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The 5 Worst Marketing Failures in the History of Video Games

Earlier this week, after more than a decade of waiting, gamers around the world sat down to enjoy Diablo III. Most of them had already downloaded it the week before, but they weren't allowed to actually play it until the day it physically arrived in retail stores. After that, they weren't allowed to play it until they connected to the game's online server. When the servers were broken for most of the day, millions of frustrated fingers told the Internet how pissed off they were. Even the funny ones. However, as far as video game PR disasters go, it couldn't contend with these classics:

#5. The Sega Saturn Launch

While psychology and elementary education majors are searching for their panties in a fraternity sleeping porch, marketing majors are doing a lot of homework. That's because launching a consumer product like a video game system is a complicated thing involving thousands of jobs. Despite careful planning and research, things always seem to go wrong. So maybe that's why Sega's idea for the Saturn was to say screw it and throw it into stores like it was a prank.

Sega told the world that the Saturn was coming out in September 1995, a week before the PlayStation. Then, surprise: In a desperate move to be first, four retail chains suddenly had the Sega Saturn in May. History has shown that a blind rush to be first is a great way to send confused monkeys and dogs into space, but it's not always the best marketing strategy. First of all, it meant that only six Saturn games were available at launch, and all of them were made by Sega. When Sega told everyone the thing was coming out in September, that included the developers making video games for it. It was like telling the shark delivery man at your door that you already jumped the tank, but he can still throw the shark on your lawn and see if anyone else wants to buy it before it dies.

So a gamer in early 1995 was looking at a Sega system that cost $399 and only had six titles.

This kind of stupid situation would have been familiar to them after the Sega CD and the Sega 32X, game systems that were designed to be less exciting alternatives to simply burning piles of money. Night Trap and Kriss Kross: Make My Video had already demonstrated that putting advanced audio/video technology in the hands of Sega is like giving a BeDazzler to a 5-year-old. Sega CD games looked like medical photos of body fungus with loading screens. And now that Sega had pissed off every retail outlet except four, and every video game developer except themselves, it wasn't looking good for the Saturn.

The Sony PlayStation cost $100 less and came out when it said it was going to come out, giving everyone time to do things like hang posters, show commercials and finish making PlayStation games. This turned out to be much better than Sega's strategy of telling all those people to fuck themselves and giving the Saturn a shorter life span than an overweight celebrity.

#4. Jamie Kennedy at E3

At the 2007 video game convention E3, Activision hired Jamie Kennedy to host their press conference. And I know what you're thinking: the nerd-pounding alpha male coming off the Oscar-snubbed hit Kickin' It Old Skool and a room full of video game players? This is going to be a bloodbath!

That's what he thought, too. He was going to dominate these stupid nerds so hard that he didn't bother to prepare. He got wasted and went on stage with nothing more than a few talking points about nerds not getting laid. As a comedy writer, I have a lot of respect for this one:

Jamie Kennedy spent the entire night mocking the crowd. We all get that every entertainer ends up doing gigs outside their area of interest. Why, just this week I got the worst blowjob of my life from a birthday magician with sad eyes. It could have been worse, though. If Jamie Kennedy was giving it, he'd not only barely try, he'd spend the whole time making fun of me for not having my cock in a bigger celebrity's mouth.


There's a reason Jamie Kennedy never gets movie roles as the bully. Casting directors take one look at him and say, "I should remember this little guy if I ever lose an arm and become a rapist."

That could be why his clumsy bully routine fell so flat. The jokes might have worked if there was a day care at the video game convention and Jamie told them to the five meanest children there. Of course he'd have to explain to them what sex was and why it's funny when people don't have it. You know what? Maybe his jokes wouldn't have worked anywhere. My point is that they especially didn't work at E3.

Aftermath:

His drunken train wreck got shredded in the press. Jamie didn't get this explained to him, but E3 is the biggest media event for the biggest media industry. Most of the audience members he was mocking were journalists, and dozens if not hundreds of them wrote about it. Activision found out that if you show someone the 28th Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game and then have a boozy actor disrespect their genitals, one of those events is more notable.

As for Jamie Kennedy, he got less apathetic about gamers the moment they started making fun of him. He was still lashing out on Twitter four years after the event:

This is screenwriter/PC Gamer editor Gary Whitta and research analyst Michael Pachter discussing terrible moments in E3 history. Jamie joined the conversation by telling them they don't have the business savvy to know what they saw that night. Apparently only the stars of Tinseltown know what happens when you fill a lazy dick with liquor and give him a microphone. That being said, I don't think anyone is famous enough to explain how a professional comic wrote and/or told this joke in 2007:

The best thing about working in Hollywood is that you're better than anyone not included in the first part of this sentence. That obviously makes your Twitter comebacks easier to write. I mean, can you imagine how stupid this joke would sound if this wasn't world-famous Jamie Kennedy typing it? He said that those guys were masturbating to Legend of Zelda. That would be a strange thing to bring up in this conversation even if those guys really were masturbating to Legend of Zelda.

His insults are mostly stream-of-consciousness insecurities, and he can't punctuate, but Jamie Kennedy isn't stupid. This tweet was in response to a Kotaku.com article making fun of him and how that makes him more important than you, DORKS. In the middle of this, he realized that would make the DORKS who wrote it important and the DORKS they write about important. No big deal -- he saved it there at the end. Ha ha fuck you, insignificant article that is significant enough to talk about yet doesn't matter but proves I matter! Aaargh, why am I vanishing from existence!?

It's nice that Jamie Kennedy lets his barely educated and fully schizophrenic mother tweet for him. And I think we can all agree with her that no one should have to listen to a woman unless she's attractive. Hell, I won't let a female doctor tell me the results of a blood test unless she's an 8 and it's in Morse code with Kegel exercises. Oh, and Jamie Kennedy's mom -- you know the best part about women not counting as people when they're poor or ugly? It's that when we hurt their feelings, we don't have to live with it! Bark all you want, ugly women! Jamie Kennedy's mom and I can't hear you!

The guy who played a character named Will Pillowbiter on an episode of Mind of Mencia is right! Once you're on TV, you're not only a moral authority, but an everything authority. And if he thinks it's funny when he can spot the difference between Sonic the Hedgehog and sex, that makes you the asshole, unfamous nerds!

#3. John Romero Making Us His Bitch

In the late '90s, John Romero was as famous and successful as a video game developer could be. He had made Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake. He raced Ferraris. He had long, flowing hair. His jeans were more sizes too small than the number of jean sizes that actually exist. Then a teaser ad came out for his upcoming game Daikatana. It was a mostly empty red page that told consumers that "John Romero's About to Make You His Bitch" and "Suck It Down," and nothing else. It isn't a nice way to sell a game, but it is a great way to tell the lucky stranger on the other side of a hole that they picked the best stall.

Every person who saw the ad had the same thought: "How funny would it be if whatever game this is for turns out to be a total failure?" The universe couldn't help but overhear.


Aftermath:

People hoping for failure weren't disappointed. It was a well-documented and epic disaster. From multiple delays to a hilariously bad demo with no enemies, it sucked in every way it could suck. We were promised genius entertainment, and in a way that's what we got, because Daikatana ran like Stephen Hawking. It was boring and tired, yet frustrating and broken enough to avoid the term generic. We figured correctly that the moment the creator invited us to swallow his ejaculate, it was never going to get more interesting. To his credit, Romero came out against the ad before it became the setup for the biggest culturally shared told-ya-so since Sh*t My Dad Says was cancelled.


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