Xbox One has spawned a subculture of hate. With some expert help, Screen Robot posits ideas on why this is.
With the virtually official status of the Xbox One as anathema of the videogame community, it’s hard to conceive of a story that could. Well-publicised complaints have included claims that the Xbox One has been leaking ominous ‘milky-white fluid‘ and smoking, amidst a slew of less specific rumours and hating that no console in history has ever been subjected to (despite the fact that the PS4 has suffered virtually identical issues, which we go into later on). Combine a scathing internet culture with the current frenzied climate around child abuse, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Xbox One was exposed as the next high-profile celebrity child molester. You can imagine the gossip between concerned parents at the village parish meeting:
“To think that it spent so much time in the company of children.”
“It’s awful Gladys, just awful. Thank God we bought my son a PlayToy 4 instead.”
A subculture of Xbox One hate is flourishing, propagated by memes, videos, forum posts, and general moan articles about the console. It’s not that people ‘hate’ it, it’s just that they’re ‘hating on’ it. While the former implies a vehement, if not always rational, dislike for someone or something, the latter can be better described as the mocking of someone or something, usually online and in a group. This is because it’s an amusing thing to do; a popular pastime in this turbulent time of fanboys, keyboard warriors, and console wars. But why, in this console war, has the Xbox One has got off to such a bad start on the hearts-and-minds front?
Why that infamous reveal party of course. It was a disaster, with glitches galore and more talk about TV services than you’d hear from a cocaine-fuelled Sky salesman. Microsoft apologised and pleaded and desperately U-turned on just about everything in an attempt to win us back over, but the unforgiving gaming community had found itself a new running joke. The Wii U, jeered though it was, never made enough cultural impact to warrant much vitriol. The gaming community’s reaction to the Wii U was similar to hyenas reacting to a drone camera: mostly disinterested and mildly confused. However, when a heavily hyped console with huge mainstream expectations shows the slightest sign of weakness, then it’s like the figurative hyenas spotting a lame elephant. They tear it to shreds.
Shit, sucks, fail
Screen Robot’s own amateur study on YouTube yields telling results. With the derogatory search terms du jour ‘fail,’ ‘sucks’ and ‘shit’ as my key variables, I paired these with the terms ‘ps4’ ‘xbox one’ and (oh go on then) ‘wii u’ on the all-seeing YouTube search engine. Here were my findings for the total amount of times each console had videos associated with the three terms:
Total YouTube shits, sucks and fails
Xbox One: 1,165,000 (48%)
PlayStation 4: 825,000 (34%)
Wii U: 446,000 (18%)
The Xbox One gets nearly the same number of shits, sucks and fails as the Playstation 4 and Wii U combined. Of course, less hate doesn’t equate to more commercial success. The low level of hate for the Wii U is accompanied by low sales figures, reflecting the reality that the console is simply not in the public consciousness. Despite the PS4 having an early sales advantage on the Xbox One, both consoles’ early sales figures are among the strongest in history, so Microsoft have nothing to worry about on the commercial front, but surely the poor guys want to know why everyone’s bullying their youngest son?
Dr Sameer Hinduja specialises in online behaviours and cyberbullying. When asked about the online community’s propensity for hating on the Xbox One, he points out that once some people become fans of a certain product, they “eventually derive some measure of their identity from ‘belonging’ to the group of people who are those fans.” This is, of course, what we commonly refer to as “fanboyism.”
With each new console generation however, gamers have a moment of re-evaluation. While you may have been a die-hard keyboard warrior proselytising about the Xbox 360 and hurling abuse at all non-believers, loyalties tend to lie with the individual console rather than the brand. Nintendo’s see-saw history of console sales attests to this.
We may think we’re Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo till we die, but when the tides of generational change come rushing in, most of us are ready to jump ship, which isn’t an unreasonable thing to do. However, when you combine the fickle brand loyalties of gamers with the behavioural effects that the internet has on us, the seemingly rational decision of choosing the best console also becomes a matter of choosing which tribe you’re with.
“Certain features of the internet pander to our natural bents towards attention-seeking and belongingness,” says Hinduja. “The fact that controls such as social conventions and the law are weaker on the internet grants people a perceived immunity.” So with our natural desires to take sides and ‘belong’ left unfettered by the social filters of day-to-day, face-to-face life, we satiate our desire for belongingness by picking a side in a so-called ‘console war,’ and attacking the enemy with.
In a situation where there’s so little to distinguish between the Xbox One and PS4, gamers have less grounds than ever on which to justify buying one console over the other. The best way to justify your decision is to look for the first sign of weakness that one of the consoles shows, pick the other side, then continue to blow the ‘weaker’ console’s faults up to legendary proportions.
Are all the horror stories about the Xbox One out there even true? “We all try to convince ourselves of the ‘rightness’ or appropriateness of what we do,” said Hinduja. “People invent stories and reasons to justify their hatred.” In the case of the Xbox One, the hating has become circularly justifiable; who needs an external reason when you have a world of mocking memes, videos, forums pointing and laughing at it, and nebulously telling you that it’s just shit?
The reality: never in videogame history have two consoles been so similar
Looking at the abundance of similarities between the PS4 and Xbox One, the hating is hard to rationalise. Gone are the day when consoles would woo audiences with their cornucopias of exclusive titles, and promises of gaming experiences that couldn’t be found anywhere else. While launch line-ups have a tradition of mediocrity in videogame history, at least they were distinctive and showed off some of the console’s personality (see our list of the best console launch titles). The same can’t be said of this generation.
According to Metacritic, the best-rated exclusive titles for the Xbox One and PS4 so far are Forza Motorsport (80/100) and Resogun (84/100) respectively. Other top-five rated games for both consoles include multiplatform mainstays FIFA 14, NBA 2K14, Battlefield 4, and Call of Duty: Ghosts. As such, fanboys on both sides have remained uncharacteristically silent in the usually furious debate on who has the best exclusives. The exclusives will trickle out over time, but judging by the pattern of each successive generation having fewer and fewer exclusives, this will almost certainly be on a smaller scale than before.
In terms of hardware, there is little to separate these two black boxes (the PS4 may have a prettier design). The PS4 is technically more powerful but certain graphical comparisons show the Xbox One to have a slight edge in multiplatform games. That said, when has hardware power ever been a factor in a console war?
It’s silly to portray Microsoft as an absolute victim. The fanbase for the console remains strong and it’s selling well. The fact that the Xbox One is so hated on is a testament to its major role in modern culture, and it’s almost certain that the haters will quieten down and move onto the next vulnerable target sooner rather than later. Then, when the discrepancy between the culture of Xbox One hating and its real-world facets begins to diminish, we’ll be able to see more clearly that this console is likely to become one of the most successful of all time.
This tribal mentality doesn’t apply to all gamers. The level-headed ones will – funds permitting – purchase all consoles in order to indulge in their semi-unique offerings. That said, most of us can’t afford to own all the consoles we please, and as such are vulnerable to slipping into states of disinhibited, raging fanboyism, further stoked by an online culture that loves a creature to poke with a stick. These tendencies of ours cover up the reality, which is that given the similarities between the two major consoles, if we hate one, we should hate them both. Conversely, if we love one, why not love them both?
After all, this console generation is not so much a case of apples and pears, but tom-ey-toes tom-ah-toes.
Dr. Sameer Hinduja is a Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University and Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. He is recognized internationally for his groundbreaking work on the subjects of cyberbullying and safe social networking, concerns that have paralleled the exponential growth in online communication by young people.