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What’s wrong with Microsoft?

By Shamus
on Wednesday Feb 7, 2007
Filed under:


Problem: People in Asia don’t want to buy the XBox 360.

Solution: Launch an ad campaign asking these potential customers, “What’s Wrong With U?”

Even in English, this comes off about as well as, “Dear Jerk, why won’t you be my friend?” Even if this really is the tone they want to take, the phrase itself is a horrible idea. It’s a mildly insulting figure of speech between English speakers, but how is it going to sound in Japanese, Cantonese, or (I’m guessing here) Korean? It will come out something like “What defect do you have? or “What is the difficulty that you are experiencing?” Not exactly catchy. Maybe they need a jingle to go with it.

PC users know this won’t work, because Mac users* have been using this one on us for years to no avail.

To be fair, I’m almost as curious as MS as to why they aren’t buying the 360. Is it price? Is it just too soon for another console? Lack of titles available in their own language? Is it the Wii? I’d like to know as well, but I bet I could come up with a smarter way of finding out. In fact, this ad campaign seems to be an attempt to solve the problem without needing to address it. “Whatever the reason you don’t want our stuff, just get over it and buy a 360 already.”

* I’m not prejudiced, “some of my best friends are Mac users”!

Comments (19)

  1. Alex says:

    Maybe they hired the same ad agency that was responsible for the “guerilla advertising” incident in Boston…

  2. Adam says:

    >PC users know this won't work, because Mac users* have been using this one on us for years to no avail.

    True, but even for Macs the air of superiority actually fits. Quiet arrogance is almost a feature of using a Mac. *grin*

    When Microsoft does it with the 360 vs. Playstation, it sounds like… well, it sounds like Bill Gates getting up on stage and trying to be Steve Jobs.

    >To be fair, I'm almost as curious as MS as to why they aren't buying the 360. Is it price? Is it just too soon for another console? Lack of titles available in their own language? Is it the Wii?

    The Playstation dominates the Japanese market. As pathetic as the launch of the PS3 was, the best-selling console over the holiday season was the PS2.

    As for why, that’s a bit more complicated, but I can make a few guesses. First, there’s “because it does,” i.e. the recursive case. Everyone buys one because everyone else owns one. Japan’s culture is a prime location for that kind of thinking. However, you could just as well argue that it’s because the 360 in no way targets the Japanese market. The Japanese have game genres that most Americans haven’t even heard of. Plus, they’re even more attached to their series than we are; FFXII sold twice as many copies in Japan as it did in the US.

    Or maybe it’s as simple as saying, “Japan doesn’t want to play Halo.” :P

  3. Adam says:


    >True, but even for Macs…

    “even” here should be “at least.” Contrast, not comparison.

  4. Deoxy says:

    This does sem particularly tone-deaf for Microsoft, both because of the history of their largest competitor and beecause, rally, their only “core competency” is marketing and business – their products are seldom the best at anything save name recognition and number of people who have them installed.

    But hey, more stupidity to them. I haven’t bought an xbox or an xbox360, and I’m not about to start… I simply don’t trust them not to find a way to try to use the money I’ve spent to leverage me into something I don’t want, not to screw me somehow.

    Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me 37 times…

  5. hank says:

    Hi. My name is Hank, and I am a video-game junkie.

    (Hi Hank.)

    Every so often you hear someone talk about how many years of a person’s life are spent sleeping, or in the bathroom, or watching tv. For me, gaming probably fits in somewhere between sleeping and bathroom breaks, and television isn’t even on the map (I think ‘Twin Peaks’ was the last show I watched regularly, and it has been about a decade since we decided that even the Discovery, History, and Learning Channels couldn’t redeem the advertisement-strewn minefield cable has become).

    Cramming for finals in college I was more likely to take a gaming break than a nap to refresh myself. And once in the workforce, a couple of rounds of online Quake would often relieve the stress of the day. (I did ask members of the opposing team to name themselves after my managers, feeling that going virtually postal was preferable – if only in the long term – to doing so in reality.)

    But the last console I owned was the original Nintendo. There hasn’t been a single time I’ve even considered buying one of the newer consoles. The price-benefit analysis doesn’t favor buying a machine purpose-built for playing games on a television when I’ve already got a very expensive computer that does quite well with the games available for PC. And games have become so dreadful lately that locking in to a platform that restricts updates or user-made addons or ANYTHING that might improve the tripe they are releasing nowadays seems like a bad investment to me (KOTOR2, Oblivion, NWN2, Gothic3 stand out in recent memory).

