NEWFRONTS 2014: Microsoft

Our very own Geoff Greenblatt--gaming director, Mindshare North America--attended Microsoft's presentation on the first day of  #NewFronts  2014  in New York. Here are his post-presentation thoughts on #Microsoft , the new #Xbox , and that time-honored experience of media consumption known as watching #TV . 

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"When Microsoft announced that its NewFront presentation would be Xbox Entertainment-focused, there was a genuine sense of excitement and intrigue that began to harvest. Aside from being one of the kickoff presentations, a curiosity surrounded what Microsoft would unveil: Microsoft has been touting its transition of the Xbox into a television-centric entertainment system for nearly two years, starting with NuAds and culminating with the release of the Xbox One, and its 2014 NewFront would be its first true opportunity to reveal what it has had in store.

"What followed both delivered and underwhelmed, giving those in attendance a taste of what will be offered from a content standpoint while leaving all questions unanswered with regard to how the TV viewing experience will be transformed through Microsoft’s showcased theme of interactivity.

"To start, Microsoft’s NewFront felt like an Upfront—in a good way—as the experience was about what content Microsoft would be offering on its Xbox TV platform (with digital extensions) versus what content would be offered solely through digital channels. Unfortunately, it took Microsoft awhile to get to its point: whereas television upfronts cut right to the chase, unveiling reveal after reveal from the start and grabbing their audience right away, Microsoft rambled along, talking about how it would stretch television ‘Beyond The Box’ with interactivity and would bring television to ‘where TV wants to be.’ It spoke of its 1.3B daily global footprint through its technologies such as Skype, Bing, Xbox, MSN, Office, and Windows 8. But still, aside from a Bonnaroo-viewing experience, Microsoft left the audience hanging on its words—and only its words—for nearly half of its allotted presentation time.

"When Microsoft did get to its reveals, the content coming soon was exciting. The tech-based documentary series Signal To Noise looks to be completely engaging and perfect for the Xbox audience; in fact, its first episode, a look into a rumored ET game-dump by Atari, has already started generating press. Every Street United will give viewers an inside look into soccer (football) streetballers, inspirational and perfectly timed with the World Cup. Extraordinary Believers, a content series from the guys who created Robot Chicken, fills the comedy role. And other announcements, like a series called Humans, along with those around the biggest Xbox games such as Halo, Forza, Gears of War, State of Decay, Age of Empires, and Fable, all have huge upside, especially with names such as Spielberg and Scott (Ridley) attached. Live streaming events, such as the one connected with Bonnarroo, rounded out the presentation.

"However, when it came to all the talk around interactivity, the audience was almost left at a loss. Aside from brief glimpses into what will be able to be done with Bonnarroo (something Microsoft has brought to its audience for years anyway), the only interactive reveal was a series called Possibilia, a confounding choose-your-own-storyline look at a relationship breakup. Overall, Microsoft announced a presentation around interactivity and a changing-the-game TV experience, but left the audience with nothing more than a look at new content.

"From a brand perspective, the opportunities have yet to be seen. Of course, brands can align with the content that Microsoft is producing if the targets and audiences fit; but beyond that, what will brands be able to do? How will a brand’s targets interact with it through this ‘new’ TV viewing experience? Such questions were never addressed.

"Microsoft introduced some genuinely interesting content after a slow beginning. Did it leave the audience wanting more? The answer is yes … but much too emphatically. When an audience gathers to see the next evolution in TV viewing, the promised interactive features should be unveiled to some extent and leave people talking about what they just saw and how they were wowed. Microsoft has done this many times before. This time, however, that pinnacle of excitement was never reached.  Bottom line: The content seems to be there, but none of the questions regarding a television revolution were answered."

Posted on April 3, 2014 .