Very British Gamer: Fanboy Politics

Console Wars

"A passionate fan of various elements of geek culture (e.g. sci-fi, comics, Star Wars, video games, anime, hobbits, Magic: the Gathering etc.), but who lets his passion override social graces."

-Most popular definition of a fanboy according to Urban Dictionary

I don’t have a huge problem with fanboys. I kind of see them like I see certain religious groups; they can go do their thing if they want to as long as it’s someplace away from me, but once they start forcing their loopy logic on me, I’m gonna get pissed off. Happily it’s quite easy to avoid both of these types if you want to. Still, it’s a little depressing to see a site with a cool concept like N4G and its ’social news’ become overrun by fanboys. Contrastingly, it would be pretty entertaining to see N4G teeming with religious fanatics. I’d pay to see the flame war between console fanboys and religious extremists.

I happen to think that console fanboys appear less on British gaming sites than American ones, but I suspect that could just be more of the patriotic bias this column is generating a reputation for. Anyway, if it is true, it’s probably got more to do with gaming being a much bigger deal over in the US rather than us Brits having any greater sense of decorum. That saddens me a little because I always had this idea in my head about what a refined British fanboy would be like: 

    HUGH: Stephen, my good man, are you honestly declaring Killzone 2 to be the quintessential experience for the modern-day gaming gentleman? You, sir, should get your man to send my man some of the product you’ve been smoking! Utter codswallop! 
    STEPHEN: Dear fellow, I wouldn’t expect a philistine such as you to know the difference between a majestic masterpiece like Killzone 2 and your homely wife’s misshapen rump. 
    HUGH: How dare you, sir! I’ll have you know that Jennifer’s bottom is…

    Enter Charles, his brow free of the furrows found on those of his peers. He sits in front of the television and picks up a nearby Wiimote.

    HUGH: Charlie… what are you doing? 
    CHARLES: Oh, just playing this splendid Boom Blox game. Care to join me, chaps? 
    HUGH: (after a pause) I despise you, Charles.

That’s the strange thing about fanboys: no matter how loud they shout and how many toys they throw out of the pram, nothing’s really going to change in the console wars. Yet they still do it! Surely they must know that the Wii is completely out of reach, and that the masses buying it aren’t going to stop doing so because of some vitriolic post on NeoGAF declaring them to not be ’proper gamers.’ It’s also obvious that no matter how many Japanese RPGs it throws at the market, the 360’s fate in the Land of the Rising Sun is pretty damn solidified. Similarly, outside of the Wii, the US has thrown home support behind Microsoft and it’s going to take a minor miracle for the PS3 to claw back the almighty deficit over there. Maybe the fanboys should start focusing on the one neutral party in all of this that really matters – me. Well, me and the rest of my European brethren.

If they did, they’d see that console sales over here have been quietly interesting over the last few months, at least if the estimated figures supplied by VGChartz are to be believed. Since the site rudely separates sales into regions of Japan, America and Other (please), it took a bit of mathematical Excel skills to work out the European figures. Eventually I was able to draw out some stimulating numbers:

Total European hardware sales for week ending 10th January 2009

Europe:   15.11m Wiis sold, 8.44m Xbox 360s sold and 7.99m PS3s sold 
United Kingdom:  5.11m Wiis sold, 3.29m Xbox 360s sold and 1.92m PS3s sold 
Rest of Europe:  10m Wiis sold, 5.15m Xbox 360s sold, 6.07m PS3s sold

As I’ve stated before in the column, the UK goes against the rest of Europe when it comes to console sales… and everything else, actually. We just don’t get along with Europe. I think it’s a hostility created out of phantom empire syndrome. Anyway, the figures show that if it wasn’t for the UK, the PS3 would be leading the 360 by nearly a million consoles sold. Hang on… didn’t Sony make a big brouhaha back in May of last year about how the PS3 had ovetaken the Xbox 360 in Europe?  Well, according to the VGChartz figures, they aren’t leading anymore. When did this all happen?

Total European hardware sales for week ending 13th September 2008 
10.65m Wiis sold, 5.95m Xbox 360s sold and 6.23m PS3s sold

So the PS3 was still leading by September. The following week Microsoft announced a further price cut for the Xbox 360 in Europe. Well, that explains it then. The bargainous value of the 360 has swung sales back in its favour, which is substantially unsurprising considering the old ‘economic downturn’ we’re going through. Pretty standard stuff, frankly. For the sake of interest, let’s look at it from another angle:

Total European hardware sales for week ending 1st November 2008 
11.68m Wiis sold, 6.55m Xbox 360s sold and 6.73m PS3s sold

Just under two months later and the 360 hasn’t yet caught up the PS3. Four days later, Barack Obama wins the US presidential election. All of a sudden America’s popular again with the rest of the world. The figures clearly show that this swayed worldwide perception of America to such a positive end that it pushed sales of the Microsoft Xbox 360 ahead of the PS3 in Europe. OK, it’s complete BS, but it’s not that far from the BS the console manufacturers spin on their own sales news. I think it’s just as valid for Kaz Hirai to say everything’s dandy at Sony’s HQ as it is for me to spout this garbage, especially so appropriately on the day of the new president’s inauguration. So, with my argument cemented, I’ll quietly wait for the inevitable Kotaku headline:

"Obama wins European console wars for Microsoft: Europe’s just a bunch of political fanboys."

PS: Immediately after finishing up this article I got an e-mail from Amazon that began: “Dear PLAYSTATION 3 Fan”. Stupid irony.

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