Head Of Xbox Calls Out Toxic, Console War 'Tribalism'

Illustration for article titled Head Of Xbox Calls Out Toxic, Console War 'Tribalism'
Screenshot: Microsoft (Fair Use)

Xbox boss Phil Spencer said in a new interview that if there was anything that could make him quit the video game industry altogether, it would be the ongoing toxic fandom around consoles.

Spencer discussed a number of subjects with Verge Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel on the latest episode of the Decoder podcast, from why Microsoft decided to launch two next-gen consoles this holiday season to why Game Pass isn’t quite as similar to Netflix as some people might think. Spencer also briefly brought up how toxic some fans can get online when new hardware comes out.

“To be honest, I love the industry I’m in,” Spencer said when asked what goes through his head after he sees someone online make a video about smashing up an Xbox Series X at launch, as part of a discussion about pre-order shortages. The head of Xbox instead pivoted to reflect on fans who, in the year 2020, still spend their time trying to tear down and attack one another over which games and hardware they prefer.

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“This is the job I love. My wife will tell me it’s the only job I’m qualified for, but this is definitely the job I love. But that tribalism in the industry, if there was anything that would ever drive me out of the industry, it’s actually that, what you’re talking about.”

Spencer went on:

When a team releases something into the market for the world to tear it apart on the internet—it’s just such a brave thing for a team to do. I’m never going to vote against any creative team or any product team to do poorly because I have a competitive product. It’s not in me. I don’t actually think it helps us in the long run in the industry.

But especially in the console space, there’s like a core of the core that have, I think, taken it to a destructive level of, “I really want that to fail so the thing that I bought succeeds.” I’m saying on both sides. I’m not saying that it’s all people crushing Xboxes and everybody that loves Xbox is always completely inviting to all the PlayStation stuff. I’ve said before that I find it distasteful, but maybe that is too light. I just really despise it. I don’t think we have to see others fail in order for us to achieve the goals. That’s not some kind of “kumbaya” thing. It’s actually real. We’re in the entertainment business. The biggest competitor we have is apathy over the products and services [and] games that we build.

While console manufacturers have been more buddy buddy in recent years, tweeting out nice things about each other’s launches and even occasionally appearing on stage together at big events, each still has plenty of fans who can be super nasty. Over the weekend, Digital Foundry’s John Linneman shared a number of vile comments he’s received from both Xbox and Sony fans over the tech coverage and comparison videos he produces.

Clamping down on toxicity has been a big part of Xbox’s recent messaging. Last year, Spencer wrote a long blog post outlining the console manufacturer’s commitment to make gaming a safer, more inclusive space.

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According to the Microsoft VP, social features like cross-play are part of an attempt to break down some of the toxicity around the idea of a war between the competing gaming platforms. “But there is a core that just really hates the other consumer product,” Spencer told Patel. “Man, that’s just so off-putting to me. Again, maybe that word is probably too light. To me, it’s one of the worst things about our industry.”

Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at ethan.gach@kotaku.com

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I always found that a weird thing. If I had the scratch to comfortably own all the consoles, I would love to own all the consoles.