Last night, Major Nelson announced that Microsoft's video series, Inside Xbox, has been shut down in the US.
Xbox LIVE in Europe (which covers the UK content created by MrPointyHead and Farrantula) is 'looking at its operating model'. It's unlikely that this evaluation is going to result in a 'more hugs and bags of sweets' edict; traditionally companies approach their 'operating model' with a spreadsheet in one hand and a big axe in the other. If that is the case, it'd be a real loss.
Brilliant as Xbox Live is, it's often easy to feel lonely there. Venture onto a public Call of Duty server and you'll find yourself surrounded by screeching pre-teens and the sort of language that would cause Grandma to tut her false teeth all the way out of her mouth. That's why with the advent of the Party system it's easy to recede back into small groups of friends (and why co-op is now as essential a component as deathmatch). That becomes Xbox Live to you - just you and a handful of mates.
But there's always been a reminder that you're part of a wider, more diverse community that's brought together by a love of Xbox 360, in the shape of Inside Xbox. SentUAMessage is direct community interaction, fielding questions from players and answering them based on genuine insider knowledge, and the Nexus, as a magazine show that always feels more packed than its 10 or so minute running time, remains one of the best pieces of games programming anywhere and features creative contributions from Xbox 360 fans.
Our dashboards would be a lonelier place without SUAM and The Nexus. It's not an exaggeration to say that those two shows set a new high-water mark for corporate communication. Rather than some self-aggrandising press release about sales figures or fiscal projections, it's programming with a personality. It places two amiable, relatable hosts in front and centre of company 'messaging', rather than the standard soundbite-spewing guy-in-a-suit that other corporations seem to opt for. Two hosts who are as passionate and knowledgeable as the audience they're speaking to.
More than that, it's actual journalism. Journalism that, last October, won a Games Media Award. That's remarkable in itself, but the fact that it was won by an arm of one of the platform holders rather than an independent outlet demonstrates just how much respect the UK Inside Xbox team has earned over the last few years. It would be much easier to just parrot the party line, but these shows provide worthwhile interviews and genuinely interesting features.
It's a testament to the fondness gamers have for the shows that the faces of those shows, Dan Maher and Andy Farrant, have become minor celebrities, gaining huge Twitter followings, being asked to front advertising campaigns and present at Call of Duty launch events. Might not sound much against Major Nelson's towering follower count, but you'll struggle to find other current 'gaming personalities' in this country. That the pair are inextricably tied to the Xbox brand can't be actively hurting Microsoft.
If it goes, I think it would be a loss that would genuinely felt in the UK Xbox community. It makes people feel involved, it speaks both for them and directly to them and it's wittily written and beautifully (often hilariously) produced.
Before you stick on the Radiohead album and weep yourself dry though, the crucial thing is that this hasn't happened yet and it doesn't necessarily have to. Japan and Mexico are already confirmed as retaining their Inside Xbox programming and, presumably if the UK makes enough noise, it'll remain here too.
Given that a bunch of internet grumbling managed to change the ending of a videogame, surely we can save a bit of beloved on-console programming? So if you've enjoyed the programming and if you'd rather that corner of the dashboard didn't fall silent then make a noise about it, tweet about it, share it on Facebook, on games forums, sign the petition. Now's the time to make your voice heard, though, who knows how long the evaluation will take?
It's time to send Microsoft a message.