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Top Ten Tuesdays | Worst Video Game Marketing Campaigns

Matt Gardner
Atari, EA, Evony, Features, Sony, Top Ten, Top Ten Tuesdays, Worst video game ads, Worst video game marketing

Sometimes marketing departments mess things up royally. Here's a look at ten of the worst marketing campaigns. From covert profiling to out and out bribery, from disappointment to righteous indignation. Some of the mad men responsible for these atrocities are definitely going to hell.

10. Kinect: Project Milo

Letting us groom our own virtual boy was not what we had in mind when Microsoft announced Kinect. It had to be Milo and Claire - swap around the character roles in that video anywhere and it immediately becomes something a little more sinister. The tech that was being touted looked fantastic, but the premise was somewhat disturbing. Virtual pets have always been popular. Essentially having a virtual pet who was a human child named Milo seemed borderline illegal. Misguided rather than cynical. Plus it's hard to stay mad at Peter Molyneux.

9. We Dare

It's a lot of fun to rag on rabid Right-wing media sources when they cry wolf over a game, but it's not so great when they have a point, rare though that often might be. The public outcry that surrounded We Dare as parents began spitting teeth at the thought that a game which relied on some extremely sexualised advertising might be available to anyone over the age of twelve was the result of a supreme marketing cock-up. PEGI explained painfully that there was no real content in the game to suggest the rating need be higher, but the damage had already been done thanks to an advert that involved an awful lot of spanking.

8. Evony

Top Ten Tuesdays | Worst Video Game Marketing Campaigns
You can't just throw breasts at an advertising campaign and hope for the best. Featuring a series of increasingly undressed women, Evony's marketing tagline was 'Come play, my lord', the suggestive undertones supported by lounging snapshots of bedsheets or frosted and fogged sauna windows. Unfortunately, these ads had absolutely no bearing on the game itself whatsoever, which proved to be a vastly mediocre Civilization ripoff, and just succeeded in pissing off most quarters of the internet.

7. Atari Jaguar: 'Do The Math'

The trouble with inviting people to 'do the math' is that when people begin to realise that the math is wrong in the first place, reactions tend to be rather unfavourable. Atari based their marketing campaign for the Jaguar on the basis that the Jaguar was a 64-bit console, and everyone else had 16. The trouble was that not only was the Jaguar not really a true 64-bit console - instead sporting two 32-bit processors - but Atari didn't get the dev kits out in time and the first round of games were all based on the 16-bit controller's architecture...a controller that had more than 15 buttons on it and looked more like a calculator. The Jaguar should have been four times as good as the SNES if the maths was correct. It wasn't. It was shit.

6. Dead Space 2: 'Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2'

Way to market an 18-rated game to under-18 year olds, EA. Outstanding work. Shamelessly cynical and willfully destructive.

5. PS3 Baby

There's absolutely no need for this advert to exist. How the hell does this explain in any way why you should buy a PS3? Sony misjudged their marketing for the PS3 so very badly to begin with that it was simply unbelievable. Instead of making people want their product, they instead chose to confuse and creep out their audience, creating adverts that seemingly had nothing to do with playing games. 'This Is Living' was bad enough. An epileptic, levitating, crying baby-doll was worse.

4. Daikatana: John Romero's About To Make You His Bitch

Top Ten Tuesdays | Worst Video Game Marketing Campaigns

Oh John Romero. How we wanted Daikatana to be good, we really did. And, if it had been anything more than deeply mediocre, we might have been reflecting upon how this marketing campaign was actually one of the best ever seen. But it was not to be. Taking on the mantle of rock star developer, Ion Storm issued a series of promotional posters and adverts like the one above suggesting in no uncertain terms that Mr. Romero was about to bitchslap us all and that we really needed to 'suck it down'.

Arguably the most brazen example of dickswinging to grace our happy medium (apart from the ridiculous number of times the word 'dick' appears in Bulletstorm, that is), Daikatana was released to almost gleeful shrugs due to it being a poor excuse for a game.

3. PSP Squirrels

Sony might have struck advertising gold with Kevin Butler, but it's taken them over a decade to get there. All of the PSP's ads were bad, but these were by far the worst. I'm not sure if they're racist, insulting, or just plain stupid. And then there's the PSP White advert. Don't even get me started.

Sony responded at the time with 'All of the 100 or so images created for the campaign have been designed to show this contrast in colours of the PSPs , and have no other message or purpose.' Of course the several thousand other ways it could have been done wouldn't have made for so many outrageous column inches and free advertising. Arguably.

2. Shadow Man 2

Top Ten Tuesdays | Worst Video Game Marketing CampaignsThere are boundaries when it comes to advertising. There are lines of taste - good and bad - that should be respected. Scouring the obituaries columns of newspapers and asking people if they'd mind advertising your game on the headstone of a recently deceased relatively is not cool. At all.

Sony refused to comment at the time, although a spokesperson for Acclaim said that although it might be perceived as offensive in some areas, others might see it as a good way to acquire 'a subsidy to burial costs to give their loved one a good send-off' and rejected the notion that it was a cynical media stunt.

1. Dante's Inferno

Top Ten Tuesdays | Worst Video Game Marketing Campaigns

Oh boy. Where to begin? Perhaps with the staged protests at E3 where Electronic Arts paid for a bunch of people to turn up and protest the game on religious grounds, waving signs that encouraged gamers to trade in their PlayStations for 'PrayStations' and suggested that EA actually stood for 'Electronic Anti-Christ'. We rather think that CatholicVideoGamers might have been onto something when they responded with this righteous tirade:  'Gamers of all varieties will buy this product if it's, well, actually a good game,' they explained. 'So instead of engaging in a shamelessly anti-Christian stunt to promote your poor excuse of a product, maybe you ought to work on making this game, you know, something better than a blatant God of War rip-off and make it, ya know, something worthwhile?'

Not that women had it much easier. At Comic-Con that year, gamers were encouraged to commit sinful acts of lust with booth babes, nab a photo or two and hope to win a 'sinful' night with dinner, a limo and 'two hot girls'. By appealling to a strained stereotype of gamers as heterosexual males with tongues hanging out EA did themselves absolutely no favours. Ironically, around the same time, the publisher held an event with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation where EA posited that the industry's view of its audience as oversexualised adolescent males needed to change. I don't even need to say anything.

Or maybe we should just look at the $200 EA sent to the editors of major gaming websites at the time, packaged in elaborate fancy boxes which read that 'by cashing this check you succumb to avarice by harding filthy lucre, but by not cashing it, you waste it, and thereby surrender to prodigality. Make your choice and suffer the consequence for your sin. And scoff not, for consequences are imminent.' Joystiq cashed it and gave it to charity.

Shameless, just shameless.

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