200 people laid off, Halo: Nightfall and Quantum Break unaffected
Microsoft has announced that it will close Xbox Entertainment Studios as part a massive series of layoffs designed to ensure "a robust Xbox business". While the manufacturer has yet to confirm exactly which projects have been dropped, this presumably means that many of the Xbox Originals TV shows Microsoft announced in April won't happen.
It also means that 200 people will lose their jobs - the running total across Microsoft's various divisions is 18,000 layoffs, with the recently acquired Nokia business most seriously affected. Speaking to employees via email, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer praised the XES team's work and offered guarded explanations for the move, reminding readers that "games are the single biggest digital life category in a mobile-first world."
Among the projects that aren't affected are Ridley Scott's Halo: Nightfall miniseries, which is due to launch alongside Halo: The Master Chief Collection this year, and Remedy's Quantum Break, an action-adventure game joined at the hip to an episodic live action series with multiple outcomes.
Read the full text of Spencer's email below, via Recode. The site has been speaking to anonymous contacts with insider knowledge about the thinking behind the decision. It claims that "sources paint a picture of a disorganized studio that struggled to close deals and lacked a fully fleshed-out business model. This inability to execute has turned off potential studio partners, they say, complicating the process of securing premium content."
Recode adds that Xbox Entertainment Studios "became a casualty of shifting corporate priorities that came with Microsoft's executive shuffle". It notes that XES boss and former CBS exec Nancy Tellum was hired by out-going CEO Steve Ballmer. Allegedly, XES will continue to work on projects "that are currently in production", and will "gradually wind down".
Our thoughts go out to all those now looking for work.
I hope you have had a chance to read today's mails from Satya. I wanted to take a moment to share a few thoughts on what this means for our team and some of the changes we are making as a result.
In last week's mail outlining some of the steps towards creating the culture and organization to bring our ambitions to life, Satya called out the strategic importance of Xbox as a strong consumer brand, a creative center for gaming and a leader in bold innovation. Every member of Team Xbox should be incredibly proud of the impact and reach your work has within the walls of Microsoft, with our developer community and most importantly, with consumers.
Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for a mobile-first and cloud-first world, and games are the single biggest digital life category in a mobile-first world. Success in this category, by growing a robust Xbox business, brings additional value to Microsoft. I have stated this before, but for Xbox to be successful, we must remain committed to being a consumer-driven organization with the mission of meeting the high expectations of a passionate fan base, to create the best games and to drive technical innovation.
As part of the planned reduction to our overall workforce announced today and in light of our organization's mission, we plan to streamline a handful of portfolio and engineering development efforts across Xbox. One such plan is that, in the coming months, we expect to close Xbox Entertainment Studios. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the accomplishments from the entire team in XES.
They have built an impressive slate of original programming and pioneered interactive entertainment on Xbox, such as the innovative reality series 'Every Street United' that succeeded in uniting audiences around the globe during the recent World Cup. I am pleased that Nancy, Jordan and members of the XES team remain committed to new, original programming already in production like the upcoming documentary series 'Signal to Noise' whose first installment takes on the rise and fall of gaming icon Atari and of course, the upcoming game franchise series 'Halo: Nightfall,' and the 'Halo' Television series which will continue as planned with 343 Industries.
Xbox will continue to support and deliver interactive sports content like 'NFL on Xbox,' and we will continue to enhance our entertainment offering on console by innovating the TV experience through the monthly console updates. Additionally, our app partnerships with world-class content providers bringing entertainment, sports and TV content to Xbox customers around the world are not impacted by this organizational change in any way and remain an important component of our Xbox strategy.
Change is never easy, but I believe the changes announced today help us better align with our long-term goals. We have an incredible opportunity ahead of us to define what the next generation of gaming looks like for the growing Xbox community. I have a great deal of confidence in this team and know that with clarity of focus on our mission and our customers we can accomplish great things together. We already have.