It’s a bit of a cliché, but after the announcement that the Inside Xbox service is to be “effectively retired” and first party video production ceased, it’s seems so very apt to say that there’s going to be an empty hole on our Dashboard for the foreseeable future.

Arguably, one of the defining factors of the current generation of consoles is their online functionality. Granted, the original Xbox might have been where the online boom ‘started’, but it’s only now that being online with our consoles is as essential as a memory card used to be last generation; sure, you can get by without it, but you’d feel like you’re missing out on a huge part of the experience. And with this state of affairs, we as players can be connected to the people trying to sell us games – after all, that’s primarily what most of us bought our consoles for in the first place – so we can feel like we’re part of a special, privileged club for choosing our console of choice.

Of course, this connection works both ways – we want to feel special, and feel like we’ve made the right choice of console, and part of this is discovering what’s coming and why we should be so happy about our decision. Yes we can go to any number of websites, and see any number of promotional videos and trailers from publishers telling us their game is the best. But the problem with those is, they want us to get excited about specific games. That’s quite right, of course, because they’re selling their product – they don’t necessarily have any investment in one console in particular, unless they’re making a platform exclusive. Gaming sites again, are all well and good, but sometimes there’s just so much to cover they can almost dilute themselves to the point where something a bit different, a bit odd, can get lost in the noise.

And this is where Inside Xbox came in. The biggest risk when Inside Xbox launched was that the videos would be sterile. That they would suffer from the pre-conception of Microsoft being a corporate, stuffy entity that makes sure every piece of marketing is polished out of any character, and may as well be delivered by a man in a suit reading a press release. Not only did the Inside Xbox videos manage to completely smash that presumption, but they manage to combine information and entertainment in such a way that proved they had a real passion for the platform and the games that were on it. Shows like The Insiders and The Nexus managed to throw off the cynical shackles that first party content had to be dry and purely informative – they showed MS’ human side looking at stuff coming to the Xbox with a knowing nod that gaming is meant to be fun at its heart, and taking it too seriously is completely at odds with the very fun the console is designed for.

Then there’s the audience interaction with pieces such as the Monday Musing and SentUAMessage, arguably the most popular of the Inside Xbox shows. It seems such a simple thing, but it proved that they were aware that games are interactive, so telling people what they should be excited about seems counter-productive when you have an army of viewers already excited. There were, admittedly, a vocal contingent who thought SUAM was silly because it only told them what they could find out on the internet. But those people seemingly missed the point – why should everyone have to go searching for this information when they can bring it to them? Most vitally, they did it in such a way that made the information fun, entertaining, informative and even award winning – picking up a well deserved Games Media Award last year.

The best thing about the Inside Xbox Video content for many people though, was that it gave them something to look forward to – and vitally – a reason to turn their Xboxes on on a regular basis. And of course, it’s far less of a jump to go from watching a video on your Xbox and then going on to play a game, watch a movie or do whatever else you want to do with your 360 if you’ve already turned it on to watch another episode of The Arcade Cabinet or get tips on that hard to reach achievement through Insider Moves. Even the dashboard shuffle – as silly as it was to effectively hide the service – didn’t dampen the team’s passion and spirit, producing an entire news-based show called The Watch on top of all their more established shows on a weekly basis.

In getting rid of the service, Microsoft has done itself and its fans a massive disservice. No matter how many game adverts you see or what gimmicks they use, there’s still always the overriding feeling of disconnect, that it’s a company talking to their userbase en-masse via a one-way channel. Inside Xbox and its content, both video and otherwise – brought a human, personalised touch to first party interactions. It’s terribly sad to see the service go, and I for one wish the team all the best for the future, anyone who doesn’t snap them up post-haste would be foolish, frankly.

UPDATE – 13 June 2012

Three of the former Inside Xbox team have banded together to form Explosive Alan Productions, and their first major project is to create a new multi-format gaming show to be broadcast on television. As someone who initially got into the whole games writing stuff with the dream of perhaps one day being part of a show that would be as fondly remembered and accepted by the mainstream GamesMaster, it’s certainly a cause I can get behind. With that in mind, I implore you donate to their cause and help them out – more information along with the details of ‘Project Possum’ are all in the link here or by clicking on the picture below – and I truly wish them all the best of luck in the world.

