Knit that, Microsoft: computer giant makes advertising gaffe – Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 28 November

Knit that, Microsoft: computer giant makes advertising gaffe

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 28 November

Photograph: iStock

By Richard Vaughan

Computer giant Microsoft was forced to apologise yesterday for an advertising campaign for its new games console that was widely criticised as being sexist.

The furore centres around an online advertisement for the new Xbox One, which was released earlier this month and is expected to be one of the must-have gadgets this Christmas.

The advert in question took the form of a letter and cast women in the role of domineering types who would "rather knit" than watch their other halves play computer games. The idea was for men to customise the letter and use it to plead with their partners to let them buy the Xbox One this Christmas.

The letter reads: "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."

It goes on to list services that the Xbox provides that might convince women to allow men to buy the machine, such as keep-fit features and Skype so they can keep in touch with their sister.

But the advert was received badly and came in for some significant criticism online, not least because many female game-players felt excluded by it. The rise of the female gamer has been well documented around the world. According to the 2013 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry report published by the US' Entertainment Software Association, 45 per cent of all American gamers and 46 per cent of the most frequent purchasers of games are female.

The setback could prove costly as the console is currently battling it out with Sony's PlayStation 4 to be the number one games console this Christmas.

Indeed, Microsoft was forced to backtrack into an apology, in which it put the use of certain words such as knit down to an "oversight". "The letter is fully customisable and we meant no offence, but understand how the defaults could be perceived," an Xbox spokesperson said via a statement.

"We're making changes to the letter defaults and apologise for the oversight."


1. Despite almost half of gamers identifying as female, lots of video game adverts target men. Why might this be?
2. What other examples of gendered advertising can you think of? Do they work?
3. Can you think of any other methods commonly used to advertise different types of products?
4. Many people believe that pressure to conform to traditional gender roles is damaging to people of all genders. What steps can we take to solve this situation?

Related resources

Is gaming good for you?

  • Use the articles in this resource to encourage students to evaluate and challenge different viewpoints.

Character design

  • Introduce the codes and conventions used in creating characters for computer games.

Representation in magazines

  • Encourage your students to question and deconstruct print representations.

Gender in advertising

  • Introduce your students to media analysis terms with this useful PowerPoint presentation.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week

It could easily be the plot from a Hollywood blockbuster but the series of mysterious online code-breaking challenges known as Cicada 3301 is a very real phenomenon.

For many newspapers, it has become a story that they want to keep alive; England's education secretary Michael Gove has continued his spat with media mogul Simon Cowell, creator of The X Factor, labelling him the "principal prophet" of the cult of celebrity that is damaging children's life chances.

Half a century later, President Kennedy's legacy lives on

"Selfie" has been declared the word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries after the frequency of its use rocketed by a reported 17,000 per cent over the past 12 months.

In the news archive index