Xbox: Life is Short (2001)
As Microsofts first foray into the console market, the Xbox was something of a mysterious beast to gamers when it was released back in 2001. Compared to rival consoles of the time such as the PS2 and Dreamcast, the original Xbox - with its ridiculously large controller and bulky minimalist design - made it something sinister. Initial confusion and mystery surrounding the console wasnt helped by the incredibly controversial advertising campaign, which rather than show off the potential of the console, gave us a bleak and darkly funny depiction of the fleeting nature of life. While the underlying message was a positive one - have fun and play more - many viewers didnt see the funny side of the advert and were disgusted by the uneasy depiction of a graphic birth followed by rapid aging and a quick death. Whatever your stance on the unusual but well made advert, it was pulled by the Independent Television Commission who claimed it had caused considerable distress to many viewers. It didnt stop the advert winning a myriad of awards and garnering unique publicity for Microsofts bold new system. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh8jjeEnFAA
Turok Evolution: 'I name thee.... Turok' (2002)
Fewer gaming companies caused as much controversy as Acclaim did during their lifespan. The now defunct publisher of such titles as BMX XXX and Turok were behind some of the most controversial and outrageous publicity stunts of any publisher in the history of video games. One of the most infamous was their attempts to drum up interest for 2002s Turok Evolution, by offering a sum of $10,000 to parents who would register the name of their new born child as Turok. The stunt quickly hit the headlines of not only gaming publications but general news, with many outraged that Acclaim and potential parents could put a child at the center of such a cheap stunt. A spokesman for Acclaim, Alan Lewis, argued that
"We're giving birth to our biggest game, so it's a natural tie-in. People have been naming their kids after movie and sports celebrities for years--why not games?"
PSP: White is Coming (2006)
Good old Sony.....If theyre not mindfucking us with David Lynch ad campaigns
involving a talking duck, or another including a weird alien girl
, theyre flirting on the boundaries of racism. With the launch of the white version of the PSP handheld, billboards appeared in Amsterdam depicting a towering white woman clutching the head of an intimidated black woman. Understandably, it wasnt long before news of the billboards began to spread around the world, followed by a whirlwind of controversy and fierce debate on gaming websites. Some argued that the image was merely a playful metaphor for the mixed colours of Sonys console, others convinced that it was clearly an image which held rampant and explicit racist connotations. It wasnt long before the billboards and campaign were pulled and Sony issued a worldwide apology for the tension and anger that the image had caused.
Dante's Inferno: Sin To Win ! (2009)
Dantes Inferno was behind not one, but two controversial publicity stunts which managed to cause far more significant uproar than the 18 rated violent hack-and-slash game itself. A staged protest outside the L.A Convention Centre during the 2009 E3 began the ball rolling, managing to make actual news coverage, despite being mocked up by actors who were protesting the game for being blasphemous. This minor controversy had nothing on what was to follow at Comic-Con. A contest appeared at the event in which applicants could compete to win an evening with two of EAs Booth Babes complete with a limo ride, fancy dinner and an undisclosed booty. In order to be in with a chance of winning, attendees had to compete by taking pictures of acts of lust with EAs booth babes. Despite EAs instance that the term acts of lust was clearly not to be taken literally, the stunt was lambasted for its misogynistic attitude towards women and lack of clarity.
Burnout 2: Speeding Tickets (2002)
To coincide with the release of the nitro fueled racer Burnout 2: Point of Impact, Acclaim decided to celebrate the outrageous vehicular carnage of the game by offering to pay for speeding tickets issued to drivers who had purchased the game. The campaign
was due to run for one day only, and would see Acclaim reimbursing reckless drivers for their idiotic ways and somewhat celebrating dangerous driving in the process. Even if you see the funny side, its incredible to believe that Acclaim actually had the gall to equate such a ridiculously over the top driving game with real life recklessness when its far more important to make sure that gamers arent encouraged to perform such ridiculous stunts in real life. Understandably, before the stunt could even be pulled off, the government stepped in to put a stop to it, outraged that Acclaim was appearing to be encouraging dangerous driving.
