Why do Gamers have Platform Bias?


Matt wisely commented on my last post:

I hate all the smack talk between systems. No one is ever right.

Who gives a flying $hit if Microsoft or Sony win?

As pure consumers of video games, Matt is absolutely right. There is no reason to cheer on one company vs. another. No movie watchers cheer one movie publisher vs another, why would video gamers act differently?

But, of course, gamers do develop strong allegiances towards one platform vs another, even when they have plenty of money to comfortably buy all the systems and games that they want.

Why?

Video games operate in the world of vying technology platforms and standards and in that world there are a few important phenomena to be aware of:

“Positive Feedback Loop” and “Winner-Takes-All”

Positive Feedback Loop: If technology A is successful, that success leads to money and and industry excitement which lead to the technology becoming even more successful. If technology B is more successful than A, it gets more money to reinvest and gets more of the industry’s excitement which generally lead to more growth and a widening of it’s lead over A.

Winner Takes All: Generally, for one particular type of technology, a single competitor pulls ahead and becomes the dominant standard and everyone is expected to conform and adopt the dominant technology, whether they want to or not. This naturally leads to much bitterness and resentment as people are forced to conform to technologies that they didn’t chose and often do not like.

The above two effects give people strong incentive to cheer the products and companies related to the products that they love and root against products and companies with related to competing products that they resent and want to see held in check.

Other People’s Bias

A third factor is other people’s biases. We hear a lot from our friends, families, professors, bosses at work, and from the media that we consume, that we often hear quite a bit of other people’s biases. We often grow to resent those biases develop a natural reaction to head in the exact opposite direction of the original bias.

Bottom Line

People have very natural reasons for developing this type of bias, but it isn’t generally productive, particularly for a basic leisure activity. Your personal behaviors as an individual are generally too small to cause any significant effects and your interests as a consumer are best served by being politically neutral.

Of course, I’m guilty myself from time to time, but no one is perfect.


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Blackstaffer on January 13th, 2010

    Because it DOES matter. The platform leader gets more attention, investment, and more software.

  2. #2 by I am Legend on January 13th, 2010

    Its because they only have that one particular console, so they only play the games for that console whether is 1st or 3rd party. Thats fine but dont bash the other console because u dont know the pros and cons for it because u dont have it. They both are amazing consoles both with pros and cons. I dont have either but me personally ill be purchasing am xbox 360 pretty soon. Nothin against ps3 its jus xbox offers what i want. Thats jus MY choice and in a sense it does matter because on paper ps3 should kill the 360 in every way but developers mostly 3rd party dont take the time to make the ps3 version of the gae the same or even better as the 360 version. So i completly see why ps3 gamers get so ticked off when they have an half ass game. As an up comin 360 buyer im really jealous because ps3 has the game oof the year in Uncharted 2. Bottom line is stop complaining, go out and buy both systems so you’ll have the best of both worlds if not shut up and be happy with the console of your choice.

  3. #3 by JimmyStewart on January 13th, 2010 [ 710 Points ]

    Yay! This is my most common comment at this site.

    I’m not sure about the winner take all idea. I think the idea of anyone conforming is a bit of a stretch in the first place. I mean there is no real underdog here, we’re talking about too super behemoths here, both could argue have had a stranglehold on the console market. And the idea of a resentment about conforming to technology seems a bit like a conspiracy theory. Most of the most common requests for upcoming PS3 firmwares are littered with XBox Live features. And a lot of the 360s features (like Avatars and the upcoming game room) came at least in part from the PS3. I really don’t think anyone is complaining about being “forced” to get more features.

