As part of the announcement of Microsoft’s next generation gaming console the Xbox One, the company highlighted the new consoles ability to transform the way TV is viewed and the devices ability to tightly integrate all of a user’s entertainment, gaming and TV experiences.
“TV becomes more intelligent,” noted Don Mattrick, president of interactive entertainment at Microsoft during the lavishly produced announcement. “All entertainment comes alive in one place.”
During the event, the company showcased some details about a significantly redesigned Xbox architecture and operating system; major upgrades to its voice and gesture control and a much more powerful cloud based Xbox Live offering for accessing a wide variety of entertainment and content.
The company also announced a major alliance with the NFL for exclusive content and features for Xbox One that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said would allow fans “to experience the games in a way that they never had before.”
In addition, Nancy Tellem, who was hired last year at president of the company's Entertainment and Digital Media division, announced that they were working with 343 Industries and Steven Spielberg to create a TV series based on the popular game “Halo.”
In a video, Spielberg noted that gaming had opened up new ways of telling stories and said that “the Halo universe is an amazing opportunity where tech and mythmaking meet to produce something really exciting.”
The emphasis on improving the living room experience and TV comes at a time when console gaming industry is facing increased competition from smart phones and tablets. In recent years that has prompted Microsoft to place more emphasis on the consoles use for accessing entertainment and video from their consoles.
As part of that effort, the new box will allow users to easy switch between live TV and games, web browsing, Skype phone calls and other activities.
It also features much improved gesture and voice control and for the first time will have a Blu Ray disc player.
Microsoft announced that the console will be available later this year but provided no details on an exact launch date, pricing or some key tech features, such as the processor that the box will use.
Further details are expected to be disclosed during the upcoming E3 gaming show.
The NFL agreement encompasses rights, sponsorship and technology partnerships. These will include a new fantasy football offering that will allow fans to view players and live competition side-by-side on a single TV screen and a personalized NFL destination.
At the same time, the agreement gives NFL teams, coaches and players access to a variety of Microsoft technologies, including Surface tablets for communications, photo viewing and play calling.
“From the use of instant replay to the yellow first-down line that has become an important element of the at-home television viewing experience, the NFL is committed to leveraging technology to improve our game for coaches, players and fans,” said Goodell in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be teaming with a true innovator like Microsoft to shape the future of the NFL game experience, both on-field and in the living room.”
In terms of sponsorships “Surface by Microsoft” branding will also appear on NFL sidelines and the Xbox remains “The Official Game Console of the NFL.” It will also become “The Official Interactive Video Entertainment Console.”
Moreover, Microsoft is “The Official Sideline Technology Sponsor of the NFL.”