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Microsoft Unveils Original Content for Xbox Live

23 Jul, 2008 By: John Gaudiosi

Microsoft is expanding its new original content programming on Xbox Live.

Debuting this fall in conjunction with the new user experience for Xbox Live, which was announced at the E3 Media Summit July 15-17, are a series comedy shorts from horror directors known more for mutilating characters than instigating laughs.

Directors of these original shorts include James Wan (Saw, Death Sentence), David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy), James Gunn (Slither), Lucky McKee (May, The Woods), Andrew Douglas (Amityville Horror), and Marcus Nispel (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th).

This is the first effort in what will become a regular and wide-ranging offering of original short-format content aimed at both male and female gamers of all ages.

“Xbox has always been about bringing great entertainment content to consumers,” said Scott Nocas, group product manager of Xbox Live Programming. “We're rolling out original content as a new category on Xbox Live. It gives Hollywood talent the ability to do something different that studios and networks might not allow them to do.”

This content will launch globally day-and-date in all 26 Xbox Live countries. As a result, Microsoft has sought out talent from Europe, Asia and around the world.

“The popularity of horror movies like Saw on Xbox Live Video Marketplace and horror games like Gears of War on Xbox 360 made this perfect for our target audience,” Nocas said. “We'll have an exclusive window on Xbox Live and then it will run on MSN and Zune and across all of the Microsoft platforms. It will be branded Xbox and it will run across additional digital distribution windows.”

After the exclusive window on Xbox Live, these shorts will appear on iTunes and other online digital distribution networks. The exclusive windows will vary, but be a few months long. Microsoft will continue to offer the content for free after the exclusive window's end.

“There is no limit to what we'll do with the content, whether it's on DVD down the road, whether they become television series, whether they become feature films or graphic novels,” said Peter Safran (Disaster Movie, Scary Movie), CEO of Safran Digital Group and producer of all Xbox short films. “Any way that makes sense, they'll be exploited and they will always be branded Xbox.”

Safran said Hollywood creators get to retain ownership of the content, which can be used for pilots or feature film launches.

“You shoot it and it can be on Xbox in a short timeframe,” Safran said. “And it's experienced in a living room rather than just on a computer.”

Nocas said the shorts will run no longer than 10 minutes in length, at least at first.

“We look at the sub-10-to-15-minute content as being ideal for our consumers,” Nocas said. “This is bite-size entertainment consumers can enjoy in between gaming experiences. If consumers demand longer format original content, we'll look into that.”

The comedy shorts aren't rated, but Safran said the content will be within guidelines of an ‘R' rating. Moving forward, Nocas believes original content will be aimed beyond the core Xbox 360 gamers.

“Over the last year, we've had a great pick-up with comedy films like Wedding Daze and Failure to Launch, and drama like Atonement,” Nocas said. “More women and families watch movies on Video Marketplace with their husbands and boyfriends. Our original content will be the same way. We'll focus on the core at launch but then expand to content that will appeal to girlfriends and wives can enjoy, as well.”

When it comes to original content on Xbox Live next year, Nocas said Microsoft will be selective about the content it provides.

“We're focusing on quality HD material that is appropriate for the living room experience,” Nocas said. “It's not going to be one or two things, but it's not going to be the flood of things that you've seen on Video Marketplace movies and TV content.”

In addition to the comedy shorts, Xbox Live will also serve as the launch space for “Assorted Nightmares,” a modern day horror anthology show. The first episode, “The Janitor,” was directed by John Clisham and stars Jenna Dewan (Step Up).

Microsoft will also be “Bringing Comic-Con Home” on Xbox LIVE from July 23-27, so anyone can get a behind-the-scenes look at all of the action. The Xbox 360 team will be covering every inch of the show floor with daily coverage on Inside Xbox and Xbox.com, as well as MSN and Zune Marketplace.

The Xbox 360 team is joining forces with Warner Bros. to provide sneak peeks of all the panels and videos shown at the event, along with interviews with talent for movies and TV shows, including the upcoming feature films from Warner Bros. Pictures Watchmen and Terminator Salvation, as well as “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Fringe,” “Chuck,” “Supernatural” and Lost Boys: The Tribe.

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