As of this writing, 474,689 people disliked the trailer for the upcoming Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. 204,064 people have liked it. 9,290,024 people have viewed the trailer since it was released on May 2.
That means that we don't know how around 93% of the people who viewed the trailer see it. They could love it, they could hate it. We have no way of knowing. Of the people who disliked the trailer, we have no data that indicates whether or not they'll buy the game.
"First of all, you gotta love the passion of gamers," Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg said during an earnings call when asked about the dislikes. "This is an industry like no other and a fan base like no other. We love that our fans treat this franchise like their own and have such strong points of view about it. There just aren't many entertainment franchises on earth that can generate the kind of passion that Call of Duty can... and that's a good thing."
He's not wrong, it takes a pretty strong commitment to giving a shit to go to a trailer's YouTube page and click like or dislike. Making a preference known, one way or the other, shows a dedication to the franchise. It's not about your feelings at that point, it's about wanting to be heard. And you only care about being heard when you care about the person or franchise doing the listening.
Heck, look at the Ghostbusters trailer, with its 736,858 current dislikes. Out of over 31 million views. That means that around 98 percent of the people who went to the trailer's YouTube page either didn't care enough to like or dislike it at all, or liked it. One of the top comments on the page asked how many other people showed up just to dislike the trailer. That comment currently has 460 replies.
You can learn something when people show up en masse to make sure you know they don't like something, but it's not always about the work itself. Displeasure is always more satisfying to share and spread than pleasure, and it registers more forcefully in our brains as well.
I have to explain this to people who ask how it feels when the majority of the comments under a story I wrote are negative; I too am more likely to comment on things I disagree with than the things i agree with. That's the problem with trying to figure out the reception of any piece of media by looking at the self-selecting group of people who react in a public way at all.
For every person who comments, tweets or posts on Facebook about this story, I know there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, who I will never hear from. I also know that if I read the reactions to this piece in most places, I'll see negative comments. It's the nature of the beast.
It's often helpful to remind ourselves to focus on saying positive things on social media, as the drive to disagree with other people is often so much more compelling. No one ever stayed up all night with a glass of scotch in their hand to repeat that they agree with someone, over and over.
Your anger at a trailer may be satisfying, and it may feel good to know that your skepticism is shared with others, but Hirshberg is right to be heartened about how many people care about Call of Duty. And at this point it's important to remember that no one is reacting to Infinite Warfare, and they're not reacting to the upcoming Ghostbusters. They're reacting to marketing, and we know better than to argue that the people clicking "dislike" are indicative of the vast majority of people who didn't register any opinion using the limited tools of YouTube. It's not an indicator of quality, or a predictor of sales.
Besides, we all know that boycotts and dislikes are easy. Saying no if the media ends up being good despite our fears? That's much harder.