad scientists, secret societies, and fearsome abominations." If an executive hasn't tabled the idea of a simultaneous videogame release - developed, perhaps, by Fallout: New Vegas developer Obsidian or XCOM outfit Firaxis - I'll eat my wizard's hat, sequins and all.
Winterworld, finally, posits a planet that's encased in ice from pole to pole and explores the effects on human society, which probably won't begin and end with "everybody wears a coat in-doors". The premise puts me heavily in mind of the Metro series - videogames about an ice and radiation-locked Russia. Again, there seems to be plenty of room to grow. If Winterworld can make the leap from graphic novel to TV show, why not from TV show to videogame? Somebody should give 4A Games a call, assuming Putin hasn't cut the phone lines.
Microsoft has "hundreds" of ideas for potential shows, according to Spencer. A smarter way of putting that might be that it has hundreds of ideas for new entertainment properties, each an interactive TV show at the point of inception. Are there any in particular that catch your eye?