Last night, THQ Nordic hosted an AMA on 8Chan, a website infamous for hosting child pornography. That was a remarkably foolish thing to do, and while nothing on this list quite amounts to that level of misjudgement, it's worth thinking back on some of the PR missteps this industry has produced over the years. Because for every brilliant marketing campaign that makes you giddy with excitement, there’s a dead goat.
Sony – God of War II dead goat fiasco
We’ve all misread the appropriate social cues from time to time, but I’d argue that few of us have used a dead goat as a mood piece for a party. That takes festive spirit to new and nauseating levels. But, in an effort to drum up hype for God of War II at a preview event, Sony did just that. One could argue that splaying the body of a dead goat on a plinth is in keeping with the game’s themes of ritual sacrifice, ancient agriculture, and gruesome bacchanal. On the other hand, you might also argue that it's icky, to say nothing of its power to sour the mood somewhat.
Microsoft – Adam Orth’s ‘deal with it’
Remember when Adam Orth told everyone to ‘deal with it’? That was ill-advised. Orth was a creative director at Microsoft, and was speaking about the ‘always on’ nature of the Xbox One, which meant it would need an internet connection to play games. This rightfully irritated a lot of potential players. Orth tweeted, saying, ‘Sorry, I don’t get the drama around having an “always on” console. Every device now is “always on”. That's the world we live in.’
Of course, it isn’t the world we live in – not yet, anyway, and certainly not then. Orth, and indeed Microsoft, didn't seem to consider the people that lived in areas without strong, reliable internet connections. The backlash to Orth’s tweet wasn’t the sole reason Microsoft reversed direction and scrapped the idea completely, but it most definitely helped the boys and girls at Redmond make a decision on whether they’d tether their console to the internet or not. Afterwards, Xbox One stumbled out the gate, but it seems like Microsoft have dealt with it.
Ken Kutaragi – work more hours to buy a PS3
You lazy bums. Cast your mind back to the eve of the PlayStation 3, when the announced price tag of $599 (for the full-featured model of the console) was called ‘probably too cheap’ by Ken Kutaragi. He justified the price by saying, ‘No game machines are comparable to the PS3, which is neither a genuine game console, home electronics [product] nor a personal computer. It is a new kind of product.’ As it turned out, you could compare the PS3 quite handily to the Xbox 360, and, as it happened, the it was a genuine game console.
You might admire the ballsiness of Kutaragi’s approach, but what really wasn’t very nice was when he said he wanted ‘consumers to think to themselves “I will work more hours to buy one”. We want people to feel that they want it, irrespective of anything else.’ Yikes. Promoting the notion of people running themselves ragged to buy an outrageously overpriced console isn’t a good look.
Activision – Jamie Kennedy at E3 2007
Maybe it made some sense to Activision to solicit the services of actor Jamie Kennedy. I’m not quite sure how, though; Kennedy’s performance at E3 2007 was a very strange thing. His speech had the slur of someone who had staggered out of a rave just as the sun was coming up; he seemed to be nervous, resentful, and wildly confused; and he stood with the posture of a sloth that had been cattle prodded into going bipedal. He then proceeded to deliver such urbane witticisms as: ‘I just wanna say that this place is the only place that makes the guys at Comic-Con look like Ocean’s 13,’ and ‘So I wanna ask you about the name of your company, Neversoft... it’s weird... is it a bunch of programmers walking around with hard-ons?’ Yes, quite.
EA – posting brass knuckles to the press to promote The Godfather II
Obviously not. They’re (rightly) illegal in many states. Obviously not.
Ubisoft – man armed with plastic gun hired to threaten pub-goers
When a man walks into a busy pub district in New Zealand waving a plastic gun around, things aren’t likely to go down well. But Monaco Corporation, a marketing partner of Ubisoft, did just that as a promotional stunt for Splinter Cell: Conviction. This is perhaps the most immediately, dangerously foolish stunt on the entire list, because armed police were quickly dispatched to the scene. It’s a miracle the plastic gunman wasn’t shot by police. A representative from Monaco Corporation said, ‘It was just marketing gone wrong.’ That’s one way of putting it, yes.