The Psychology Of Console Loyalty And Brand Fanboyism
Posted on Sunday, September 9 @ 15:33:47 Eastern by Alex_Osborn
Undying console loyalty—or for the lack of a better term, fanboyism—has plagued the industry since its inception. In the early '90s it was the epic feud between Genesis lovers and SNES loyalists, shortly followed thereafter by Sony's entry in the gaming market, which birthed a community of PlayStation loyalists hell-bent against all in favor of the Nintendo 64 or Dreamcast. And judging by how cluttered the internet has become with ranting and raving on whether the PS3 or Xbox 360 is the superior console, not a whole lot has changed since the early days—if anything, it has only gotten worse.
So why is it that so many gamers spend hours upon hours of their lives feverishly typing day after day on message boards with the sole intention of trying to convince the internet that their favorite console is undoubtled the best place to experience all that gaming has to offer? I mean, after all, it's just a box—or as my colleague Nick Tan so eloquently put it, "a vessel"—through which we play games.
Honestly, the answer to that question is simple. It's the same reason we root for specific sports teams, wear a specific brand of clothes, or drive a certain car—it's about being a part of something. While oftentimes it unfortunately comes in the form of an incredibly inarticulate jab at a different console or a hateful spewing of words inappropriately directed at a person who disagrees, the need to defend a particular brand or console ultimately stems from our desire to be loyal to a particular group.
Let's also not forget that video game consoles aren't cheap, requiring at least an investment of several hundred dollars. Naturally, people like to feel justified in their purchase and, as such, believe it necessary to convince everyone else that they invested in the best system. It's all about verifying one's own decision and teaming up with like-minded people so that they all can remind each other that they made the right choice. Couple that with a fair dose of nostalgia and a sense of unflinching pride, and you've got yourself a fully-fledged fanboy.
So with all of that out of the way, let's first take a look at those who heavily align themselves with Sony and the PlayStation platform. Mind you, I will be generalizing from here on out for the sake of comedic effect, so please don't take offense (unless of course you accurately fit the stereotype... in which case you should be ashamed).
Today's PlayStation loyalist is one that is still living in the past, clinging to the golden era of Sony's platform which started with the PSone and ended with the PS2. This generation, Sony lost the exclusivity to two of its most iconic franchises: Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy. And while yes, the Final Fantasy franchise has severely dipped in quality over the past few years, PlayStation fanboys are of this delusional mindset that somehow the release of Versus XIII will make it all better.
Other major third-party franchises like Grand Theft Auto were once a part of Sony's arsenal of exclusives, but that is no longer the case. As the PlayStation platform has continued to lose exclusivity to so many stellar franchises, many fanboys attempt to disillusion themselves by believing that Sony's first-party lineup is just as strong as it has ever been. Aside from Uncharted (which itself is arguably overrated), the first-party titles for the PS3 have been less than stellar. Disagree with me? Just look at the sales figures. Don't get me wrong, the PlayStation 3 is a fantastic console, but those claiming it's up to snuff with the likes of the PSone and PS2 are simply fooling themselves.
Then there's the Xbox crowd, which for all intents and purposes is more difficult to pin down. Since the Xbox 360 has quickly become the third-party console of choice and the most feature-rich of the big three, it's a mainstay in most entertainment centers. That, however, doesn't mean the platform isn't without its fair share of fanboys. The worst of the bunch are the FPS-aholics that care very little about the medium itself aside from shooting stuff in the head and trash-talking people online. In addition, the Xbox platform has become a breeding ground for the casual market thanks to Kinect, but since they are by their very nature "casual", their sense of loyalty is hardly one that would often elevate to the level of fanboy. But then again, which is worse: indifference or overbearing passion? I'll let you decide.
Our friend, the infamous analyst Michael Pachter has garnered quite a bit of hate from Nintendo fans over the past several months thanks to his sweeping generalizations about this particular audience. He's made it clear that he believes Nintendo fanboys are of the mindset that nearly everything that the Big N makes is gaming gold—honestly, the man has a point. While most probably wouldn't jump off a cliff upon Miyamoto's request, many Nintendo fans have an impenetrable loyalty driven by one of the most powerful motivators: nostalgia.
Gamers will never forget the first time they played Pokémon or Zelda as a kid, and because of such fond memories, these franchises will never cease to fade in popularity despite how little they've evolved over time. As such, Nintendo fanboys play the same thing year after year with a smile on their face. They wave plastic white wands not because they enjoy it, but because Nintendo says they should. It's an epidemic for which, I'm sorry to say, there is no cure.
Ah yes, and how could I forget about the PC fanboys; the tech-savvy elitists who spend a fortune on a gaming rig just so they can brag about a cutting-edge machine that will effectively be outdated in a few months' time. For them it's not about the games or even the hardware itself—it's simply about having and being the best at a particularly moment. These gamers still swear by a keyboard and mouse, a control option that wasn't even designed for gaming in the first place. But alas, it doesn't really matter because they're so busy tweaking their hardware that they don't have a whole lot of time to play games on the thing anyway.
Did I hit a nerve? I certainly hope not... for the sake of your friends and family. In the end, it doesn't matter what gaming device you choose, as long as you are satisfied with the experience you're getting out of it. So what is the moral of the story? You don't need to justify your console of choice with the rest of the world. Just be content with your decision and stick with it. After all, no one really cares anyway.
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