Microsoft has been teasing a number of original television projects for months, and with the first shows ready to premiere this June the company’s Xbox Entertainment Studios has revealed its full slate of projects. Dubbed Xbox Originals, the content push will begin this June 13th with the previously-announced interactive live broadcast of the Bonnaroo music festival.
Streaming music festivals online isn’t anything new, but Xbox owners will be able to go beyond simply watching a video feed, with the ability to switch stages, vantage points, and to partake in Skype chats with various artists backstage. According to Xbox Entertainment Studios head Nancy Tellem — a television industry veteran that was previously president of CBS — interactivity will be a common thread running through all of the company’s original content, a unique differentiator that can set it apart from the kind of shows being made by its competitors.
The documentary on the Atari landfill arrives this year
Premiering that same month will be the reality series Every Street United. Hosted by soccer stars Thierry Henry and Edgar Davids, each of the show’s half-hour episodes will focus on street soccer players in a different country, with the top candidates coming together in the show’s July finale for a street game during the World Cup. The 2014 TV premieres will be rounded out by a documentary series tentatively titled Signal to Noise. Made up of six different segments from different directors, Signal focuses largely on the influence of technology, covering topics like Napster and Silk Road. The debut episode, Atari: Game Over, is directed by X-Men screenwriter Zak Penn, and will cover the recent excavation of Atari 2600 cartridges from a New Mexico landfill.
While there are no announcements on the much-anticipated Halo series that Steven Spielberg is executive producing, Xbox Entertainment Studios is moving forward with what it’s calling a "digital feature" set in the Halo world. Produced in conjunction with Ridley Scott, that feature is scheduled to debut this November, while a sci-fi drama series called Humans is already slated for release in May of 2015.
An even wider variety of shows are in development
Considering how slowly Netflix and Amazon first eased into the original content game, the Microsoft group has put together an ambitious and diverse array of programing, though the selections certainly overlap with Xbox gamer interests. The company’s development slate, however, covers an even wider variety of projects. Along with comedies like JASH in the Box and Seth Green’s live-action / animated hybrid Extraordinary Believers, the company is working on an adaptation of the Warren Ellis noir Gun Machine, the graphic novel Winterworld, and a project based upon the role-playing game Deadlands that will be written by Rawson Thurber (Dodgeball).
Of course, Microsoft has a variety of original properties itself thanks to its Microsoft Studios banner. Along with Halo, other projects being eyed for adaptation include Gears of War, Fable, Age of Empires, and Forza Motorsport.
Even though the first premieres are just around the corner, Tellem acknowledges that the studio is still in the early days of its plans. Decisions on everything from paywall limitations to subscription requirements are still in flux, and the studio’s strategy could shift depending on viewer reaction. With the backing of Microsoft, however — to say nothing of the guidance of someone like Tellem — it should have all the resources it needs to help the Xbox deliver on its living room ambitions.