Why do people become fanboys?

Firstly lets define what is meant by fanboy. What we are talking about is someone who has an irrational, emotional attachment to an inanimate piece of electronic equipment that makes them act in a manner that borders on the sociopathic and sometimes even crosses that border. Most gaming enthusiasts, even those who spend an inordinate amount of time and money gaming, are not fanboys. In fact fanboys probably spend a lot less time playing games than the true gaming enthusiast does. This is because, for a fanboy, the brand and the equipment are often far more important than the actual entertainment of playing games.

The vast majority of video game fanboys support the Sony brand. This makes them vehemently, sometimes aggressively anti Nintendo and anti Microsoft. This may sound pathetic to a normal balanced adult but it is true. Let’s look at some of the reasons that people become fanboys.

  • Sony make sexy looking kit. Always have done, always will do. Lots of people will only buy Sony kit just because it looks so good. Nintendo kit is always just functional and the original Xbox was an ugly brick. Microsoft have learned their lesson with the 360 which is very nicely styled. It still isn’t a Sony though.
  • The Sony brand dominated the market for a long time. To the point that in mass popular usage the word “Playstation” became synonymous with the word “console”. In the real world Nintendos and Xboxes are often referred to as “Playstations”. This is just like most people calling petroleum jelly “Vaseline” or vacuum cleaners “Hoovers”.
  • Sony marketing baffles brains. With Playstation 2 they called the CPU the “Emotion Engine” and issued press releases on the wonderful and amazing things it would do for games. When the reality is that the Xbox was more powerful. Likewise they hyped up the Cell processor in the PS3 saying that the first PS3 down the production line would be the world’s third most powerful computer (this is just from memory so may not be exact, however the claim was outrageous) when in fact there is little difference between the capabilities of the PS3 and Xbox 360. In fact so far the vast majority of games run better on the 360.
  • A lot of the great hardcore gaming franchises historically appeared first on Playstation. Mainly because for a long time there weren’t many other options for a developer. Just now the 360 has the best gaming catalogue in this generation but the fanboys haven’t woken up to this. They relive past glories and hope for future promises.
  • Gamers spend a huge amount of time playing games. Sometimes 30 hours or even more per week. So the console becomes the gamer’s “partner” in his entertainment. It is his buddy in all the adventures that he has. So he becomes emotionally involved with his little friend. Even though it is mainly a moulded plastic box.
  • Gamers spend a very high proportion of their disposable spend on their hobby. This is a big commitment that means making other sacrifices. So for this spend gaming owes something back. Something more than just entertainment. Something bigger and more fulfilling. Something emotional.
  • Peer pressure, let’s face it, everyone is a lemming in one way or another. Look at all the yuppies in their BMWs because they have to have the badge. So it is with a certain demographic that Sony targeted with their marketing. If you were in this demographic it became more than cool to own a Playstation. It became essential for your self esteem. Because your peers would look down on you if you couldn’t walk the walk. And that meant you were left with little option but to buy one to gain the bragging rights and in turn put pressure on anyone in your peer group without a Playstation.
  • It is an unfortunate male characteristic that they like to form gangs and then bully people who aren’t part of their gang. You see it in every schoolyard. And when men grow up they still do it but in other ways. At the football club, in the pub and at work. In fact anywhere the tribal genetics can break through the thin vaneer of civilisation. So it is with a Sony fanboy, he can get on the internet and join in harassing and bullying anyone and everyone who isn’t a member of his gang. In fact many fanboys enjoy this online warfare so much that they have little time left to actually play games. It is all very Lord of the Flies.
  • Defending the honour of your family. To many fanboys the emotional invovement with their machine is such that it has become a member of the family in everything but name. So when something comes along that could be better in any way then it becomes a matter of honour. And the Wii and 360 are both better than the PS3 in some ways. So that means war. It is very obvious that if the competing consoles hadn’t been so good then the Sony fanboys wouldn’t have been so vehement and agressive. This is the biggest single factor in the current Sony fanboy phenomenon.

It is not just Sony Playstation that creates fanboys. Apple have the same effect (though to a lesser extent) with their computers and with their iPod/iPhone. And, quite interestingly, if you look at the reasons above many of them also apply to these Apple products.

