Perhaps the most significant advantage that both Nintendo and Sony have held over Microsoft from a PR perspective in the past generation has been the fact that both companies have had widely known names and faces associated with their brands. Nintendo has Reggie and Miyamoto, and Sony has Kaz Hirai and more recently Jack Tretton associated with each company's respective consoles.
In many ways, they've almost become characters in their own right, with fans giving them various personalities, making GIFs, memes and songs about them and generally taking them into their hearts. Speaking for myself, I've always found that having such likable people associated with the brands has made them feel far more friendly and accessible, creating the impression that the products are made by actual human beings.
Microsoft, by comparison, has never had any of its executives gain anywhere close to this much attention. Sure, your die-hard Xbox fan would be able to name Major Nelson at a push, but not once have I seen a meme or a hilarious Youtube video featuring anyone from the company. I don't think I've ever heard anyone discuss Microsoft executives with anything other than weary disdain, the kind of cold and distant separation usually reserved for politicians and bankers.
The launch of a new console, then, was the perfect chance for Microsoft to start putting some of its faces out there. A chance for the public to see the men behind the machine. So who did they choose for such an undertaking?
I think we can all agree that Microsoft "lost" this year's E3, if we must speak in competitive terms. They lost, however, in ways far more subtle than the simple PR hit they took for their DRM policies, for example. This was their chance to finally put a face to their product, and they totally messed it up.
Soon after E3, Microsoft was the joke, and Don Mattrick was the punchline. The subject of a healthy mixture of hatred and pity, almost every word that came from his mouth did something to turn off both new and old customers alike. From his arrogant assumptions that people will buy Xbox One regardless of its policies, to his casual contempt for those not fortunate enough to have constant access to an Internet connection, the man did nothing but harm to Microsoft's reputation.
It got so bad at one point that even Major Nelson expressed concern, revealing that Microsoft saw Mattrick as one of their major problems. In a major PR crisis, during which gamers around the world were expressing fury at Microsoft, one its own employees pointed to one of his superiors as a major issues. That is an impressive level of failure for Don Mattrick, right there.
So Don Mattrick did not gain the affection, ironic or otherwise, of gamers around the world. Instead, he became a pitiable figure of ridicule. He became a burden for Microsoft, when they desperately needed an upper hand. Contrary to Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft's reputation as a cold and faceless corporation is more prevalent then even, with gamers pledging loyalty to Sony and Nintendo more powerfully than ever before.
It's telling of the scale of Mattrick's negative impact that even the reversal of Microsoft's DRM policies did very little to win back goodwill from fans. His talk of "listening to the fans" fell on deaf ears, as right-minded gamers all over the world continued to mistrust and poke fun at him. The battle, it seems, was well and truly lost, by this point.
Although not the timeliest dismissal, getting decisions made in a company staffed by heartless robots must be somewhat difficult, Microsoft are perhaps to be congratulated for cutting their biggest problem out at its source. They still have a long way to go to win back any form of positive PR, but they're at least on the right track.
Meanwhile, Don Mattrick will be taking up the role of CEO at Zynga. Since both fans and detractors have long ago accepted that Zynga is an uncaring and soulless company, he will likely fit in well. A company with 0% chance of any positive PR is a perfect fit for such a man.
All that's left to be said, then, is farewell. Farewell sweet Mattrick, and may the world of gaming improve tenfold by your absence alone.