Are Microsoft's Dreams of Living Room Dominance Nightmares To Be?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Are Microsoft's Dreams of Living Room Dominance Nightmares To Be?

Today I'm going to really open up shop on a topic that some might not expect, but I'm looking at the overall thrust of Microsoft's marketing ambitions and suggesting that on this point, perhaps the Emperor's clothes are of substantially less density than he believed. Microsoft's dreams of living room dominance are nothing new, but there are two points that suggest there may be a mistake brewing here.

Earlier today, reports emerged that Microsoft had some plans to launch new television projects, which it would likely show off by the end of the year, which is about the same time that the system itself is due to roll out in earnest. This goes to join the recent efforts undertaken by Steven Spielberg to bring out a Halo title, and though we don't know the exact nature of the content coming soon, there are likely to be some things that remain fairly standard. And this may well be part of the problem.

One, it's a safe bet that Microsoft's new content will remain behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall. That may or may not actually happen—the release of the system will likely prove that one out—but still, given what we know so far it's a safe bet. That's going to be an extra expense to get people in and accessing the content, and may well prove to slow up those ambitions. Microsoft would likely have to keep content coming on a regular basis to keep up with the likes of Netflix and Hulu Plus, who have a serious time advantage on Microsoft and a lot of content available for less than Microsoft is charging. That's going to be a problem for Microsoft unless it can make the content sufficiently compelling that it's worth it, otherwise users may well eschew Xbox Live Gold in favor of other services. However, considering that Xbox Live Gold has other points of value, this may not be a problem.

But the other issue is the overwhelming possibility that Microsoft is out to be king of a space that won't be king for long. Microsoft's ambitions of late target the living room, offering gaming in the same place as music and video. But there are increasing signs that gaming may not be much longer for the living room in the first place. Consider the development of the Oculus Rift goggles. With these in place, gaming no longer really needs a television, unless it's used as a social experience. Moreover, throw in the Virtuix Omni treadmill and suddenly, gaming needs a bit more floor space than it ever did before, like a separate room or even a basement. Putting a Virtuix Omni in the middle of a living room would be disastrous, and putting it away and bringing it out every time someone wants to play is a recipe for frustration.

So there are some potential bumps in the road ahead for a company that has clear aspirations of living room dominance: one, the value may not be there to get people interested in Microsoft's television lineup, taking away a key backstop of the living room, and two, the living room may well not be the place where people do most of their gaming in the near-term future. This combination could prove disastrous for Microsoft, but only could; naturally, there's a lot more that needs to show itself before a full judgment can be rendered, but these are also points that Microsoft may well want to consider in the near-term.
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