Finally fanboys love articles like this. It makes them feel important and gives them a focus for their anger and resentment.


  1. Bruce, yet again you’ve seemed to completely misread things. Firstly, fanboyism tends to be adherence to a brand, rather than a piece of electronic equipment, and is very similar to following a football team. Of course, hooliganism, be it videogame or otherwise, is not a good thing! Secondly, Sony’s kit is an acquired taste, and the PS3 still cops a lot of ‘toaster’ jokes – and is probably on par with the 360 in design. Third, I’m not sure which real world you’re in, but I’ve never heard the Xbox or a Nintendo console called a playstation – but this could be a difference between consumer awareness in the US vs Australia. Fourth, Sony’s marketing is pox – based on its early ads alone, the PS3 would be going nowhere. Sony’s marketing was great during the PSX era, but it’s been tryhard arts student since. My advertising money for ‘coolness’ (as opposed to inclusivity) is on Microsoft. Fifth, the Xbox _had_ the best gaming catalogue, but these days, it’s pretty much neck and neck. Yes, it’s got a great back-catalogue, but games have pretty short half-lives in terms of consumer interest except amongst particularly hardcore gamers. Sixth, people developing an emotional link with something they spend a lot of time doing is hardly a surprise, and hardly limited to gaming – but this is not necessarily linked to the idea of things being ‘owed’ (although there are a few nutters out there). Seventh, how does peer pressure push fanboys towards the current-gen console with the smallest install base? Eighth, what gave you the idea that Sony had the most of em? If you’re gauging it from online message boards (and not just yours), then I’d give the slight edge to Xbox, followed by Sony and Nintendo. If you’re out there in the non-virtual world, Nintendo has a pretty big fanboy presence. If anything, the lack of any ‘key’ characters on Sony’s console steers it away from ‘fanboyism’ (Kratos, the closest Sony’s got, only appeared in 2004), as people focus on the range of games, rather than idolising Mario Bros or Master Chief. Yes, Sony fanboys are a pain in the rear, but on the internet, I’ve tended to find (ever so slightly) that the Xbots are more offensive, and the Nintendo crew living more in the past. The more I read of your blog, Bruce, the more it seems clearly anti-Sony – not sure why, there’s no chance that deep down inside you’re not tapping into a fanboy streak is there?

  2. I agree, with the PS3 Sony have made a fabulous looking healthy fat reducing meat griller.

    I’m told it plays games too, but no-one can suggest an example….

  3. here is the perfect example again dudley must be a xboxfanboy…..

    i tend to agrre whit axe ..

    i had a xbox 360 and love it ..then it blow up ..so i switch to ps3 ..and him happy ..both machine are good and both machine offert a lot …but i do belleive that the x-box fanboy are more present on the net then annithyng ….but again i can tell i’m to busy playing game ….and yes dudley they are great game on the ps3….

  4. what kind of article it’s this? You just been hating on Sony. Sony this, Sony that… Sony sucks.

  5. I believe that fanboyism is a problem and has ruined many internet forums, but in my experience the problem has been with irrational 360 fans as opposed to Sony fans. Have a look sometime at the craziness that goes on on the Gamespot forums. Any one that isn’t shouting “Halo” at the top of their lungs or doesn’t bow once a day towards the direction of MS HQ is thumbed down, censored and generally harassed to the point where you wouldn’t dare voice your opinion unless it was 100% MS. This phenomenon has lessened to a degree over the last year but North American game forums are very much a “Microsoft Only” club. It’s disturbing to an old gamer like myself who has used Gamespot for nearly a decade to have witnessed the decline of a once proud site into a haven for 12 year old nitwits where any intelligent debate regarding the games industry is constantly stifled by the pro-Microsoft masses.

  6. Bruce, I am not sure if you are serious about this post or if you meant it as satire (a fanboy bashing fanboyism). It seems to me that the central trait of a fanboy is his inability to be objective about the object of his attraction. Although I would not label you as a rabid fanboy, you clearly have shown an anti-Sony bias in many of your posts. This is fine — after all, it is your blog and your opinion. But when the ranting is not based on facts (or, at least, a reasoned analysis), it lowers the opinion to simple fanboyism status.

