Xbox One’s Unfortunate Story Change During E3 2013
Story: David Peveto
July 10, 2013
During the second week of June, the Electronic Entertainment Expo - more commonly known as E3 – took place in Los Angeles and provided the video game industry an opportunity to display their products for the upcoming year.
Microsoft had by what most industry leaders would have considered an excellent press conference on the morning of Monday June 10 showing off the games and features of their brand new console, the Xbox One. Despite this strong reveal, Microsoft suffered a brutal misstep which has created a controversy taking place on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
During the demonstration of a launch title called “Killer Instinct,” a Microsoft community manager and a producer of the game played against each other when one of them launched an impressive combo and was winning the match handedly. This match led to banter and trash-talking back and forth and an unfortunate joke which had some misogynistic and violent sexual connotations. View the comments that begin at 0:27 made by the producer.
Shortly after the presentation finished, people who watched it, including several luminaries of the game development and publishing world, took to Twitter to both criticize and support Microsoft and the producer of the game for putting this content in their presentation which between television and Internet streaming went out live to millions of people.
"Let's bring a woman on stage and joke about how she's bad at games, and say stuff like 'relax, just let it happen, it'll be over soon'"??— Jonathan Blow (@Jonathan_Blow) June 10, 2013
Even if it was unintentional, Microsoft should've realized they shouldn't make a rape joke in an environment already toxic with misogyny.— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) June 10, 2013
@Jonathan_Blow It's not a rape joke. The fact that you take it as such adds fuel to the already large social justice fire.— Kyle Gardner (@KahlGardner) June 11, 2013
This led to several articles from some of the largest news outlets in the gaming industry like Kotaku and N4G but also several stories on national news outlets like NBC, CBS, and the Huffington Post.
All of this took even more of the focus from what was generally considered to be an excellent keynote and shifted the focus further and further from the message that Microsoft wanted to have in the media: the Xbox One will have good games. These articles began to spread virally, thus producing comments and other opinion pieces. At the time of this publication, the articles produced had been shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook and Twitter.
The story got so far out of hand that Microsoft had to release a statement on their Facebook page two days after the original issue stating the comment was unintentional and offensive and they apologized. They have since made no mention of the incident in any releases or interviews about “Killer Instinct” or the Xbox One’s launch this November.
The major takeaway from this whole experience is viral spreading of information and opinion is difficult to get under control under the best of circumstances for any company. However, when the company’s main target consumer is technology savvy and they are presenting at a high-profile trade show where every major journalism outlet has their eyes on everything that is said, you need to have your message very much in line and on topic.
The few weeks preceding E3 had been a trying time for the Xbox brand, between a much reviled Xbox One press conference and a feature set and restrictions on their consumers regarding the digital rights to their purchases. These announcements have not gone over well with the gaming public; as a result, people are watching everything that Microsoft does very carefully.
President of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, a direct rival to Microsoft due to their Playstation product line, Shuhei Yoshida said the consumer backlash and anger towards the Xbox One was a major factor that decided the decisions they would make going forward into this next generation of video game consoles. While speaking with Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu Yoshida said that while they “were thinking about what we had to bring across and how to bring it across, it was a very useful source."
In all, companies must consider the ways which their messages could be interpreted (or misinterpreted) and the group of people listening to the content. In a time when the video games industry is trying to change decades of being perceived as a boys club and the gaming public is divided on the power of words in their media, Microsoft faces an uphill battle to not only bring themselves out of their difficult troubles with the console launch, but also to change the perception that Microsoft is ambivalent to the issues of rape culture in games.