6 Disastrous Publicity Stunts Video Games Actually Tried Out
A great video game sells itself. Do you want to play in an endless world of craftable blocks where the only limit is your imagination (and right angles)? Sold! Do you want to be the reincarnation of a dragon saving a fantasy world from evil (but not clipping errors)? Sold! Want to play an overweight plumber plopping down sewer drains and stomping on turtles? It's-a sold! But it's not only developers flexing their creative muscles. The soulless husks in marketing do their share too. And some of those high-level ghouls will stop at nothing to trick you into buying their games. For example ...
Battlefield 1 Turned War Atrocities Into Hot Marketing
In the run-up to Remembrance Day, i.e. the day we celebrate the end of some gruesome fighting, an EA galaxy brain thought it would be totally rad to get in on the proceedings by turning the Great War into the Dankest Meme, tweeting gruesome acts as fun lulz. Like soldiers posing in front of a destroyed zeppelin with the delightful caption "When your squad is looking on point."
Or a GIF of soldiers being burned alive with the caption "When you're too hot for the club" -- a meme about as old as World War 1 itself.
To complete the marketing massacre, these tweets were posted with "#justWWIthings," as if getting your legs blown off by a mine in No Man's Land was a lifestyle choice. Journalists picked up on the tacky hashtag and rebuked EA not only for its insensitivity, but also for picking the worst possible time to get kids in the mood to teabag their great-granddad's corpse.
EA frantically deleted all traces of the PR blunder, and said they would never again flippantly exploit the horrors of World War I to shill their wares. This was an apology they didn't offer a week before, when one of their devs tweeted to promote the game's official onesie (take that, people who think gamers are immature children) by comparing it to other essential "trench warfare" equipment, like gas masks and trenching shovels to bury your dead brothers.
Battleborn's CEO Used Porn To Hype His Failing Game
Randy Pitchford has a "bad rep" in the industry, in the same way a belligerent drunk has a "bad rep" with his estranged kids. Various lurid stories about his combative nature and creepy expertise in barely legal porn have come out of the woodwork over the years. But when his big-budget multiplayer shooter Battleborn was failing to rake in the cash, Pitchford decided to put his perverted penchants to work spinning the game as an underground cult phenomenon by linking to the copious amounts of Battleborn porn he (accidentally, of course) found on Reddit.
If that seems totally random, there was a strange method to Pitchford's madness. Overwatch, the world's most popular online shooter, is known for its fans creating tremendous amounts of Rule 34 pornography. So Pitchford probably thought it could also work in the opposite direction, somehow proving his very similar game was worth our attention by pointing out how many teens were getting off to crudely drawn cartoons of its female characters. The gambit was too late and definitely too skeevy. Battleborn quickly fell to pieces, and was ironically outlived by its porn subreddit.
Castle Clash Used Tinder To Scam Lonely Men Into Buying Mobile Games
Back in 2014, internet security companies alerted the public to a next-gen kind of spam involving bots preying on Tinder users. The semi-sophisticated bots would pretend to be cute girls who casually mentioned they're really into video games, particularly the mobile game Castle Clash (you know, from those ads you'd skip on every third YouTube video). And wouldn't it be great if you also downloaded it, played it with her, and gave it your credit card information? Who knows, it might lead to a heated gaming moment between the sheets.
Tinder quickly responded to the invasion and shut down most of the spambots, but it remains a mystery whether the game or its shady publishers were responsible for this gamer exploit. And to add a bonus level of slime to this scam, the bots' profile pictures were stolen from a small photography studio in Arizona. Guess Castle Clash's $13 million monthly revenue isn't enough to spring for a Shutterstock subscription.
A Guitar Hero Ripoff Threw Plastic Controllers Into A Volcano
Power Gig: Rise Of The SixString (not a joke title) strove to bring credibility to the plastic instrument craze of the late aughts by providing a revolutionary technology called ... strings! In fact, Seven45 Studio's entire marketing campaign revolved around how their guitars were more realistic, more hardcore than any other music game studio. How hardcore? Well, does melting toxic plastic and shooting it into our atmosphere count as hardcore? Hmm, it doesn't?
To prove their utter disdain for plastic toy guitars and those who play them (i.e. their entire consumer base), Seven45 decided to tape a publicity stunt wherein they destroyed a bunch of their competitor's controllers. And inspired by every death metal album artwork ever, they figured the best way to do that was to load them into a cargo plane and drop them into the most metal-sounding volcano they could find, Eyjafjallajokull.
Now, you might be thinking: Does molten controller not pose a serious chemical hazard? Luckily, Seven45 never has to find out, since they weren't actually berserk enough to dump the controllers while the volcano was active. They CGI'd that in later, like the nerds they really are. So instead, all those controllers were merely littered throughout a nature preserve, shattering into tiny shards scattered over a mile-long radius.
Resident Evil: Outbreak Caused A Literal Viral Panic
To promote Resident Evil: Outbreak, Capcom's European branch turned to a guerrilla marketing team for an outside-the-box way to market to a wider audience. They dreamt up a genius plan for a viral campaign based on the in-game zombie virus, telling gamers they could win prizes if they "infected" their friends by sending spam to their phones promoting the game. Said friends would then get a surprise message ... from an unknown number ... which read "I'm infecting you with the T-virus."
Needless to say, the stunt caused a minor panic with not-so-tech-savvy people, who feared their phones had indeed been infected with some sort of mobile virus. Despite the backlash, the marketing company's response boiled down to calling people stupid and gloating about how successful the campaign was at driving people to their website in a blind panic to find out who they have to bribe to get their sexts back.
Hunt Down The Freeman Pretended To Be The Successor To Half-Life
Royal Radius Entertainment's Hunt Down The Freeman wasn't just another fan mod of Half-Life 2, but a licensed product with official characters and game assets. It even featured Gordon Freeman on the cover! Even more legit, it cost a lot of money -- $25 for a taste of what some had been waiting for over a decade. But that taste quickly soured when countless players started reporting that it was absolute garbage, filled with broken gameplay and bugs, the most prominent character being a constant "ERROR" sign in the middle of the screen.
But the biggest betrayal happens at the end of the game, when players finally realize that, spoiler alert, they don't find Gordon Freeman. Despite being shown on the cover, Freeman -- the only reason anyone bought this junk -- doesn't even appear. Half-Life fans threw a collective fit, turning Hunt Down The Freeman into one of the worst-reviewed games on Steam. But we do hear they're already working on a sequel: Hunt Down Royal Radius.
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