    My wife recently did a paper for her college Psych course on cognitive dissonance. I think that’s more likely what’s going on here. To paraphrase it horribly, it’s the idea that we all have a blank slate when we make decisions in our life. At some point we make a decision. When we find conflicting evidence that suggests our decision might be wrong our brain becomes very uncomfortable. At this point it’s easier for our brains to stop looking at the issue logically and instead react negatively towards the differing opinion. A good example of this was a recent study of people who supported the Iraq war. They were asked if they believed Saddam had WMDs. When they responded yes, they were given the factual information behind the US invasion and the complete lack of any WMDs. They were then again asked if they believed Saddam had WMDs. The study found that when presented with the contrary evidence most of the people would become even more insistent that they were correct. They would essentially block out or warp the evidence to make it fit their own personal views. This is VERY common in politics, and near as I can figure it’s the same exact same thing here. As a consumer these people have made a choice, and when you present them with the idea that the competition is superior in anyway it conflicts. This affects people to different degrees, some people can still look at a situation with an open mind and some people become… well fanboys.

    “We often grow to resent those biases develop a natural reaction to head in the exact opposite direction of the original bias.”

    This is exactly the position I often seem to be in when I visit here. Constantly hearing how terrible the 360 is puts me in a state of mind where I’ll be a lot more defensive for the 360. Where as among most of my friends who are heavily invested in the 360 I end up being the PS3 defender. It’s less about resentment for me and more about a simple hope that by presenting a valid counter argument more people will step beyond their own bias and open their eyes to the reality we all share. Not just when it comes to consoles, but I believe if people took more time to reconsider outside opinions the world in general would be a better place. (gets off soapbox)

    I’ve said it many times on this site and I’ll say it again. It’s about the GAMES people, not the company branded on the box that plays them. To carry off of the quote from Matt, if either Sony or MS ever does win we ALL lose.

  4. #4 by JimmyStewart on January 13th, 2010 [ 710 Points ]

    Oh and I should add, props for posting this and I agree with the point head on.

  5. #5 by I am Legend on January 13th, 2010

    Yes JimmyStewart ur correct. Its all about GAMES people. I dont care which console is more powerful under the hood than the other. I just want to play great games. Now once again i can understand why ps3 owners get so pissed off but the complaining isnt gonna make it go away just like that. Playin games is the purpose of a console ok folks. Not bashin each other. There both grat systems.

  6. #6 by Smegmazor on January 13th, 2010

    Hey Jimmy, excellent post.

  7. #7 by ChristopherPoole on January 13th, 2010

    I think it’s simple.

    People invest a lot of their money into games consoles and they want to be assured they made the right choice.

    It’s the same as Mac v PC. People call macs ‘expensive’. Does that mean if you had infinite money you’d buy a mac? Maybe. I prefer Macs but I don’t give a damn if you use a PC, how does it change my experience of my own computer? I prefer PlayStation because in my eyes the games are so much cooler (WipEout series, GT 4) and it allows more arty/experimental games like Noby Noby boy etc. But if someone likes Halo, why should I care?

  8. #8 by I am Legend on January 13th, 2010

    Nice post Chris, consoles are exspensive even to be $299. So if i gonna spend all this money on a system then it better be the one ya know. Um so i guess ppl who invest in one console are gonna praise it for being better than the other. Yeah it may be dumb because they havent played the other but then again its there opinion. Like i said b4 me ill be buyin an 360 because of the games and the online play. Nuttin wrong wit ps3 but 360 has want i want.

  9. #9 by GamesOgre.net on January 13th, 2010

    Let me solve this once and for all… Dreamcast wins!

  10. #10 by matt on January 13th, 2010

    Never thought Darrin would do a story from my post, awesome!

    I like this site a lot. Without people who are really excited about games I haven’t heard of, they would never reach my radar. I read a handful of gaming sites but they don’t always push the unknowns.

    I do understand sales numbers are important. Whichever system you prefer needs to sell well to be a viable part of the gaming industry. Comparisons do need to be made between the 2 major systems as they have a direct impact on the other systems future plans.

    I don’t know if this will change anything, but I hope so. If you have the means, grab both systems. There a plenty of games that are well worth owning on both systems. Without a doubt everyone has a preference for one system over the other. For me, the controller is the major reason I prefer the 360. Sounds dumb, but that really is the reason I go 360 if the option is there.

