The recent blow-up concerning reviewer non-disclosure agreement and Konami’s Metal Gear Solid 4 is a minor blip on the radar of videogame marketing and publicity’s often inexplicable relationship to the gaming press. But it got us thinking: What are the absolute lowlights in videogame marketing, publicity and advertising? Below please find our Epic Fail list of Gaming publicity, marketing and advertising.
The Daikatana Incident (a.k.a. John Romero’s Big Mouth)
During Daikatana’s development, well before the game was set to be released, a magazine ad was released to promote John Romero’s game. These were the days when magazines were the primary form of gaming news and pre-release hype to this level wasn’t yet standard operating procedure. John wanted everyone to know that he was going to make you his bitch and invited you to “suck it down.”
The game took 3 more years to release and was a definite turd. Suck what down, Mr. Romero?
Switching the colors for Autobots and Decepticons on the DS boxart - The Autobots logo is purple. The Decepticons logo is red. How, then, do you manage to flip those on the box art? Is it because you like failing?
Sony's "Thumb" Ad
I have no idea what Sony’s European ad agency was going for when they came up with this ad portraying a nude male with a thumb for a penis, but all they really achieved was a whole lot of embarrassed giggling and a general roar of “WTF” from the gaming community. Certainly, they weren’t appealing to the young men in the crowd, and the young ladies would likely be put off by the thought of a thumb in that position. So, what were they going for? Who were they marketing to? What were they trying to say? This ad is literally the DaVinci Code of visual marketing.
Lair's How-To-Play Manual
Sony, in a move to try and stop the flow of negative and sub-par reviews for their highly anticipated release Lair for the PS3, sent out an unprecedented "Reviewer's Guide" to game review websites such as IGN. Inside the "Guide" was a 6 page section about the game's controls which, in effect, was telling the reviewer how to play the game properly.
Websites such as TheFeed, Kotaku, and IGN jumped on this and the packet led to an even further backlash against Factor 5's disappointing title. Earlier this year, Sony caved and released a patch for Lair that included an option for analog game controls, but at that point the world of the internet had moved on to more important things, like monkeys that pee in their own mouths.
We all remember the recent drama involving Jeff Gerstmann leaving GameSpot.com, but in case you were skipping class that day, I'll give you the Cliff's notes. Gerstmann was a well seasoned game reviewer for GameSpot, and after a slightly negative review of the game Kane and Lynch, he was asked to leave the company. Rumors immediately started circling that Gerstmann was fired because of pressure from the game's publisher, Eidos Interactive. Pointing to the fact that GameSpot was skinned in Kane and Lynch ads, and that multiple long-term employees of GameSpot left soon after the incident, many people assume that the rumor are true. We'll never know for sure, since GameSpot and their parent company Cnet have maintained that they have high standards for objective reviews and information, and Gerstmann has not given any details about the situation because of the legal ramifications. While GameSpot's credibility has taken a hit with some, their traffic numbers haven't, so take that as you will. Gerstmann now has his own site called Giant Bomb and has been doing podcasts about gaming ever since, but has still remained tight-lipped about Gerstmann-gate.
"Sexy" Game Ads
The above photo, taken from a magazine ad for some game called Shogo Mobile Army Division typifies what's wrong with advertising that tries to use sex to sell games. The bad pun about your "gun" being big enough paired with the out-of-context clip-art hot chick indicates a creatively bankrupt ad agency. Can't you just see them sitting around a conference table for hours, and ending the meeting with "We don't understand gamers, but they probably don't get laid much, so let's just show a hot chick and call it a night."
In other words: Sex is cool. Games are cool. But combining them can be a like eating a salmon and peanut butter sandwich: The ingredients are delicious, but the combination makes us sick.
Honorable Epic Win: Gary Busey In Saint's Row 2 ads
We're not even sure why this is such an awesome combination, but damn is it ever. Please let Busey be a playable character in Saint's Row 2. Please, please, please! And give whoever came up with the idea a big raise!