Change in trends
While many companies planned to release their exclusive games on PlayStation 5, the devoted users and creators of Xbox began theorizing, refusing, lamenting, and ranting to those within their Church Of Xbox circle and beyond. Then, Xbox boss Phil Spencer published an unclear statement, seemingly acknowledging that something had happened. However, the faithful fans would have to wait until the next week to find out what it was. Maybe he thought this would reassure the masses. It didn’t. Instead, some die-hard Xbox fans saw it as confirmation that the brand they idolized was quitting them. And they aren’t dealing with it well (though some remain fairly composed about the potential release of Starfield on PS5).
Before we continue, I should clarify that if you enjoy playing games on Xbox or are a Game Pass subscriber, I’m (probably) not referring to you. I prefer playing stuff on my Xbox Series X (as do some others at Kotaku) and I have my own Game Pass membership, too.
When I mention the Church of Xbox or the Xbox Cult, I’m referring to a small but vocal group of gamers who, in recent years, have—with some encouragement from folks at Microsoft—transformed into Xbox-obsessed believers. These people scarcely question the company’s actions and battle online against “biased” journalists and others who they believe won’t give the Big Green X brand a break or, worse, those who they think want Xbox to fail. To crash and burn. To die.
I’ve seen some of these individuals harass coworkers and friends over inconsequential Game Pass takes, jokey Bethesda tweets, and lukewarm Xbox game reviews. They’ve emailed me, and have wished horrible things on my wife, and they will probably come after me after I publish this post. So, it is hard not to laugh as I watch the Church of Xbox and its most fervent fans tear themselves apart over the notion that Xbox might stop making consoles, become a third-party publisher, and/or fundamentally change the way Game Pass works in an effort to earn more money.
Xbox super fans are undergoing a crisis of faith
“I was wrong all of this time, Xbox doesn’t care about us, Microsoft doesn’t care about us. We’ve been fighting this war for nothing.”- StarScream134
“Genuinely feel terrible for convincing my sister to get an Xbox instead of a PS5. Like I actually feel like I let her down…” – XboxYoda
As highlighted by VGC, since the news broke of the mere potential of PlayStation ports, numerous Xbox-focused influencers have publicly and loudly turned on the company. KidSmoove, a content creator with 15.5k followers, posted a video of him singing mournfully about the Xbox situation, asking “Why did I buy this?” He has also tweeted “Forget an Xbox” and changed his profile banner to match that message.
Klobrille, an extremely popular Xbox influencer account that covers news around the brand and its games, seems to potentially be done covering the console at all—though that is dependent upon what Microsoft does moving forward.
Another popular Xbox creator, Riskit4thebiskit, seemingly pulled his car off the road to record a video of him solemnly telling his followers that the rumors and reports about Indiana Jones going to PS5 were probably true. At one point, he seems close to tears and mentions that if Sony drops a more powerful PS5 and Xbox puts its games on that console, it’s likely that will be the best place to play something like a theoretical Halo 7.
“There’s no reason to have an Xbox,” said Riskit. “That’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
Mr.BoomstickXL of Double Barrel Gaming says he was unable to sleep over the news that Xbox games might land on PlayStation, retelling a story of how he woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep for hours, leading to him feeling “exhausted” and down the following morning.
“I think that if you are an Xbox fan, you should be bothered by this,” said Mr.Boomstick. “I think Xbox owes us an absolute explanation.”
Another popular Xbox creator, TimDog, hosted a seven-hour live Twitter space titled “I’m not an Xbox fanboy anymore.”
What happens when brands like Xbox cultivate such a passionate fanbase?
What’s one thing all of these creators have in common, aside from boundless passion for Microsoft’s games division? They are all followed by Aaron Greenberg, the Vice President of Xbox Marketing. Some of these Xbox true believers are even followed by other Xbox execs; for example, Spencer follows Klobrille while Xbox president Sarah Bond follows RiskitfortheBiskit.
This has been part of Xbox’s strategy for years now following the Xbox One’s “bleh” launch. The brand has often directly encouraged and communicated with its most “passionate” fans. It didn’t matter how toxic they might get sometimes in the console war; they were good soldiers and were rewarded with meetings, livestream appearances, codes, swag, and shoutouts. This ended up fueling a strange, parasocial relationship between Xbox, its execs, and some of its more diehard players.
And now, as Xbox seemingly gets ready to become a multiplatform publisher (more so than they already are), its most fervent and dedicated believers and fans are panicking. Even if the company has yet to confirm that any of this is true, it doesn’t matter.
Not to those who bought all the Xbox-branded merchandise and praised games like Redfall while complaining about negative reviews or impressions that make up the backbone of the so-called “Xbox tax” theory. Those who supported Xbox as it consumed Bethesda, Activision, Blizzard, and others and assured everyone that massive layoffs are just part of the process. (Or worse, suggested Microsoft fire more people to cut costs.) Those who rallied around Game Pass when even the lightest criticism was written about the subscription platform. Those who did what they thought Xbox wanted them to do and were often supported, rewarded, or celebrated by the folks at the top for it.
And now, many of them are coming to grips with reality. Xbox is a brand owned by a megacorp that will—whenever it wants—-break promises, change plans, and leave your favorite, beloved plastic box in the proverbial ditch if it means staying out of the red.
And even if, and I think this is the case, Xbox consoles continue to be a thing Microsoft develops, sells, and supports for years to come, it won’t matter. For these former believers, the illusion has been shattered, and God isn’t real. Starfield or Halo on a PS5 means that Xbox never really cared about its machine or its longtime fans. It was all about profit. All about making more money. Capitalism, baby!
While most of us knew that already, others are just discovering that when you build your life and identity around a brand (be it Xbox, PlayStation, Apple, Stanley Cups, or whatever), you set yourself up for a lot of misery, pain, and sadness. And the people at the top might follow you and reshare your memes, but at the end of the day, this is a business, and you are a mark.