Since purchasing my first Xbox One in 2015 and immersing myself in all things Xbox, I’ve come to realise just how much Microsoft and Xbox does for gaming and its community. In the past year itself, Xbox has announced numerous new innovations and incentives that not only champions the notion of community and interactivity, but also encourages inclusivity and accessibility, pushes the boundaries of online gaming, as well as bridges the gap between the various kinds of gamers currently in existence.
Championing Community & Interactivity
Xbox Ambassadors and ExpertZone GameMasters
The Microsoft ExpertZone GameMasters are a group of selected and trained Xbox gamers that stream gameplay of popular Xbox or multiplayer titles in order to promote the platform, educate viewers about the game through ‘play and learn’ sessions, as well as encourage positive online gaming experiences. This programme, which has been in existence for the past three-four years is one that was put together by Microsoft itself and has cultivated a positive online community that exists across multiple countries*
The Xbox Ambassador programme runs in a fairly similar fashion, though goes beyond just streaming games to educate and promote Xbox gaming. Instead, it is a programme that allows Xbox fans and gamers to be more involved with the brand, as well as have their say.
Both these programmes creates a space for Xbox gamers to feel connected to one another, as well as with the brand overall, and provides them with the opportunity to come together to share their love of gaming with others.
Not only that, but being a GameMaster or Ambassador provides members with a feeling of pride and a sense of belonging. That’s certainly how I feel as a member of both programmes. It offers me the chance to do more with my gaming and the love that I have for Xbox. It also gives me the opportunity to help others, something that is encouraged within the Ambassador programme, as Xbox Ambassadors often provide support and troubleshooting help to all those who experience any issues or have questions about gaming on the Xbox platform.
On top of it all, both programmes also offer rewards and incentives to help encourage community interaction within the Xbox gaming community. From earning credits to receiving Xbox Live and other valuable codes, the rewards that these programmes offer make being an Xbox gamer all the more worthwhile and is a fantastic way that Xbox keeps their community engaged and excited.
*[Update] As of 1 July 2018, the ExpertZone programme has been disestablished due to corporate changes within Microsoft. However, though the official programme has ended, the community still lives on and the US GameMasters will continue to stream and promote Xbox gaming through a new rebranded channel name. The New Zealand team are currently looking at some options and will, likely, continue on through AttackOnGeek.
In addition to having a programme which allows gamers to support others in the community, Xbox also offers select members to be part of their exclusive insider programme, which gives them access to new services and innovations well ahead of global release.
As an Xbox Insider, gamers are able to test out new features and provide feedback, an opportunity that essentially lets them have some kind of ‘say’ over the final product, which often leaves a nice, warm feeling of being heard and in a way, appreciated, something that Xbox does really well; they certainly show a lot of appreciation for their community.
Through this initiative, Xbox has shown that they do, in fact, listen to and engage with their community and fans, one of the many reasons that I am such a fan of the brand.
No Disconnect Between Staff/ Key Players & Fans
In the gaming industry, the heads of gaming companies, lead game developers, CEOs, heads of marketing, and other varieties of staff often have a sort-of celebrity status. Fans go wild at the thought of catching a glimpse of Hideo Kojima or being able to have a chat with Phil Spencer. It’s almost like being a fan of major sports stars or Hollywood celebrities.
From my experience and from what I’ve seen, several of these key players in the gaming industry are typically out of reach to the everyday gamer, however, this isn’t the case for the team at Xbox. Though, perhaps, the Head of Xbox, is a bit tough to get a hold of unless you’re in the industry, are a journalist or have some kind of previous relationship (I mean let’s face it, the head of a global company is expected to be very busy and can’t always be available).
Nevertheless, the rest of the Xbox team, to a large extent are actually very open, engaging and often build friendships with their customers, fans and all around typical gamers. In the two years that I’ve been interested in gaming and involved with Xbox, I have seen the likes of Aaron Greenberg (General Manager of Xbox Games Marketing), Jeff Rubenstein (Digital Storytelling Lead at Microsoft), Graeme Boyd (Social Marketing Manager) and even the legendary Larry Hryb (Xbox Live’s “Major Nelson”) interact with everyday Xbox gamers on social media and sometimes even in real life. These Xbox gaming ‘celebrities’ make themselves available to fans and even build friendships with them that goes beyond gaming, something that I truly value about the team at Xbox. It gives gamers a sense of feeling valued and knowing that they matter, rather than simply being another statistic.
I actually had the pleasure of meeting a number of people who work at Microsoft and Xbox over the past two years, including Jeff Rubenstein, Major Nelson, and the charming Josh Stein a.k.a ‘Steinekin’, along with several others. Speaking with them, I felt so at ease and felt a kinship over our passion for gaming and for Xbox. The time that these amazing people give to their supporters, community, and essentially, fans, is inspiring and truly makes us gamers feel appreciated.
One of the biggest moments, which really showed me just how much Xbox cares for their community and how supportive the entire Xbox family are of each other, was when Matt a.k.a ‘Xbox_Addict’, one of the biggest Xbox fans in the world, suffered a critical illness and passed away suddenly a couple of months ago.
Matt was a true fan and had built such meaningful relationships with not just Xbox staff members and game developers at companies such as Rare Ltd (he was a huge Sea of Thieves fan), but also with several members of the community worldwide, including myself and some others here in New Zealand.
His passing came as a shock and truly saddened many of us, as he was a positive and welcoming pillar of the community. Seeing just how devastated Aaron Greenberg and the rest of the community were, was heartbreaking and truly illustrated the effect Matt had on so many.
His funeral was exceptionally moving, especially seeing his prized Xbox collectibles around as well as learning that Greenberg, several Xbox Ambassadors and community members actually attended to pay their respects and mourn the loss of their friend, wearing specially made pins featuring Matt’s now immortalised “Xbox_Addict” logo. The team even raised funds to help support Matt’s wife and children, with several Xbox community members donating to help out.
Not only that, but the team at Rare Ltd even helped to organise a special tribute for Matt in the game he was especially fond of, Sea of Thieves, which was shown off at a special episode of Inside Xbox.
How many communities and brands can you say goes to such lengths for a fan? Seeing the “Xbox_Addict” pins being worn around E3 this year, made me feel so blessed to be part of the Xbox family and put a smile on my face, knowing that though Matt may no longer be physically with us, he will live on forever through our passion for Xbox gaming.
Every year Xbox runs a Fan Fest event at E3 wherein Xbox fans are able to purchase tickets to attend E3 and celebrate all things Xbox. Not only do these gamers get the opportunity to sit in on the packed Xbox E3 briefing (and have the best seats in the house) but they’re also provided the opportunity to attend the showcase event where they are able to meet Xbox staff and influencers, play demos of the newly revealed titles and bask in the awesomeness that it Xbox. They’re also given exclusive Xbox swag and other gaming goodness that most gamers can only dream of. Now this is how you celebrate your community and give back to hardcore fans who, like me, go nuts when presented with amazing opportunities such as this.
There’s just so much to say about Xbox and what it is doing for gaming. Check out Part Two of this article here to continue reading and enjoy my epic fan-girl piece on a brand I truly love and respect.