What will TV look like in the future? Back in the 90s, we thought that the TV of the new millennium would be filled with virtual-reality goggles and brain-jacking tech, and while we certainly are taking steps in that direction with peripherals like the Oculus Rift and the Virtuix Omni, we still have a long way to go before we get to be ported into our own virtual-reality fanfiction version of Dawson’s Creek. However, TV is changing, and it has video games to thank.
Last generation, Microsoft released a number of Kinect-controlled “TV programs.” These interactive shows are essentially DVDs filled with episodes of programs like Sesame Street, which actually include interactive segments that can be controlled by a curious child. Episodes soon started coming out via digital distribution, mimicking a weekly TV lineup. These were our first steps into the realm of interactive TV, and while they are limited in scope, they made us rethink what the television-watching experience could be.
Now, Microsoft is trying to take this concept and bring it out of the realm of children’s TV. The new Quantum Break project is attempting to merge the TV-watching experience and the video game playing experience together. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer recently talked about some of the possibilities in a recent interview with OXM. He said that Microsoft would be able to make games that tell a story hand-in-hand with episodes of a TV show. After a play session, the Xbox One could send an episode of Quantum Break to your console, tailored to the choices you made while playing the game. Even stranger, this would be able to work in reverse. While watching the show, you would be given a few simple choices that could change its outcome, much like a choose-your-own-adventure novel. These choices would then reflect back in the game in both plot and gameplay.
Imagine how this could increase the quality of many of our favorite TV shows. What if shows like The Legend of Korra, Battlestar Galactica, and Neon Genesis Evangelion didn’t have their crappy endings? They could just have new endings patched in as DLC. What if you were watching a horror movie and wanted to scream at the TV, “NO, DON’T GO IN THAT ROOM,” and when you did, the characters actually listened to you? What if you could choose who gets together in soap operas and who dies at the end of a heavy-action flick?
Furthermore, think of what this could do for already-existing game franchises. What if you were playing a mystery game that was mostly observation? You could fast-forward and rewind TV episodes and then use this info in the game. That would be a perfect fit for Professor Layton. Or what if Phoenix Wright games had full anime episodes detailing the crimes the defendant was being accused of? Imagine how much more gravity games like The Walking Dead could have if they had real-life actors playing Lee and Clementine.
All of this could interact with the Xbox One’s always-on Kinect and app-switching functions. For example, imagine a new episode of your favorite TV show is airing live. The Xbox One could interrupt whatever game you are playing, save its state, and then switch you over to watch the show. You could then make decisions live on the air or switch back to your Call of Duty game and save it for a later time. Think about what this could be like if they ever made an MMO TV program using this technology. The next episode is ready, and boom, there’s a brand-new instance for you to go on. No more waiting for your guild or fumbling with VOIP group chat. Just turn the dial and start the grinding.
What do you think? How would you use interactive TV to change both your TV-watching and game-playing experiences? What TV show or game series do you want to see done in this new format? Let us know in the comments.
Senior Contributing Writer