Microsoft has released a new holiday ad, and unsurprisingly, it’s about a dog flying a plane and blowing up the Master Chief.
The 90-second spot begins with a dog, Rufus, wandering around the house looking for attention, only to find that the family is busy (using Microsoft hardware and software, natch). He stares out the window at the neighboring dog Sam – presumably a friend who cannot see due to the current COVID-19 pandemic – and then falls asleep.
In his doggy dream, which takes place in Supergrass’s « Alright, » things are going much better for Rufus. He spends time with his dog on various Microsoft products, like Microsoft Teams, Minecraft, and what appears to be Halo Infinite (although that won’t be coming out this vacation). And yes, Rufus even forges the Master Chief, though it’s framed as a hilarious accident rather than cold-blooded murder.
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It’s a totally strange ad, albeit charming, on the surface at least. The goal is clearly to emphasize that Microsoft technologies and platforms can bring us together at a time when we have to be physically apart.
Dig a little deeper, though, and things start to get a little dark. The whole family ignores each other in their little worlds and neglects their dog. Surely they should unplug at least a little to spend time together during the holidays. And why is mom forced to be in a meeting so late at night? Has the new work-from-home environment eroded all reasonable boundaries between your work life and home life? Sure, someone has to work to feed daddy and the kids’ addiction to gambling, but the whole arrangement doesn’t seem very healthy.
On a more serious note, one thing that’s remarkable about this announcement is the emphasis it places on gaming as an essential part of today’s Microsoft. Although there are nods to teams from Microsoft, Windows, and hardware like the Surface, they are not the center of attention. Halo, Minecraft, and Microsoft Flight Simulator really do have pride of place here, and many posts seem to imply that Microsoft offers games on multiple platforms.
Perhaps most curious, given the focus of gaming, is the absence of Xbox Series X. The son is playing an S Series. In a recent interview, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said that the company actually built more X Series consoles than S Series consoles, though it may alter its strategy in the future.
Coming out of this announcement, the Microsoft of 2020 sees itself as a company that sees cross-platform gaming as central to its identity. It’s a good sign for Xbox fans, one that marks a shift in thinking from seven years ago when Microsoft considered ditching its gaming brand entirely.