    I hope that some day you will write a post about why you are anti-Sony. I suspect that there is an interesting story there.

  7. first things first, the apple fanboy’s are the worst with their constant bitching about Microsoft.

    And the most active fanboys are defintly the X-box one’s. Insteed of saying how great their one console’s are they only stab the other console’s like the ps3 and saying how bad the games for it are©

    PS3 fanboys usually stay in their own territory praising their own console’s, fanboyism isnt only about hate also love© remember that :’)

  8. 2/5 for the Article,you still haven’t quite mastered the Art of writing an Article that doesn’t seem too biased(Look up Kotaku for pointers).

    I’m afraid I’ll have to focus a bit on you,because you just shouldn’t be Online in my opinion.You come off as a person who thinks they’re slick,and that your obvious bias against everything Sony isn’t noticeable by those who have read your blog.You’re probably sitting there thinking that by only adding this Article under the Playstation 3 Section on N4G,you’re probably thinking that was an ingenious move on your part,not realizing that there are some who can see through all your propaganda and will take action against those who purely aim to smear a brand.

    The question is;How long can you keep up your shenanigans before you’re completely deemed a Fanboy with Zero credibility by the Majority?That is;How long until the low IQ individuals figure you out for what you really are?The answer is,at this rate,not long.

  9. Sony upset you recently Bruce? Like a few of your other articles this one is riddled with some flawed generalizations. I think that you really ought to take in what some of these commenters are trying to say.

    In anycase, I don’t intend on trying to debunk your variously listed points rather I want to talk about how you (and frankly a lot of people) have approached this topic.

    I recently wrote a piece about fanboys, echoing a message put forth by Leigh Alexander in her previous GameSetWatch coloumn (http://tinyurl.com/6hk94a).

    To sumarise, fan culture is a natural part of human instinct and behaviour. If we continuously interact with an object that expresses neutral or positive feeling towards us then we ally ourselves with this object. For example; a news reporter on TV.

    The more we interact a greater affinity with that object builds up and a stronger interpersonal relationship is formed. This is what results in bias and fan reaction because we instinctively defend our allies.

    Such a process is human nature and completely unavoidable. So when we criticise others about being a fan/fanboy it is highly unfair of us.

    My explanation probably doesn’t do the article justice, I guess.

    My point is that you too Bruce are a fanboy, you lived and worked through an important period of games in Europe. No doubt you have a bias related to particular games, console, brands and products. Perhaps your own interests, this “fanboyism” towards other brands is what drove you to write this rather fanatical piece. Is it fair for us to criticize you for that?

    I think that we just need to deal with this and accept it much like film and music have, about time we acted like adults.

  10. How is this “Psychology”? Psychology is the field where they try to explain why people are the way they are and I don’t see any of this. This is just some weird kid thinking he has the answers.

  11. I agree with axe too…I would also like to add a few things.
    Firstly, Bruce, it’s odd how you seem to think that the videogame market started in 1995 with the release of the playstation (“the sony brand dominated the market for a long time” and “A lot of the great hardcore gaming franchises historically appeared first on Playstation”, for example). SONY developped the market, that’s for sure, but nevertheless, there was a videogame market before. As for every console being called a “playstation”, I don’t know, but before that, when nintendo ruled the videogame market (1985-1990), some people said “to nintendo” to say “to play videogames”.

    Secondly, “The vast majority of video game fanboys support the Sony brand. This makes them vehemently, sometimes aggressively anti Nintendo and anti Microsoft”. I honestly wonder how you could prove this. I mean, I completely agree with you when you say that fanboyism is stupid, but how can you be sure that the sony fanboy base is the largest (well, at least sony should be happy, they have at least one “largest installed base” of something) ??
    And finally, as for sony fanboys being agressively anti “other brands”, well it’s not only true for sony fanboys, is it? IMO, every fanboy does the same.