UPDATE – 20 August 2012

And now Andy has resurfaced alongside former Deputy Editor of Official Xbox Magazine Mike Channell and Jane Douglas (formerly of Gamespot and before that a regular on SentUAMessage) to form a new video website team called – tongue-in-cheekily enough – Outside Xbox under the Eurogamer network umbrella. The site features video news, features and general hilarity on all things Xbox very much in the style of the IX stuff and of course it’s well worth your time, clicks and all round love.

13 Responses to RIP Inside Xbox UK (UPDATED)

  1. Gareth Wild says:

    I think you have said what a lot of people both inside and outside of the company have been thinking. A refreshing take on a sad set of circumstances.

  2. Laura Foreman says:

    A great article. Perfectly summing up why IX was important to many gamers and a great way to help people who don’t quite get it, understand why we’re all so upset! Most comments I see are people complaining about what their subscription is going towards. I make them right but this was refreshing.

  3. Creaky says:

    It’s a shame Inside Xbox is going, watched it a lot and thought it was great.

  4. Stephen says:

    What a shame it’s going, it’s one of the only reasons I turned my xbox on, on a regular basis. Much less need for my xbl gold membership. Online on ps3 is almost as good these days.

  5. Kevin says:

    It’s true :*( PS3’s online never made me feel “connected” with the online community. I thought the cancellation was a super late April Fool’s joke at first. Also, the new dash design really did hide Inside Xbox in the most asinine way.

  6. Originally Posted By Stephen
    What a shame it’s going, it’s one of the only reasons I turned my xbox on, on a regular basis. Much less need for my xbl gold membership. Online on ps3 is almost as good these days.

    It’s worth pointing out that Inside Xbox didn’t even require a Gold subscription, and quite frankly it can’t be understated how useful it was to showcase on a practical level what getting one would get you to Silver members – I didn’t even get round to mentioning the School of Xbox series, which was probably the most direct example and in the best position for this purpose.

    Now they’re gone, the service can only really rely on classic ‘adverts’ which frankly brings us right back to the topics I cover in this post.

  7. Glennis says:

    @Ben Borthwick
    Although you didn’t need gold to watch the service I’d imagine that subscription money was used to fund the service.

  8. @Glennis – Oh of course, I’m just saying it’s worth pointing out that it was something that every Xbox owner could enjoy as long as they had the console and an internet connection – regardless of Gold subscription, but vitally was a great tool in encouraging silver users to go gold as well, whether directly or indirectly.

  9. Paul says:

    Great piece, really spot on. IX gave the promotional stuff personality and fun. Sure I could Google the games I’m interested in online but it’s more entertaining to have delivered in a tv show format. And a unique one at that.

    Really wish the whole team all the best and hope its not the last we’ve seen of The Mantler! 😀

  10. Rowan says:

    Very disappointed to find out this is happening. Your shows were the only reason I dug into the video menus. Purely from a commercial point of view, I bought several games (actually new on release) based on your videos. Will go sign the petition, just in case. Best of luck for whatever you move onto.

    You know, you could always try and self-fund through a kickstarter, that’s what all the cool kids do these days.

  11. @Rowan – Just to point out, I’m not affiliated with the IX guys in any way other than being a long-term fan.

  12. Jackster says:

    So disappointed that they cancelled my favourite shows on Xbox live and kept all the dull overseas content. I watched the shows when I was a silver member on xbox live, and when I became gold I felt that I was helping to support SUAM etc.

    Given that online games are spoily by unsporting namecalling teenagers and now SUAM, The Nexus etc have gone, I won’t be renewing my Gold subscription. Best wishes to Andy and Dan, and Shame On Microsoft for not talking to us, its customers, but isntead killing the shows off as quietly as possible.

  13. […] may remember my previous lament on the closure of Inside Xbox nearly a year ago now, and you may also be familiar with the subsequent update on three of the team […]

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