The grand experiment of bringing original shows to Xbox

Did you know that Xbox is creating its own content, including the kind of thing most of us write, i.e. fiction?

The potential here – as in “Wowsa! Another place to work!” (or not) – fills us with…well, actually it fills us with dread but that’s cuz we’re weird. Right? After all, who dreads opportunity?


xbox-reveal-tvby Casey Johnston

After the Xbox One console announcement a year ago that was littered with references to “TV,”Microsoft is starting to lift the curtain on its original content. The company is planning a large and diverse slate of shows, broadcast events, movies, and serials to roll out on the Xbox platform in the coming year, seemingly emphasizing experimentation above all else. Amazon or Netflix, this is not. Rather than imitating existing digital content distribution models or formats, Microsoft will be throwing lots of stuff at the wall and taking copious notes on what sticks.

While Nancy Tellem, president of Xbox Entertainment Studios, and Jordan Levin, executive vice president, told Ars during a demonstration that the content is meant for a diverse audience, the number of series that feature video-game-character tropes is high. There is Fearless, a reality show hosted by an Australian Navy Seal who goes hands-on with some of the world’s most dangerous jobs (think Dirty Jobs but in even more hostile workplaces). The docuseries Every Street United will profile eight of the world’s best street soccer players and then pit them against each other for a 4v4 match at the World Cup dome in Brazil. And Extraordinary Believers is a stop-motion/live-action show from the creators of Robot Chicken featuring three medieval characters trying to escape modern-day LA. Not to mention, there’s also a handful of series based on games themselves, including a Halo series and a show based on Deadlands, a pen-and-paper RPG set in the “Weird West.”

Other series are more tangential in the gamer-interest intersections. Humans is a sci-fi thriller based on the Norwegian show Real Humans that explores a world filled with humanoid, servile robots mounting a rebellion. There is a comedy variety show in the works tentatively titled JASH in the Box, a product of the “comedy network” JASH formed by actors including Sarah Silverman and Michael Cera. Microsoft also plans to live-stream the Bonnaroo music festival on Xbox and feature Q&A sessions with the festival’s artists.

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