- Who Am I?
- What Have I Done?
- How to Party: Hero Style!
- Review: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- Review: The Matrix Online
- Review: Rag Doll Kung Fu
- Review: Day of Defeat: Source
- Review: Battlefield 2
- Review: Darwinia
- Review: The Matrix: Path of Neo
- Review: Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
- Hardware Review: XBox 360 Controller for Windows
- Review: Tomb Raider: Legend
- Review: Sin Episodes: Emergence
- Review: Half Life 2: Episode One
- Review: The Ship
- Interview: Chris Peck (OuterLight)
- Review: Prey
- Review: Broken Sword 4 – The Angel Of Death
- Review: DEFCON
- Long Play – StarTopia
- Modus Operandi
- Review: Rock Legend
- Review: Audiosurf
- Review: World of Goo
- Review: Burnout Paradise – The Ultimate Box
- Malevolent Effect
- Left 4 Sims
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.