In a frank blog post ahead of next week’s E3 press conference in LA, Microsoft’s corporate VP of corporate communications Frank Shaw has hinted that Xbox 360’s future might be less dependent on gaming than we had previously presumed.
"[It can be hard] to recognise a transformation, especially when the transformation takes time," he wrote on the official Microsoft blog.
"Case in point: Xbox and entertainment. For the last ten years at Microsoft, we’ve been turning up the heat on how we think about Xbox, and next week at E3 you will get a chance to see how far we’ve come.
"Let’s look at the numbers and then take a look at what they mean and what the future holds. Just for starters, we’ve sold more than 53m Xbox 360 consoles, and Xbox has been the top-selling console in the last year. There are more than 30m Xbox Live members. And more than 10m Kinects have sold to date.
"Those are pretty big numbers for a device that, until recently, had primarily been purchased by hardcore gamers. But something interesting has happened in the last few years. While people are still playing a ton of video games, 40 per cent of all Xbox activity now is non-game.
"Put another way, we’re seeing an average of 30 hours of video consumption per month per Xbox, a number that is growing fast. And people are expecting more – more options, more games, more videos, more entertainment.
"Put simply, Xbox = entertainment and is core to our entertainment strategy. Around the world, the Xbox connects more people to online content and communities through the largest screen in the house than any other device. And as the console has evolved, it’s stayed true to its core while adding more and more experiences.
Shaw does go on to emphasise Xbox’s gaming strength, though continues to frame it in a wider picture of general entertainment consumption.
"Today, there is no better gaming experience in the world," he added. "Immersive games, sports games, games where you are the controller, games where you talk to your friends, games where you talk to the console, games that get you into shape, that make you laugh, that let you take a picture and share it with friends.
"The vision for Xbox is straightforward: All of the entertainment you want. With the people you care about. Made easy. That is why you’ve seen us invest in partnerships with ESPN, Netflix and Hulu. That is why we’ve baked social directly into the experience with Xbox Live – connecting gamers, friends and families across the globe.
"That is why you’ll see Xbox marketed more as an entertainment brand this year. Next Monday at E3 in Los Angeles, the Xbox home entertainment pot will be boiling over. We’re continuing to deliver mind-blowing gaming experiences, and we are turning up the heat on a whole new era of home entertainment."
It’s true that Microsoft will have to pull a surprise bunny out of the hat to better Sony’s superb first party software line-up for PS3. Could eyes really be turning to the next Xbox?
If the gaming surprises are primarily limited to the previously discussed ten new Kinect IPs then MS could yet suffer the same E3 backlash that haunted Nintendo in 2009. A fascinating week awaits.