Over the past year, Microsoft's Xbox strategy has slowly morphed from a bold, controversial vision - one of a DRM-heavy entertainment centre that brought together games, TV, and the Internet, with Kinect as a primary control mechanism - into a more conventional one, consisting of essentially just Xbox games. The initial stages of the transformation were driven by pressure over unpopular DRM techniques, but they were only the beginning. This May, the expensive Kinect motion controller/camera, previously a non-optional component of the Xbox One, was unbundled; sales of the console immediately doubled.
Today's announcement of the dissolution of 18,000 Microsoft jobs, mostly from the Nokia and Xbox divisions*, represents the completion of that transformation. Among the cuts is one of the last big ambitions remaining from Microsoft's announcement last year: Xbox Entertainment Studios, which was to produce original programming for the console, is to close. The studio announced a massive slate of projects as recently as April, which I didn't cover. At the time, I felt guilty; now I'm relieved.
While the Halo digital feature and TV show will continue production, as will tech documentary series Signal to Noise, Xbox Entertainment Studios' in-development titles will either have to find a new home, or disappear. Those include post-apocalyptic ice-planet series Winterworld; Warren Ellis' serial killer series Gun Machine; Weird West series Deadlands; a new stop-motion show from Seth Green and Matt Senreich; and a stand-up/variety show curated by Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Tim & Eric and Reggie Watts.
Those projects could have been great, or they could have been awful. But now we probably won't get the chance to find out, which is sad. Almost as sad as Microsoft's begrudging, slow-motion about-face on nearly all the concepts originally central to the Xbox One. But not nearly as sad as Microsoft having just created eighteen thousand fresh new unemployed people.
* 12,500 of these layoffs are from Nokia Devices and Services - fully half of the employees brought over to Microsoft in this spring's acquisition.