Microsoft apologises for 'sexist' Xbox One ad, takes it down

Here we go again: Microsoft has apologised, and taken down a promo for the Xbox One that was criticised as sexist.

Joe Svetlik Reporter
Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.
Joe Svetlik
2 min read

Here's another calamity from Microsoft's marketing team. To publicise its Xbox One console, Microsoft launched a promo that took the form of a letter for men to give to their significant others. The promo was titled "We got your back", and was supposed to help men persuade their wives and girlfriends to allow the console into the house.

Anyone viewing the letter could edit certain phrases as they saw fit. But the default phrases Microsoft chose were decried as sexist. Microsoft has issued an apology and taken the promo down.

But not before TechCrunch nabbed a screengrab of it. With the default phrases, the letter starts: "Hey honey, not sure if you've heard, but Xbox One is now available. That means we can start playing games like Dead Rising 3. I know, I know. You'd rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this. Xbox One is actually for both of us. Seriously."

Unsurprisingly, some people saw this as patronising. It led to a revival of the hashtag #1ReasonWhy, which was used by female developers to highlight sexism in the games industry.

Microsoft made changes to the promo -- swapping "knit" for "do your taxes early", for example -- and then pulled it altogether. Now the link for it just redirects to the Xbox One home page.

Microsoft apologised for the promo. "The letter is customisable and we meant no offence, but understand how the defaults could be perceived," a Microsoft spokesperson told CVG. "We're making changes to the letter defaults and apologise for the oversight."

Microsoft was also criticised for hiring KSI -- a YouTube star whose misogynistic behaviour has seen him banned from other gaming events -- to perform at the Xbox One launch. Microsoft has since said it won't be working with KSI again.

It's not the first marketing faux pas by Microsoft. In the past it's had to apologise for hiding juvenile phrases in code, and it held a burlesque party to show off its Windows Phone operating system. And then there was that song and dance routine.

Stunts like this just reinforce the view that gaming is mostly for men. I thought Microsoft wanted to do away with that rather blinkered view. It's positioned the Xbox One as taking care of all your media needs, be it movies, TV, music or games. I'm sure no offence was meant, and with the KSI hire I'm sure someone just didn't do their research. But it's a rather big slip-up whichever way you look at it.

What do you reckon? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

Updated to acknowledge KSI is indeed a shouty YouTube star, not a rapper, though he performed with rapper Sway at the Microsoft event.