Microsoft has been one of the biggest proponents of generative artificial intelligence (AI), plunging billions into OpenAI and pushing AI tools for Xbox developers. But now the tech giant has drawn the ire of angry gamers by apparently using AI-made artwork to promote indie games.
According to a report from gaming publication Kotaku, the indie game-centric ID@Xbox division posted winter-themed artwork this week on Twitter (aka X) accompanied by the text “Walking in a indie wonderlaaand,” and asking gamers, “What were your favorite indie games of the year?”
Many respondents, however, opted to comment on issues with the artwork that are consistent with telltale signs of generative AI output, including mangled-looking faces and oddly out-of-place mannerisms. The tweet was quickly deleted, but the criticism has persisted.
“My favorite indie game was ‘paying actual artists instead of pushing horrific AI slop you fucking leeches,’” replied another.
Many prominent video game studios are now using generative AI tools to aid in game development, including Ubisoft, Blizzard, and NCSoft. Meanwhile, platforms like Xbox and Roblox have launched AI tools for creators to utilize. But such moves have drawn significant criticism from gamers, who have similarly complained about NFTs and crypto tokens.
In November, Microsoft announced a partnership with Inworld AI—a portfolio company of its M12 venture arm—to integrate such AI tools for Xbox developers. Immediately, the company faced substantial blowback from developers, who said that it was “disrespectful and dangerous” (among other comments) to human creators.
But Microsoft isn’t the only game company to have faced a backlash for using generative AI tools. The developers behind the games The Finals and Firmament are among those who took flak in 2023 for AI-generated elements, while Wizards of the Coast has banned its artists from using AI for Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons projects.
In one recent example, League of Legends creator Riot Games faced a social media storm over allegedly using AI tools for a game trailer that included a mispronounced character name. However, the company clarified that it was simply a human error—no AI had been used.