    To conclude, I like your blog, Bruce, I read it everyday, but sometimes, you seem to be a bit partial, and partial too…

  12. I’m sorry, Dudley. But we only have one problem, here. We are in the presence of a fanboy. OH, NO! Whatever shall we do?
    …Unfortunately, that fanboy, is what you are blinded too. You. You are a blinded hypocritical fanboy, and I am sorry if this sounds like its mean, but if you weren’t a fanboy, you wouldn’t have posted this as an opinion, seeing as how you would have a strong enough defense if this review wasn’t biased.
    See, I can tell what you did in this article, very simply, and that’s why I’m here, someone called [not literally] 911 Gaming. I’m here to clean up the mess and make you pay for it.
    Your method is a simple method used to seem like you are in a balanced position with two opinions, because you add positives and negatives in your article. Only, you do not use other positives and negatives, you just assume there is only one type of fanboy, [just as there is only one highlander], you have used the “pick up and the push down.” You gently picked up someone from a fallen position, even though they’ve been pushed in the mud because the Xbox frat boys didn’t like his opinions. You come along, in disguise, realizing he got beat up because he doesn’t have any other of his fan-gang-boy-members [god there is no word for that] with him. You take a walk with him, commersing with him, telling him to chin up because he does have the looks to get a date [even though he’s clearly covered in mud]. You give him hope, and inspiration, and suddenly, you decide to tell him information that seems usual and balanced between the two. Then you start making him fret with utter remarks with your own stereotyping. Suddenly, you realize… you are an Xbox fanboy. You’re pushed away yet another good hand into the mud again, and you’ve become the creation of what should be your own demise.
    I’m here because I want gaming to be the killer, kick a’ action together that it used to be. Now everyone plays together like Republicans and Democrats.

    I really have a problem with hypocrites, though, and… as a fact, the PS3 Fanboys, let me tell you did not start the war. The Xbox Fanboys did. As soon as launch started, with the negative media, negative launch titles [but Resistance] it just, like a forest fire, started up and ran throughout. And I feel bad for saying that now, because I feel I have just drawn the flare for the flame war, but I haven’t. I’ve just given evidence to the start of this horrible dispute. I know not all of us can get over it, but can’t there be peace? Its always been an “Xbox or Nothing” society at highschools, colleges, etc. And PS3 owners seem like rich nerdy b8$T4RDs, and are very few to go around, but are many around the world [I guess that’s why they commerce online; I only have 7 friends I commerse with in real life wih a PS3]

    Lets be glad I own all 3 consoles.

  13. If this article has something to do with the rough response your story got on N4G yesterday then I think you should rise above it. While N4G is a great way to network videogame news it is very sensational and people will snap up flamebait whether it was intentional or not.

    I think Fanboyism is a result of 2 things. Firstly, like you said, disposable income is limited, and consoles are big investments. Therefor alot of people will only have one. From that point, like you said, an emotional relationship can easily develop between that individual and their choice of brand, whether it be Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo.

    When someone then attacks that choice they then attack that relation and thus the person behind it. If people read somethign they think hurts Sony, they will feel hurt too. Which is a pretty predictable symptom of the strong branding used by the different consoles in what is a very competative market.

    If people miss the point of your stories in future then please dont take it to heart. Because this kind of thing will just be fuel on the fire.

  14. I think the number of responses to this article is quite telling. I’m also surprised at the suggestion that the Sony focus of the article is the result of anti-Sony sentiment or having been ‘wronged’ by Sony in the past. It seems quite reactionary logic. I think it’s possible to have an opinion on something without necessary having been personally scarred by it.

    Of course, I could be wrong and Bruce could be some rabid anti-Sony fanboy. I’d like to think that the singular focus of the article is very deliberate and that we’re all responding in precisely the way he predicted.

    I’m not a fanboy though. I hate all consoles equally!


    Anne Diamond

  15. Wow, this article is a work of hypocrisy. Why just mention PS3 and Apple fanboys? I mean the entire article is just a anti-Sony rant and doesn’t even really have anything to about the fanboys themselves. Bruce you obviously are a Microsoft fanboy, trying to sound fair and balanced. Both companies are full of BS, and taking their side is rediculous. I think Sony fanboys have been fighting back the anti-Sony atomosphere they has been generated by the likes of you; that maybe the reason why Sony fanboys come off a little more harsh, they are having to defend their choices against a steady stream of lies and pro-Microsoft propaganda.

