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Microsoft to Shutter Xbox Entertainment Studios

Microsoft to discontinue development of original series for its Xbox gaming platform and will close Xbox Entertainment Studios in the coming months.

Microsoft is getting out of developing original series for its Xbox gaming platform and will close Xbox Entertainment Studios in the coming months, according to a report by Variety.

The tech giant made headlines Thursday with plans to lay-off as many as 18,000 employees following its recent $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia’s phones business.

Xbox head Phil Spencer announced that Xbox Entertainment Studios will shutter, although some projects in development and production, including a live action Halo series, will still be produced. 

 The move comes as newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella is taking a hard look at all of the company’s operations and is questioning the plan to produce a broad slate of original series for Xbox platforms.

Microsoft recruited former CBS exec Nancy Tellem in the fall of 2012 to lead the Santa Monica-based Xbox Studios division, which was tasked with developing programming based in part on Microsoft videogame franchises such as Halo. Nadella is looking to focus the company’s resources and energies into its core software, Internet and videogame businesses.

Tellem, Jordan Levin and some of the Xbox Entertainment Studios team will remain with the company to see the completion of its original programming already in production, Microsoft said. That includes a live action Halo series, the first major project spearheaded by the division, that’s in advanced negotiations for a pickup at Showtime in a shared window with Xbox. Project is a co-production with Amblin TV.

Others are the live action digital series Halo: Nightfall, a prequel story exec produced by Ridley Scott that will introduce a key character in the next Halo game, and the documentary Signal to Noise, about the notorious Atari E.T. game flop in the early 1980s.

Xbox Studios also produces elaborate companion material for NFL games and other “entertainment experience” apps for Xbox, and that work is expected to continue.

Levin, the the former CEO of The WB network and Generate, a production studio and talent management company, joined Tellem’s team in February as executive VP to oversee the company’s original projects.

In April, Tellem and Levin promoted six greenlit shows and at least 11 more in development at the NewFronts, a gathering of online networks and digital programmers seeking advertising dollars from Madison Avenue. The series were the first of a slate Tellem developed over the past two years to show how the exec planned to help the Xbox One become more of an all-encompassing entertainment platform.