ByRob Harris, writer at
Sometimes I play video games.
Rob Harris

Video games are big business. Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars making games, so when it comes to the final hurdle - marketing them to consumers - it's vital not to screw everything up. Despite these high stakes, some companies chose to create buzz around their releases in some rather unorthodox ways that were occasionally inspired, but often just outright crazy. So without further ado, let me introduce you to the biggest marketing campaign car crashes in the video game industry. You honestly could not make these up...

Burnout 2 - Encouraging Reckless Driving

I find it entertaining to imagine what exactly went on in the meeting between Burnout 2's marketing team. I would have to think it went something like this:

'Okay, so our game is about driving real, real fast. How can we tie that in? What's stopping people from being able to drive fast?'

'...Speed limits?'

'Exactly! Screw the limits, let's offer to pay the fines for everyone in the UK who is caught speeding on the game's release day!'

'Erm, won't that encourage dangerous driving and make us responsible for potentially fatal car accidents?'

'Don't be silly, of course not. It's a great idea!'

Well, turns out it wasn't such a hot idea and the game's publisher, Acclaim, was accused of criminal negligence. Nice.

PSP White - Promoting Racism

You may think encouraging speeding is bad - how about encouraging racism? Well, maybe that's a little too harsh, but Sony's series of billboard advertisements designed to promote their new white PSP console certainly contained racist undertones. The highly mis-judged adverts depicted a white person physically dominating a black person, which many found offensive. Sony were forced to pull the billboards and apologise for the inappropriate messaging.

Turok: Evolution - Naming Babies

Imagine you've been given the job to design Turok: Evolution's marketing campaign. It's a first-person shooter set in a jungle-based environment, with the player having to take on hordes of bloodthirsty dinosaurs. How would you sell that?

If you said 'pay people to name their newborn baby Turok' then congratulations! You're as dumb as Acclaim were. I have no idea how offering $10,000 to anyone insane enough to do it helped sell copes of the game, but full marks for originality. I just hope no parents were mean enough to actually take them up on it.

Homefront - Endangering Wildlife

THQ's Homefront tasked players with fighting off a North Korean invasion on United States home soil. The game was received with pretty negative reviews, but that was nothing compared to the crushing failure of their marketing strategy.

Nothing says Communism like a barrage of red balloons, so obviously they decided to shower the city of San Francisco with them! Unfortunately, THQ didn't quite anticipate the environmental repercussions of such a stunt. The balloons quickly descended with many landing in the bay, endangering local wildlife with their plastic remains. The company quickly had to send people to clean up their own mess, resulting in a rather deflated marketing message. Oops.

Dante's Inferno - Poking Fun at Christians

EA's Dante's Inferno was heavily inspired by Dante Alighieri's religious poem, The Divine Comedy. So, feeling particularly naughty, EA designed a 'sin to win' competition at Comic-Con, encouraging the public to, quote, 'commit acts of lust' with their heavily sexualised booth babes.

If that wasn't enough, they then organised a fake protest rally outside the popular video game expo, E3. The hired protestors disparaged the game for trivialising Biblical issues. Well, any publicity is good publicity, right? Wrong. The fake protest actually provoked a real protest from angry Christians who, quite rightly, believed they were being made fun of. Best just stick to TV commercials EA.

Shadow Man 2 - Monetising Death

There are some places where advertising just isn't appropriate. Like cemeteries, for example. But, ever the champions of bad taste, Acclaim decided there was no good reason they couldn't monetise death, so they offered people money to put Shadow Man 2 ads on their gravestones. They even had a name for this ingenious idea: 'deadvertising'.

What followed was a public backlash, causing Acclaim to backtrack rapidly, saying it was just a harmless April Fool’s joke...despite it being March.

God of War 3 - Decapitating Animals

Sony held a big launch party for their Grecian action-adventure game, God of War 3, but one deceased guest got them in a lot of trouble!

To celebrate the company decided to have a full-on goat sacrifice in the game's honor, displaying its decapitated carcass at the party. Understandably, animal activists took issue with this bloody stunt and forced the company to return the goat to a professional butcher. I know what I'm doing for my next birthday.


Which marketing campaign was the most idiotic?


Latest from our Creators