Over the February 3 weekend, reports from different outlets and insiders claimed that a number of big, Xbox exclusives—like Starfield and Gears of War—could possibly end up on PlayStation 5 in the near future. Once the news spread around the internet, the most Xbox-pilled users and creators began theorizing, denying, mourning, and ranting to those within their Church Of Xbox circle and beyond. Then, Xbox boss Phil Spencer posted a vague statement, seemingly confirming something was happening but the faithful would have to wait until next week to hear what. Perhaps he thought this would calm the masses. It didn’t. Instead, for some devoted Xbox fans, it was confirmation that the brand they worshiped was leaving them behind. And they aren’t taking it well (though some remain pretty chill about the prospect of Starfield coming to PS5).
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. -Matthew 24:21
“We’re not in the business of out-consoling Sony or out-consoling Nintendo. There isn’t really a great solution or win for us. And I know that will upset a ton of people.” – Phil Spencer, CEO of Xbox Gaming
“This is truly the Xbox apocalypse” – StarScream134 on Twitter
Before we go any further, I should clarify that if you like playing games on Xbox or you are a Game Pass subscriber, I’m (probably) not talking about 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 say the Church of Xbox or the Xbox Cult, I’m referring to a small but vocal group of gamers who, over the years, have—with some encouragement from folks at Microsoft—morphed into Xbox-obsessed believers. These people rarely question the company’s actions, and fight online against “biased” journalists and other folks 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.
Xbox super fans are going through a crisis of faith
I’ve watched some of these people harass coworkers and friends over innocuous Game Pass takes, jokey Bethesda tweets, and lukewarm Xbox game reviews. They’ve emailed me, they’ve wished horrible things on my wife, and they will likely be coming for me after I publish this post. So, I can’t help but giggle as I watch the Church of Xbox and its most fervent believers rip themselves apart over the idea that Xbox might stop making consoles, become a third-party publisher, and/or fundamentally change the way Game Pass works in an effort to make more money.
“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 pointed out 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 “Fuck 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 crap, like awful fridges shaped like a console, 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.