    That said, playing Final Fantasy with a 360 controller would just be wrong. I have played the series on a PS system for way to long to give that up.

    Great post Jimmy. I too find myself defending both systems. I am close to turning some 360 owners into PS3 owners as well. Not for the big games, but for MLB of all games. The others just help make my case! I only know one person who only owns a PS3 and he is not a big enough gamer to go both systems.

    We will always have fanboys, I try to not let them bother me. They really don’t know what they are missing out on (if the other system has games to offer their taste).

  11. #11 by Trieloth on January 13th, 2010 [ 3426 Points ]

    Iam not surprized to see JimmyStewart in this section. He rarely/never post anything other than to defend the xbox. But come on people this bias happens with everything. I work on cars and hear bias all the time, Ford vs Chevy vs Dodge vs Imports vs etc. It does get old but its been going on for centuries and nothing will stop it.

  12. #12 by Kicks on January 13th, 2010 [ 559 Points ]

    Good points Jimmy
    The fanboys are usually quite vocal because they’re trying to defend where they’ve invested the most money. I try to never bash the 360 even though I’ve moved fully to the PS3 because in truth the 360 did a lot of things well. Had it not been for the live fees, several failed units, Uncharted, and having a 2.5% paycut at work (all State employees suffered through this) I may have kept my 360.

    I do miss playing with the friends I met on the 360, but it all came down to game versus subscription. The 360 just doesn’t work well when used solely for single player games. It wasn’t designed or intended to be that way. Microsoft made a great service. Still waiting to see where they go with the whole live anywhere thing goes as it could be something that rivals remote play.

    When someone asks me which system is better I usually respond with “They’re both good for different reasons” and then back up each systems with points/counter-points. I can sell either system

  13. #13 by Mike on January 13th, 2010

    I am not a fan of any one particular company. I have had a 360 longer than I have had a PS3, and as such, have more 360 games. For me it is a matter of recognizing what works. I play a game like Modern Warfare 2 on 360 because I like the controller better for that game. I play Batman Arkham Asylum on PS3 because the face buttons and R1/L1 buttons on the Dual Shock 3 are better suited to it (playing Devil May Cry 4 on 360 is painful).

    I’d more likely play Bad Company 2 on 360, but if I ever play Final Fantasy XII it will absolutely be for PS3. I could see someone sticking to a particular platform for third party games if they have built up a sizeable friends list, or conversely, don’t care enough about online gaming to pay a subscription fee for it. I am buying all my 3D fighters on 360 because I have an arcade stick for that system, and there are people on my friends list that I can download Ghost data from whenever I want.

    All I “root” for is the continued success of the top tier third party developers (Rockstar, Infinity Ward, etc) making games for 360 and PS3. The combined userbase among the two is saving us from a tide of awful looking, awful controlling Wii games. I don’t engage in any bickering between PlayStation and Xbox fans because right now they are really both on the same side of keeping gaming from turning into sheer stupidity.

  14. #14 by JimmyMagnum on January 13th, 2010 [ 83111 Points ]

    I agree with JS on this one, but I still have a preference for the PS3, due to experiences I had with the 360 (I still own it, but I hadn’t even touched it since November). When it comes to games, IMO, the PS3 takes the cake with it’s exclusive lineup. The only game I’m wanting to play on MS’s side is Mass Effect 2, the others are meh (though, I still want Forza 3). Even that, though, isn’t a true exclusive since I can get it on the PC as well. I also like what Mike said here:

    The combined userbase among the two is saving us from a tide of awful looking, awful controlling Wii games. I don’t engage in any bickering between PlayStation and Xbox fans because right now they are really both on the same side of keeping gaming from turning into sheer stupidity.

    If there’s any one company ruining it for real gamers, it’s Nintendo.

  15. #15 by LordCancer on January 13th, 2010

    its called envy… asking the question is so cliche. you have a bigger house then me. you have a nicer car then me. you have a prettier women then me. you have an exclusive game i can’t have, etc etc etc.
    its a tale as old as time and I’m with kane on this one, bash there skull in.