    The console companies seem, to me, to be relying more on modifying the status quo through marketing than they do on presenting us with a quality product. And prehaps (since you brought it up) this isn’t such a bad idea, since itis the same gameplan that has been so successful with the Mac people, who have drank the KoolAid and truly seem to believe that their purchasing decisions reflect some higher truth about who or what they are. This is evidence of absolute brilliance on the part of Apple’s marketing department, whatever you think of the output of their engineering department. Microsoft’s marketing department, not so much.

    But, I am happy to say, it doesn’t work on me. Whatever’s wrong with me, I hope it stays that way.

  6. Pete Zaitcev says:

    It may come as a surprise to you, but in many technical forums, using “u” is not a sign of a pimple-faced teenager who never used FTP, but clue that the other party is an engineer in Bangalore. It’s uncanny how well that works. That, and “doubt”: “i am having a doubt”, “please explain me my doubt”, “i meet the following doubt”. Perhaps, the English with “U” is something sensible and comfortable to the target audiences.

  7. Vegedus says:

    The reason why the Japan isn’t buying it? I find it fairly obvious:

    It is made in America, not Japan.
    At first, one might stop and think “Bullocks, that’s not a valid point!”, but when thinking about it, isn’t it kinda funny that the xbox360 is one of the only succesfull non-japanese-made consoles? I’m not completely secure in console history, but since the NES, almost all “real” consoles have been from Japan. It doesn’t exactly prove it, but it makes it a reasonable thought that the japanese maybe like sticking to “their own” products. I could be wrong though.

    It also lacks games that appeal to the japanese.
    For whatever reason (maybe because of my first point?) there aren’t being developed a lot of games by japanese developers for the japanese people and from previous blogs and comments, we should know that the west is simply incapable of mimicking their style. Microsoft has tried by bribing companies like… Uh, the guys making Blue Dragon into making games for them, but as long as it is only forced attempts and those games aren’t able to “pop up” on their own, it will never have an competetive force in that area. It is the same reason I ain’t buyin an Xbox360. Personally I believe that, in the end, all consoles float or sink because of their games. *looks at PS3 price tag*… Maybe not.
    The Xbox360 is, essentially, meant for westerners/USA. Shooters and sports game is what it releases most of, 2 obscure genres in Japan. And not just any sportsgames either. Madden, for one. What Americans call football, is American Football by European standard, which gives a pretty idea of how localized it is. I doubt Ice-hockey is pretty big in Japan either, but I’m no sports freak. Tennis though, seems to be pretty popular, or maybe it’s just Prince of Tennis…

  8. Vegedus says:

    Oh, yeah, sorry about double posting (krave edit button!), but forgot this: http://www.godmodeonline.com/d/20061201.html
    ’nuff said.

  9. Rebecca says:

    I think maybe they intended the title to be interpreted as a question the user might ask Microsoft?

    I guess that makes no more sense.

  10. Telas says:

    I just bought a Wii. Love the gameplay, hate the artwork. I had to buy a bundle with it, and ended up with Marvel Superheroes something-or-other. Somehow, they managed to make Thor look like Brad Pitt with big arms and a massive hammer the size of his torso. And no cape. My wife’s a physical therapist, so I buy her Trauma Center… again, all the characters look like they dropped out of Sailor Moon and donned scrubs. (My paranoid side asks: Do we look like that to the Japanese? What are they trying to say?)

    OTOH, I have an Xbox, and a fair number of games for it. The artwork (for the most part) is very Western, i.e. super-sized realistic.

    I think Vegedus has a good point as well. The Japanese are a little xenophobic. Not like burning-crosses or anything, but if you have a tattoo and ever visit a bathhouse in Japan, you’ll have your own tub.


  11. Andrew F. says:

    Actually, none of the pages on that site are in Japanese. From left to right the buttons say Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea.

  12. Will says:

    “I think Vegedus has a good point as well. The Japanese are a little xenophobic. Not like burning-crosses or anything, but if you have a tattoo and ever visit a bathhouse in Japan, you'll have your own tub.”

    That’s nothing to do with xenophobia. Tattoos are still heavily associated with Yakuza.

    The Japanese can be very picky about what toggles their xenophile/xenophobe switch. They can be fiercely nationalist about their technology. They love foreign cultural products like music and movies, but they despise foreign hardware of all sorts as inferior to their own. If there were a purely Japanese alternative to either the MS or Apple operating systems, you can bet they’d snatch it up in a heartbeat without ever looking back.

