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Microsoft's 'sexist' Xbox One ad stirs controversy

Date

Samantha Kelly

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Pipped? Microsoft's Xbox One.

Pipped? Microsoft's Xbox One.

This post was originally published on Mashable.

Microsoft has changed the default wording of a dynamic advertisement for its new Xbox One video game console, which suggested women would "rather knit" than watch their partner "slay zombies", following claims it was "sexist".

Microsoft put together an online letter template to help men ask their significant others for Xbox One consoles — either as a holiday gift or requesting permission to get the system for the household.

The advertisement (you can read it in full here) tries to be cute with the thinking an "explanation (and a little sucking up)" will get the woman to budge. But some see the effort as sexist and enforcing gender stereotypes. The letter, which can be personalised and shared via social media or email, lists various reasons why the console would benefit "you and me — together and apart, but mostly together."

The letter begins: "You’d rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this. Xbox One is actually for both of us. Seriously."

It then suggests that the console will prompt the couple to exercise more and will let the woman watch movies and chat with her sister via Skype while the man watches the game. Although the ad does a solid job of detailing its versatility, some Twitter users said the language is condescending and implies that only men play video games and women dislike when they do.

"You love movies and I love football. Well, with the Xbox One, we can love both," it reads. "We can catch your favorite team AND check out my favorite team. Just think of all this togetherness we're going to experience. It's gonna be awesome!"

A Microsoft spokesperson said the letter was "fully customisable" and that the company "meant no offense".

"But understand how the defaults could be perceived. We're making changes to the letter defaults and apologize for the oversight."

The company has since made a few changes to the text, updating phrases such as "you'd rather knit" to "you'd rather do your taxes early."

According to a recent study, nearly half of gamers are women, but they are often made to feel like the minority.

Although some Twitter users had strong reactions to the ad, others called in "clever" and "tongue in cheek".

Sooo, this is a little sexist, @Xbox...Maybe rethink this? Sincerely, girl who prefers shooting zombies over knitting http://t.co/O1azsaj6Gh

Alright..I know this will alienate people, but I'm tired of overreactions to every little thing. The Xbox ad? Get over it. Tongue-in-cheek.

Of course @Xbox is being sexist and mysyoginistic in erasing women gamers http://t.co/9XffYE2qUO

Maybe not disgustingly sexist, but definitely pushing it, Microsoft. http://t.co/QNrHEVA0dC

This is really clever and pretty funny. Good job #Microsoft. http://t.co/Bbzm5y7Foh

Mashable is the largest independent news source covering digital culture, social media and technology.

With Fairfax Media

29 comments

  • Sexist?? its probably true..

    God what a world this has turned into where everyone is looking for something to be offended by all day every day...

    But MS has succeeded in getting their free advertising spread out even more.

    Commenter
    Davo
    Date and time
    November 28, 2013, 12:21PM
    • Notice how all the the above comments are from males...
      I find this incredibly offensive as women gamers are continuely undervalued. Maybe we don't make up 50% of the gaming community, but there are a lot of serious female gamers out there!
      Ads like this continue to alienate us from the gaming world, and undervalue our contribution to the culture.

      Commenter
      Alex
      Date and time
      November 28, 2013, 3:51PM
    • Almost half of gamers are female, but the ads are "probably true". Reading fail.

      Commenter
      bargal
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      November 28, 2013, 4:22PM
  • Far out, people need to lighten up.

    Commenter
    Matt
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    November 28, 2013, 12:23PM
    • So don't buy an Xbox of your that offended.

      I would have though that was a simple, common sense approach to the situation. But no, the professionally offended brigade come out in force...

      Commenter
      Lazy Jesus
      Date and time
      November 28, 2013, 12:49PM
      • I think the common sense approach would be to make it clear to the company that its marketing team should be doing a better job. Making a song and dance about its mistakes means that Microsoft will redress this in the future, which ideally changes the nature of marketing.

        If it were as simple as ditching the company, people would do it. But Microsoft has links to dozens of development studios that consumers want to support. Vocally opposing the marketing can show their disapproval while allowing them to still buy the console.

        Commenter
        Will
        Date and time
        November 28, 2013, 5:04PM
    • "According to a recent study, nearly half of gamers are women, but they are often made to feel like the minority."

      I really wish people would stop uncritically repeating this statistic, it is a blatant slanting of the facts to fit an agenda and bad journalism to boot.

      The 'recent study' they refer to can be found here: http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2013.pdf

      It is clearly an advertising/marketing product produced by the ESA, not an academic study. It is poorly attributed, and draws on figured by the NPD Group and Ipsos Media CD, but gives no information on demographics, how the numbers were compiled, or how the percentages were reached. It says the numbers were taken from '2000 representative households'. That's it.

      One factor is clearly apparent, however. Their numbers are based on the loosest possible definition of 'game', and yet the media reports as if 50% of gamers playing Halo or COD or WoW are women.

      This is clearly and self-evidently wrong. The percentages of women gamers are drastically raised because the study includes every type of 'social game' imaginable and every timeframe imaginable. They are giving equal weight to a woman who plays Angry Birds for 2 hours a week and a man who plays GTAV 2 hours a night.

      The casual games market is extremely profitable, dominated by women, and totally irrelevant to the types of games and game systems being discussed in this article, which are dominated by men.

      Commenter
      DM
      Date and time
      November 28, 2013, 1:00PM
      • Sadly, "gaming" is an umbrella term for all digital games, not what you define it as. Sorry about that. Might want to brush up on your screed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_and_video_games

        Commenter
        Jonathan
        Date and time
        November 28, 2013, 3:24PM
      • Also if there are only two groups and you only make up 45%, are you not in the minority.

        Commenter
        Ruhwef
        Date and time
        November 28, 2013, 4:09PM
    • so its alright for ads to show bumbling, idiotic fathers. but one ad assumes women knit and thats wrong? i dont think so

      Commenter
      MrTransfield
      Date and time
      November 28, 2013, 1:08PM

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