This morning’s announcement by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella of one of the largest layoffs in tech history, a plan to cut 18,000 jobs, triggered a whirlwind of speculation about the future of the fledgling Xbox Entertainment Studios. In a memo, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division and Microsoft Studios, just confirmed that the company will close the Entertainment Studios in the coming months. Nancy Tellem, Jordan Levin and some of the XES team will stay on for some time to shepherd original programming already in production, including the documentary series about technology Signal to Noise and the Halo game franchise extensions, digital feature Halo: Nightfall and the Halo TV series, which will continue as planned with Microsoft’s 343 Industries and Amblin. Xbox also will continue to support and deliver interactive sports content like ‘NFL on Xbox.’ XBox’s app partnerships are not impacted.
The demise of Xbox Entertainment Studios underscores how hard it is for tech companies, especially of the scale of Microsoft, to get into the content business. The decision appears sudden as just a couple of months ago, Xbox Entertainment Studios unveiled a very extensive first development slate, which included dramas, live-action and animated comedies, unscripted and event series. Levin was brought in as EVP in charge of development only six months ago.