  13. Huckleberry says:

    I just looked at the website, and I really wondered whether it could be a hoax. I did a quick whois search, and it’s registered by http://www.e-crusade.com, a somewhat strange, hongkong based internet marketing company. I’m still not convinced…

  14. Ruana says:

    Quite right! I recall back in 2000, when it became obvious that the Millennium Dome wasn’t attracting anything like the predicted visitor numbers, someone had the bright idea of an ad campaign that portrayed the stay-awayers as dolts who refused to try anything new. The worst one was a guy in a sheepskin jacket, carrying on about why he wasn’t going to visit the Dome. His voice trailed off into bleating (And was that actually intended to echo “1984”, I wonder? I suspect not – the makers didn’t seem to be capable of that kind of subtlety.) and the camera pulled back to reveal a fieldful of people, all bleating.

    My only response was a hearty, “Screw you!” – and, to judge from the speed with which the ads disappeared, I wasn’t the only one.

  15. Teague says:

    Well, all I can say is that I’m sure MS spent some serious bucks getting a company that would know how to appeal to their target market to come up with the ad. And I don’t think anyone who actually comes from the cultures in question has chimed in with their reactions yet, so I’ll wait to hear from a few of them before deciding it makes no sense….

  16. Teague says:

    Oh, and it can’t be that much more ill-conceived than the U.S. Army’s previous “Army of One” ad campaign. As someone who was all he could be, (and would be proud to be Army Strong, if the body was still willing) I was almost, but not quite, entirely embarrassed by that one.

  17. Telas says:

    Oh, and it can't be that much more ill-conceived than the U.S. Army's previous “Army of One” ad campaign.

    I was in the Army when that one came out. Everyone hated it, because the Army’s not about being an individual; it’s about teamwork. You rely on your buddies, and they rely on you.

    The Drill Sergeants were the best with it. Some trainee wanders off alone and does something stupid (there is no underestimating the intelligence of a Basic trainee), and the Drills are all over him. “You think this is an Amy of One? You believe everything you see on TV?” The combination of ass-chewing and realization that it’s not an Army of One made for priceless expressions.

  18. Steve says:

    [Mac users have been using this one on us for years] Not just the users. Jobs’s advertising has also been, at times, screamingly funny if you paid attention.

    Anyone remember the “I got sick of having to install new circuit boards when I needed a new printer on my PC so I switched to a Mac” campaign? Or the “I couldn’t figure out how to write a letter on a PC so I switched to a Mac” one? What was this but a “Buy a Mac because you are too stupid to be let out alone” campaign?

    Funny thing about some Mac owners, they are evangelistic right up until you start playing their game. My brother-in-law owns a Mac G3. We bought him a digital camera, the software for which was stated to be suitable for windows 200/XP (only) and Mac. Well, long story short, the bloody software would not work on the “easier than air” Mac, so I posted on an evangelical pro-OSX site asking for advice on upgrading the OS.

    Boy, you could hardly hear yourself think for the screeching of people reversing their positions. The advice I got boiled down to “don’t do it: you’ll need to spend far too much time tuning it and it will never run well”. I’ve built Windows, Unix and Mainframe OS’s for a living in my time, but my brother-in-law thinks that his computer is a “toaster” and bought an Apple because they “always work”. The solution I was looking for was the one that got the camera software working and had the Mac “just working right” and me never having to touch it again, just like the Mac people claim.

    So I went to the Apple online store to research upgrades within the OS9 set (since OSX was beyond the G3’s capabilities). Funny how no-one ever talks about the “hover too long over a desktop icon and the system will hang” problem that afflicted certain relaeses of OS9. Enough people were angry about it on the Apple forums, but I was a little surprised that such a howler wasn’t at least as well known as the BSOD (which I haven’t seen in years of using XP and Win2000). I guess Mac owners are like Jeep owners: while they own one it is best thing since sliced bread, but ask again after they’ve traded it in…

    I should mention that I am also a former jeep owner. :o)

    I admit that I am amazed that MS would approve such a confrontational ad campaign. They are usually so savvy about that. After all, they sold Win95 to a PC-resistant community by masterful marketing. Maybe the campaign was viral marketing authored by Nintendo? :o)


  19. Deoxy says:

    Yeah, “Army of One” was undenialbly the dumbest PR campaign in Army history. I was going to say US history, but many private fforts have certainly surpassed it (“Nothing sucks like Electrolux.”).

    “This is evidence of absolute brilliance on the part of Apple's marketing department…” which is why Apple dominates the market? Uh, hello… th point about bringing up Apple is that the whole “what’s wrong with you” “we are inherently superior” method doesn’t work AT ALL. You change the fw hardcorer types into religious cult nuts about your product, and everybody stays away from your product as if it wre a cult… which it basically, then, is.

    The reason this seems so weird coming from Microsofy is because THEY are the ones who are usually dominating, marketing wise. It’s their primary skill (making good software is most certainly not).

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