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Xbox goes after TV with the NFL, Steven Spielberg and Halo

ForwardThe dust hasn’t even begun to settle after the reveal of Microsoft’s next gen gaming console that we now know is called the Xbox One, but two of the announcements that may have the greatest impact on the shape of the next console war have nothing to do with games.

Microsoft’s Entertainment & Digital Media division head Nancy Tellem took the stage at the Xbox One reveal to discuss the future of television and how it relates to the Xbox brand.  We’ve known for some time that the company’s next-gen console would feature original TV content, but we had no idea what the plans entailed. Two words: Steven Spielberg.

Xbox-One-lit-up-concole,-controller,-sensorWith the help of Halo studio 343 Industries, Spielberg will help bring the first-party franchise to the small screen in the form of an ongoing live-action TV series. Details on the exact format aren’t yet clear, but the success of the 2012 web series Forward Unto Dawn, which served as a prequel to Halo 4, seems like a good indication of what to expect.

This also answers the question of what happened to the Halo franchise’s film/TV prospects after the adaptation spearheaded by Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkamp fell apart in 2010. Spielberg and Dreamworks actively pursued the rights, but that was years ago and nothing seemed to come of it.  It seems that any discussions at the time were either back-burnered or unfolded in secret. Regardless, this certainly seems like it’s a natural fit for everyone involved. 

Microsoft is also angling to deliver a game-changer (pardon the pun) with a newly formed NFL partnership.  Professional football is the most popular sport in the United States by far, which suggests two things for Microsoft’s strategy: there is a focus on catering to U.S. audiences – not surprising considering the Xbox 360’s dominance in the States – and the goal is to put the Xbox One into the living rooms of a lot of non-gamers.

The NFL partnership includes several announced features (so far) that will make hardcore fans drool: fantasy team stat tracking and highlights you can call up on the fly. It isn’t clear how the actual games will be delivered to your console, but the reveal presentation mentioned that games will be broadcast there. Both the NHL and MLB offer standalone apps, so something like that is a distinct possibility. 

One thing is clear: Microsoft knows its market. The NFL partnership could prove to be a game changer, especially in the United States, and it might attract plenty of non-gamers to the new console. Then there’s the Spielberg-driven Halo project, which is sure to rally the thumbstick twiddlers of the world.

Game on, Sony.