UPDATE: Microsoft has apologised for the wording in this ad and is currently taking steps to change it. The company sent the following statement to Eurogamer:
“The letter is fully customisable and we meant no offense, but understand how the defaults could be perceived. We're making changes to the letter defaults and apologise for the oversight.”
ORIGINAL STORY: Microsoft has created the most insanely sexist ad for the Xbox One after presumably binge-watching Mad Men and missing the point entirely.
Or at least that's the only explanation I can come up with for its comically regressive US web-based ad for Xbox One that assumes its audience is full of males attached to sneering harpies who like to knit, love fitness, and hate video games.
The ad in question suggests that men want an Xbox One, but their female significant other will chide them for it. To counter this oppressive, domestic force, Microsoft has written a letter to your stereotypical shrew explaining the benefits of Xbox One to women who never lived past 1912.
"You're about as excited as a puppy with a new chew toy to get your very own, but there's a little snag. Someone in your life hasn't heard about the new generation in games and entertainment. Don't worry. We got your back," the ad begins. "Simply make your case and fill in the blanks below. With your explanation (and a little sucking up), they're bound to agree Xbox One will be a great addition to both your lives."
The ad then presents a pandering letter to the domineering party suggesting reasons they'll want an Xbox One too. Now certain words are highlighted green and can be changed based on a selections of other words ("slay zombies" can be switched to "race cars" or "get sweaty", for example), so users can tailor it to their specific scenario. However, the default letter reads as follows:
While many of the prompts are replaceable and no specific sexes are named, the ad is clearly playing off the ancient stereotype that men love video games and women hate fun.
Reaction on Twitter has been unpleasant to say the least. Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell initially responded with a flabbergasted "oh.. oh dear," followed by a "I get that it's defaults, but defaults are important to the discussion" when others argued that you could swap certain words. The Drowning developer Ben Cousins chimed in with an "OMG is this the real world?"
We're currently following up with Microsoft on the accusations of it being sexist.
While the concept of trying to appeal to the non-gamer is valid with Xbox One's bout of extra features, there's got to be a better way to explain the console's fringe benefits to a non-gamer. It's hard to think of a worse one anyway.