Head Of Xbox Calls Out Toxic, Console War ‘Tribalism’

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.

“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.

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.”


  • You can have a “side” if you want to call it that and have a platform you prefer, a console you prefer. But you don’t need to shit on someone who doesn’t have the same preferences and tear down their platform

  • I agree with the sentiment but pushing those carefully targeted anti-gamer narratives a short while ago didn’t exactly help with the toxic console war nonsense.
    I’m glad it stopped but I would prefer it’s because of a real change and not just because of diminishing returns.
    Live and let live.

  • “Console wars” were a bit of fun in the 90’s with all the Mario and Sonic cartoons in various magazines and the schoolyard banter. Now the internet is here, people are just downright childish and aggressive. It’s pretty embarrassing that people are willing to go so low over gaming. I guess it’s just the way things are these days, people have to be right, they feel the need to fiercely protect their decisions and put others down that think otherwise. Seems like too much hard work. I’m going to go turn on my PS5 now and have a quick game before getting back to work…I have reasons for my choice, but they’ll be different to others…wanna fight about it? :p

    • And it’s always the same ol argument.. Someone shows information about one of the Consoles, then someone comments, Console Y is better despite the fact that this generation more than pretty much any other bot XB Series X and PS5 are neck and neck in power, then that person is called a fanboy and told to F off, then a PC person comes with a rig costing 3 times as much as consoles to give grief to both console people about how their 5 year old computer runs games better blah blah blah..

      Honestly, the need to say my console is better cause I chose it is insane.. It’s a choice, it’s better for YOU, that should be enough.

  • Nintendo chose not to compete with Sony and Xbox in the console powerhouse wars… and ended up selling hardware to both sides (and the master race too), and developers ended up selling multiple version of the same game.

  • I’ve always had an issue with people using the term “master race” when gloating about how their pc is better than console.

    To me it alluded to terms that had been used throughout history to de-humanise groups of people, paving way for atrocities.. and it baffles me as to why people used that term when it comes to gaming.
    It’s like saying “PC is the Pol Pot to Console’s Cambodians”. Just not cool.

    Console wars should most definitely have stayed in the playground.

    • I’m with you guys. The big wigs were big-time pushing the console war thing when it suited them. And to then say “Hey, hey. Just calm down a bit.” when it’s not making them as much is a bit shrug-worthy. Anyway, what was I doing?

  • This just comes across like a politician during an election saying that everyone needs to work together, but only by agreeing with THEIR side. As in not actually meaning it.

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