Microsoft plans to create more interactive entertainment as Xbox 360 sales reach 76m

12 Feb 2013

It seems that Microsoft is looking to create the next generation of TV while turning the best-selling games console of 2012 into an interactive entertainment hub.

At the D: Dive into Media event hosted last night by AllThingsD just outside of Los Angeles, Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice-president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, and Nancy Tellem, Microsoft’s entertainment and digital media president, took to the stage to discuss new developments for Xbox.

To date, 76m Xbox 360 consoles have been sold worldwide and roughly one-third of these are equipped with a Kinect sensor. At the industry event, Tellem revealed details of a new LA-based studio, Xbox Entertainment Studios, that will be dedicated to creating interactive content for Xbox 360 using technology such as that afforded by the Kinect sensor and changing the way TV-based content is produced, distributed and consumed.

The next wave of interactive engagement

Former president of CBS Network Television Entertainment Group, Tellem has previously overseen live event programming for Xbox Live, such as an interactive stream of the Grammy Awards red carpet on Sunday night. A similar broadcast has been arranged for this year’s Oscars, and this type of programming allows for increased user engagement through interactive polling and viewers’ answers to on-screen questions. A similar approach to interactive TV on the Xbox 360 has previously been taken with games like Kinect Sesame Street TV.

Live shows and children’s programming are particularly suited to this form of interactive programming but Microsoft is said to be investing in more premium content to come later this year. This could come in the form of original programming, such is the route chosen by Netflix and Amazon, but Microsoft is likely to partner with existing studios and creators.

“We believe that we are at the start of the next wave of truly interactive entertainment,” said Tellem.

Xbox growing as an entertainment service

The amount of TV and other entertainment offerings available on the Xbox 360 almost tripled in 2012. There are now more than 100 custom, voice-controlled TV and entertainment apps on Xbox Live, and more than 40 more are expected to be added this year.

Last year in the US, Xbox Live Gold members spent about 87 hours per month on the console, and entertainment app usage increased by 57pc year-on-year globally with users consuming 18bn hours’ worth of entertainment in 2012.

Mehdi believes the future of Xbox will be voice control and interactivity. He spoke at the event of the launch of NUads – a new ad format taking advantage of Kinect’s ability to recognise spoken words and gestures. The first wave of these ads, launched last autumn, saw a record level of consumer engagement with 37pc of viewers responding.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.