    I digress, fanboys suck. Sony and Microsoft are imperfect souless money hungry machines, that I couldnt give a rats ass about, but you sir are the worst of the worst… the fanboy that calls out others for being fanboys because they don’t agree with you.

  16. While I agree with some of the things you are saying, it goes well beyond the PS3. It applies to seemingly everything these days. People don’t seem to think anymore. They develop a stance and stick to it no matter what the facts are or what changes. Unfortunately I believe people are being raised this way. Whether it’s religion, school, city, team or just family. Or sometimes within a family. Kids your DAD is an ass. Your party is full of sheep. They hate us cause we’re free. Nobody really tries to understand anything, they just know something was applied to a certain group or company or area a long time ago and now they plan to keep the idea going. And now add the level of marketing going on and we’re in trouble. Think about the number of lies you’ve been told by companies. That is exactly what Killzone 2 looks like. The 360 fails slightly more than most electronics. Or politicians. He voted against my healthcare for needy children bill, I won’t mention that the bill also had an amendment that gives 1 billion in tax credits to my cousins company and that’s actually why he didn’t vote for it. If people would just be more honest, fanboys would be a thing of the past.

  17. If the number comments on this article is telling, it seems the majority here is pro Sony. Sony fanboys anyone? I don’t hear anyone here screaming, Xbox 360 for the win!

    Bruce’s article is just saying characteristics of Playstation Fanboys. Who knows, he might come up with another counter article against the 360. I own all 3 consoles and not particular to one or the others.

  18. There will always be fanboys, as many people just want an excuse to argue with anonymous strangers over the internet. I don’t see why you’ve only mentioned Sony fanboys though, that’s just asking for people to assume you have something against them in particular.

  19. Here’s the “why do people become fanboys” from a different perspective- someone who has been a Spectrum, Amiga, N64, PC, DS and Wii fanboy, and might become a PS3 one in the near future (since I bought one recently.)

    When I was at school, I wanted my friends to have the same games machine as me, so that we could swap games. So I evangelised about the Spectrum over the C64/Amstrad to “prove” it’s superiority. If I won the argument, then I won a wider library of games that I could borrow/copy/play, and people I could play against. I personally benefitted from this behaviour.

    Now I’m 30, most of my friends don’t spend much time and/or money on games, so the “extended library” doesn’t work anymore. (Now my “extended library” consists of all the games that Lovefilm stock.)

    But the principle is the same. As you know, games platforms have always been in competition with one another. Some games are exclusive to one platform, while some appear across different platforms- with differing quality on different platforms. (Especially when next-gen platforms arrive.) So the more people have the same platform as me, the more chance that platform has of having games developed for it, and for the games that are developed for it being the “flagship” version. (Particularly pertinent as the PS3/Xbox console war rages.)

    In other words, I see a potential personal gain from fanboyism. Or at least, I would do if it wasn’t for the fact that I work in the marketing industry, and I know what I do about how word of mouth works, and how online evangelisers do more to put people off what they are evangelising about than they do to promote what they are trying to promote.

    Still, who said that we’re rational creatures anyway? Nintendo rule!

  20. All consoles are rubbish anyway. PC FTW!

  21. Just browsing through here, yet again you demonstrate some strange hatred towards Sony by referring to Sony so many times. Sony.
    Oh, and did i mention Sony? Okay Sony.

    Sony fanboys are the worst? Are you serious?!
    Guessing you have never heard of the word “nintendie”?
    Nintendo fanboys have always been known to be the worst, they are almost as bad as the rabid 13-16 year old Christians who go absolutely CRAZY over someone insulting their religion, to the point where they want to kill the “unbelievers”, Ori anyone? (Stargate).

    I wonder if you even have half a clue what happens in gaming communities.

    You are certainly not balanced by friend.

  22. I’m thinking that we’re going to get more and more posts like this in the up and coming months towards LBP, Home and Killzone 2.

    Will we ever see ‘THE PROBLEM WITH MICROSOFT’ post, i really do not think so, not here at least.

    Are you a fan of Apple products at all Bruce?

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