David Bloom is a Deadline contributor
Microsoft finally unveiled the Xbox One, its next-generation successor to the Xbox 360 game console, with an impressive demonstration of a voice- and gesture-controlled device focused more on integrating and controlling all kinds of entertainment and social capabilities far beyond just playing videogames. The #XboxReveal event at Microsoft’s Seattle-area campus included the announcement by Xbox Entertainment Studios President Nancy Tellem that Steven Spielberg will create a new live-action TV show based on the “Halo” game franchise. In a video, Spielberg, a longtime game fan who also oversaw the launch of the DreamWorks Interactive game studio in the 1990s, briefly said “the Halo universe is an amazing opportunity to be at an intersection where technology and myth-making converge.”
Microsoft also announced a number of other entertainment-oriented deals, including a new partnership with the NFL that promises side-by-side integration of a viewer’s fantasy football stats with live game broadcasts, as did a partnership with ESPN for broadcasts of other sports. Even the event’s biggest videogame announcement, of the next generation of Activision’s blockbuster Call Of Duty franchise, included Oscar-winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana), who helped create the story line.
Tellem, a former CBS president, promised that “TV on the Xbox One will immerse you, allowing you to virtually jump into the action. It’s truly personalized. It will provide recommendations with amazing precision. It’s truly social. Xbox is about to become the next water cooler. And this is only Act One.” She said the company has studios in Los Angeles, London, Seattle and Vancouver producing a wide array of new kinds of content in multiple genres for the device, “merging the story-telling magic of TV with the interactive power of the Xbox One.”
And it all will be handled by a single device that would replace the need for a cable box, music players and other electronics cluttering people’s home entertainment centers. The company didn’t release a price, for Xbox One and specified only general technical details for the sleek black box it showed today. The console will be released “later this year,” said Xbox President Don Mattrick.
“This is the beginning of truly intelligent TV,” said Microsoft executive Yusuf Mehdi, showing the device’s ability to quickly wade through a pay TV provider’s program guide, or hop between live and VOD TV shows and movies, the Internet, video games, Skype phone calls and more. The device also will display different streams of entertainment side-by-side on the screen. Mehdi controlled the device largely with voice commands and a few hand gestures read by the device’s Kinect motion-detection controller. Viewers also can use the device’s hand controller, or Smart Glass apps on smart phones and tablets to play or give commands.
“You can switch to your game like it’s a TV channel flip,” Microsoft executive Marc Whitten said.
Microsoft didn’t completely ignore its game roots at the event, but mostly promised to show more games, including eight new franchises, at next month’s E3 videogame conference.