Microsoft criticised for using AI artwork in post promoting indie games

Posted on December 29, 2023

Microsoft has found itself in hot water after posting a tweet on the ID@Xbox Twitter/X account on the 27th of December promoting indie games and asking fans what their favourite independent games of the year have been, while utilising artwork which conspicuously appeared to have been generated by AI. The tweet was quickly pulled after swift criticism from followers who remarked on the hypocrisy of celebrating the hard work of indie developers while using AI artwork to get around paying an actual artist.

Many followers on social media made note of the tell-tale signs of AI involvement in Microsoft’s image. Some particularly blatant elements include the rather odd facial expressions of the characters and the strange control mechanisms of the children’s sleds in the foreground which doesn’t seem to have been drawn by anybody who knows what a sled looks like. Microsoft appeared to have acknowledged what a bad look it was as the post was yanked from social media once criticisms started to mount, albeit not before the tweet was screenshotted for posterity and widely made fun of online.

ID@Xbox stands for Independent Developers at Xbox, and is supposed to stand up for solo developers and small teams who put a lot of hard work into their craft. As such, employing AI tools like this is a particularly bad look. As noted by artist Necrokuma on Twitter/X, “If you can’t hire an artist to do advertising, I highly doubt you’ll do it with independent developers“. At time of writing, Microsoft has swept the matter under the rug and not made any public statements regarding the post, with its Twitter/X page absent of any tweets or responses mentioning or apologising for the gaffe.

The use of AI tools is still very controversial in the gaming industry. The developers of the System Shock remake faced blowback for using AI imagery in the game’s online marketing, and features such as AI voice replication have faced criticism from those in the voice acting community. Of all of the errors that Microsoft could have made, having its indie development-promoting arm use AI artwork was especially tone deaf, at the very least. Hopefully Microsoft and other companies take this response as encouragement to pay artists for promotional artwork in the future.