Call of Duty: There's a Soldier in all of Us (2010)
Of all the controversies on this list, the furore that surrounded an advert for Call of Duty: Black Ops is perhaps the silliest. A light-hearted romp in which a host of minor celebrities including Jimmy Kimmel and Kobe Bryant, the advert shows a series of office workers and civil servants waging war in an explosive battlefield with the tag-line, Theres a soldier in all of us. It was a fantastic advert - if arguably guilty of glamorizing violence and warfare - but it soon managed to upset a handful of media commentators, from angry parents to ESPN pundits
. In one particularly scathing review
, the ad was called a troubling melange of gun, grenade, and rocket combat acted out by blue-collar workers, children, and celebs. While the controversy eventually died down, it remains a reminder of the medias sensitive attitudes to video game violence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pblj3JHF-Jo
God of War 2: Sony Orgy (2007)
Nothing says big game release like a staging of a mass orgy with a desecrated goats carcass, and Sony knew thats exactly what they needed for God of War II. Held in Athens, an exclusive press event had topless girls offering drinks and grapes to guests, live snakes and knife throwing and a man dressed as Kratos handing out garlands. The centerpiece attraction was a partly decapitated goat which had its innards pulled out through its mouth and offered for consumption in order to win a PS3 console. The gruesome spectacle was showcased in all its gory glory in an issue of the official Playstation Magazine, with photos depicting the goats carcass and topless models. When controversy soon arose, the entire batch of magazines featuring the images were recalled while debate continued to rise surrounding the animal cruelty and barbaric nature of the event. Sony soon issued a statement apologizing for the situation, conceding that Sony does not condone or sanction any inappropriate behavior by its staff or sub-contracted staff. On the plus side, it caused the Daily Mail
to get their knickers in a twist.
All I Want For Xmas is a PSP (2006)
Sonys attempt at viral marketing
for the PSP was greeted with a mix of confusion and ridicule from the gaming press and gamers themselves. The embarrassing adverts featured a blinged up man dancing around his front room while declaring his want for a PSP for Christmas. Appearing on a seemingly fan-made website, it was soon discovered that the website was owned by marketing firm Zipitoni, who had been approved to create the viral adverts by Sony. The fake videos and the accompanying fan site and blog (complete with poorly written misspelt text) led to many accusing Sony of trying to fool gamers into believing that the advertisements were created by fans. Sony pulled the website and all traces of the viral ads yet the damage was already done and the launch of the PSP was shadowed by the controversially deceptive nature of the advertising.
Mercenaries 2: Free Fuel (2008)
A seemingly normal day in West London turned into chaos in 2008 when EA offered motorists free petrol to coincide with the release of Mercenaries 2. It wasnt long before huge traffic jams clogged the street, as people hurried to get their own share of the £20,000 worth of free fuel. While lucky motorists were delighted at the free fuel on offer, others were furious at being stuck in traffic or being turned away once the offer had been finished after a mere few hours due to pressure from local officials and police. Even more troubling was the inevitable bouts of conflict among those trying to reach the front of the queue, while locals in the area were angered by the way the stunt had effected their daily plans. Despite the news coverage
surrounding the controversial stunt, Mercenaries 2 failed to meet sales expectations and led to EA making the sad decision to close down Pandemic - the development studio behind the ill fated game.
Shadow Man 2: Deadvertising (2002)
Once again our old friends from Acclaim deliver the goods, this time with one of the most obscenely offensive and tasteless publicity stunts of all time. To celebrate the release of a sequel that nobody really wanted, Acclaim hatched a sinister plan to advertise the game on the gravestones of the recently deceased. The grieving families would be given a substantial amount of cash, while Acclaim would have the freedom to desecrate the gravestones of the dead with a poster celebrating the release of Shadow Man 2. Rather than apologise and blame the idea on some poor intern, Acclaim stoked the fire
by arguing that the stunt would particularly interest poorer families" and that it could be seen as a subsidy to burial costs to give their loved one a good send-off. Details remain sketchy on just how far Acclaim took the idea before bucking under pressure, but they later disingenuously claimed that the whole idea was an extended April fools gag.