  16. #16 by LevelHead on January 13th, 2010

    Personally I think it’s all pretty sad. I read forums all the time and some posters (like David MacPhail and his pro-Sony stance) will actually go out of their way to discredit competing consoles. Why? How does enjoying Mario Galaxy on the Wii or Forza 3 on the Xbox 360 or Uncharted 2 on the PS3 have such a negative impact on people who will troll forums on a daily basis? Whatever happened to just enjoying the games and not being so focused on the company who’s platform it’s on?

    Sony makes a game console, developers support it and people can enjoy them. Same with Nintendo and Microsoft. It’s just a platform for game makers to create games on. Bungie could make a great game on the PS3. Naughty Dog could make a good game on the Xbox 360. Polyphony Digital could make a good game on the Wii. So why do so many act like 12 year old cheerleaders with an I.Q. of 20?

  17. #17 by JimmyStewart on January 14th, 2010 [ 710 Points ]

    Wow, thanks for all the kind words guys! I was worried to check back in today to see if my post even garnered any responses. It means a lot to see the support. As I said it’s an issue that’s near and dear to my heart. For me the issue at heart isn’t about gaming, it’s about getting people to stop thinking reactionally and to start thinking with an open mind. It’s something that clouds so many issues, not just consoles. Religion and politics are the two I’m most concerned with. I know ultimately a lot of people will probably hear me and assume all I’m doing is defending the “other guy”, but my hope is that even one person takes the time to step back and re-evaluate the way they see things.

    If anyone is interested there’s a great short episode of RadioLab where Harvard professor Josh Greene “argues that to deal with those problems, we’re going to have to learn how to make better use of that tiny part of our brain that handles abstract thinking.”

    http://blogs.wnyc.org/radiolab/2009/11/16/killing-babies-saving-the-world/

    It gave me something to think about, and hopefully someone else will enjoy the ideas. Thinking abstractly could be the next big push we need.

  18. #18 by David Macphail on January 14th, 2010

    How nice of Levelhead to show up here and blow off his pro – Microsoft garbage. You know…….i wasn’t going to even comment on this post but seeing as how you, for whatever reason, called me out i guess i’m going to say that you sir are one cowardly hypocrite. You call me a troll for commenting on forums, what the hell are you doing RIGHT NOW???

    Not only are you making a complete assclown out of yourself but you’re so cowardly you have to try and personally attack me when you think i’m not around.

    Next time you want to act like a spoiled child why don’t you hit that big red X on the top right – hand corner of your browser and do us all a favour? Also……….stop acting like a little ***** talking trash about people when you think they won’t find you, retard.

  19. #19 by Tosh on January 14th, 2010 [ 1102 Points ]

    Now, now. Let’s stop with the name calling please.

  20. #20 by I am Legend on January 14th, 2010

    Good shit David, i agree with u 100%

  21. #21 by Joak1m on January 15th, 2010

    It’s maybe not good to say that one console is better than the other just because you havet or so.. Both consoles have their own exclusives so if you like one of them you buy that console with it. But I still think it is a good thing with the competition. Than the bth consoles will try to get most audiences. And that only mean one thing, Better consoles on both sides

  22. #22 by Darrin on January 15th, 2010 [ 17143 Points ]

    Blackstaffer, the overall winner matters, but a single individual’s behavior is generally too small to matter by itself.

    Jimmy, when I was talking about people being forced to conform, I was thinking of Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Windows, and also programming tools. Most programmers are frequently forced to use tool A, when they personally really want to use tool B.

    Cognitive dissonance or self-deceiving bias definitely applies though. Good point.

    “People invest a lot of their money into games consoles and they want to be assured they made the right choice.”

    I think it’s usually more emotion than money. Tons of people are passionate about a favorite sports team and even though it doesn’t cost a dime to switch favorite teams, they stick by their brand.

    I also know wealthy gamers, who have strong brand preferences, and don’t buy competing consoles, even though money isn’t an issue.


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