Television and gaming have a complicated, although not very long, history. We’ve had everything from crappy licensed games (who buys those CSI games?), to the success of Telltale Game’s episodic content.
But as we saw last year in the Xbox One unveiling event, television is one of Microsoft’s strongest focuses right now.
A couple of weeks back, Microsoft revealed its slate of projects in active development, with later reports elaborating on some of those points. The Hollywood Reporter mentioned the difficulty of structuring the deals, making it a slow process. Variety, on the other hand, first wrote about the possibility of the Halo show coming to Showtime.
It’s more fun to speculate about the shows themselves than to talk about the behind-the-scenes deals, though. The Xbox Originals announcement also mentioned some properties they’re looking into for both scripted and unscripted series, but without any firm development as of now.
Here are some suggestions for the Microsoft properties they listed. If some seem outlandish, it’s because they’re so. But it’s a brand new world out there, and thinking outside the box will help them stand out.
Age Of Empires
Age of Empires is still a recognizable brand name, and the recent HD remakes of Age of Empires II and Age of Mythology shows that gamers still love the series. But after Ensemble Studios closed, we’ve only had the failed Age of Empires online and the upcoming Age of Empires: World Domination. If Microsoft wants to generate goodwill for the series again, a good show might be the answer.
There’s no plot to the series, though, and if a show as big as Game of Thrones can only afford a huge scale battle every two seasons, there’s no way a Microsoft original could do it. So maybe a non-scripted competition show, LARP-style, could work.
They could have a lot of resource-gathering and unit specialization, with buildings only built by ‘villagers.’ They could also battle in a less-epic-but-fun scale. And let’s face it: in Age of Empires II you could cheat and spawn a Shelby Cobra. Nothing the show does could be sillier than that.
State Of Decay
Zombies are all the rage these days, with The Walking Dead breaking cable rating records, and doing better than broadcast TV. Next season a DC Comics property iZombie is premiering.
So maybe the genre is a bit played out. Still, that just means there’s an opportunity to break out of the mold. While State of Decay’s plot doesn’t rise above its genre trappings, a smart production could differentiate itself from The Walking Dead by showing an open world instead of the claustrophobic spaces of that other show. It also doesn’t have to be as beholden to the source material as The Walking Dead show is.
RPGs are always a hard proposition. Even the games themselves sometimes get flack for lack of choice and customization. So how will a show handle having none? I suggest audience participation.
There are two ways to go about this. One, have the audience decide certain actions by voting on them live, like the 1 vs. 100 game did. Every once in a while an option pops up, and everyone watching live can vote. The choice with the most votes is what happens.
The other way is to have each viewer control its experience. Just like the other option, but without the crowdsourcing aspect. Each audience member will get a difference experience, just as they did when they played the game. For the lazier viewers a “Good alignment”/”Evil alignment” option could appear, and they could watch it all the way through without imputing their choice every time.
Probably the hardest game on the list to base a property on. The Need for Speed movie did okay, but it was a NFS movie in name only. But Top Gear is one of the most popular shows around the world, and a non-scripted show featuring races in different countries might work.
Each episode can be set in a different location, aiming to both educate and entertain audiences about that particular place. And of course, each episode will end with a high-speed race showcasing beautiful cars. Forza’s graphics are always a benchmark for what a console can do. But they can’t beat a real-life Lamborghini Aventador.
Gears Of War
In my opinion, their strongest bet. While the characters are archetypes, the setting is strong and could be used to develop Marcus Fenix’s gang into something other than grunt machines. This could also be their longest-running series of this list, given they know where the story goes and how much it can take to tell it.
Sure, budget might be an issue, but not an insurmountable one. Sera is similar enough to Earth, so the show can use real-world locations, and different enough to portray its run-down, but beautiful, architecture when needed. A Gears of War show could be a solid move if it embraces its pulpy (and gory) roots and aims high.
Do you have more ideas for the Xbox Originals? Let us know below!
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