Top 10 Video Game PR Disasters

Script written by Kurt Hvorup Well...that could have gone better. Welcome to http://WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Video Game Publish Relations Disasters. Special thanks to our user “backup368” for suggesting this topic using our interactive suggestion tool at http://WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Top 10 Video Game PR Fails

Video game marketing can be a fascinating and wonderful thing… or an absolute disaster. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our list for the top 10 Video Game PR Fails.

For this list we’re taking a look at those moments in the video game industry where marketing and public relations managed to botch a situation and leave everyone reeling. Our focus is specifically on events that hurt the brand as a whole, and not merely an individual or a product.

#10: Ocean Marketing

Well, that’s certainly a way to wreck your credibility and upset customers. To handle customer and media relations for their Avenger PS3 controller attachments, N-Control decided to employ the PR firm Ocean Marketing. Unfortunately for N-Control, Ocean Marketing employee Paul Christoforo chose to berate a customer looking for information on an order, leading to a heated back-and-forth with “Penny Arcade” co-founder Mike Krahulik. Once the whole affair was made public, Ocean Marketing was quickly dropped by N-Control, but the damage was already done. Quite a shame to see a potentially interesting product tied to such an unpleasant string of events.

#9: Skyrim’s Paid Mods

Let it never be said that Valve isn’t bold in a number of its endeavors… though in this case, it didn’t exactly pan out in their favor. In April 2015, the Valve Corporation unveiled a new paid mods feature on its digital game marketplace Steam, with Bethesda’s “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” being the first game to test said feature. The following weeks were rife not only with unrest and objections among gamers, but also problems stemming from a lack of oversight on Valve’s part. Once reports of overpriced mods and copyright-violating content began to roll in, the writing was on the wall. Hopefully Bethesda’s “Creation Club” doesn’t make the same mistakes.

#8: Redner & Duke Nukem Forever

When the long-awaited “Duke Nukem Forever” finally released in June 2011, it was met with an avalanche of negative reviews and widespread disappointment. Certainly not a good sign for the game or the “Duke Nukem” series, the situation was made one extra bit worse by the interference of marketing representative Jim Redner. In an infamous Twitter outburst, Redner stated his intention to limit review copies of future games he represented by blacklisting any vocal critics of “Duke Nukem Forever”. Even after 2K Games formally cut ties with Redner’s firm, the troubling implications of his statement still lingered.

#7: Shadow of Mordor Forced Brand Deals

Fortune seemed to favor certain YouTube personalities when Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment offered them pre-release copies of “Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.” However, the offer came with a caveat: the YouTubers would have to sign a contract that required them to withhold info about Warner Bros directly sponsoring their videos on the game. After a leaked copy of the contract began to make the rounds, Warner Bros would find itself investigated and exposed in full by the US Federal Trade Commission. We’re of the mind that it’s not a good look using popular Internet stars to sell one’s games on false pretenses.

#6: PSP White

It’s hard to know sometimes if someone was intentionally aiming to seem racially insensitive or if they just made a really terrible decision. Sony faced such an issue when, in 2006, the company faced substantial backlash from an ad in the Netherlands promoting the white variant of their PSP handheld system. The advert in question portrayed a white woman violently grasping a black woman by the jaw, with the tagline “PlayStation Portable White is coming”. Giving the world the impression that Sony was completely ignorant, this marketing campaign was later pulled and Sony released a statement acknowledging people’s concerns.

#5: Fake Bomb for Watch Dogs

As the saying goes among certain gaming pundits: oh Ubisoft. The Australian news site NineMSN received quite a shock when a safe was sent to one of their reporters, along with a note saying to check their voicemail. When they tried to open the safe, it started beeping; they had to call a bomb disposal unit to disarm it… except it turns out the whole thing was a hoax. Inside the “bomb” was a copy of Ubisoft’s 2014 game “Watch Dogs” accompanied by some assorted promotional items. Ubisoft had apparently not anticipated that the safe – or the cryptic instructions for opening it – could be misconstrued, as they had no malicious intentions. Yikes.

#4: Nintendo v Let’s Players

Some days it’s great to be the fun, tradition-rooted game maker in the industry – this is not one of those times. Nintendo’s struggles to adapt to the nature of Let’s Play video content began in 2013, when the company declared its intent to claim the ad revenue of anyone doing videos on Nintendo games. Public outcry would lead Nintendo to discontinue this practice… though it didn’t stop them from establishing the Creator’s Program about two years later. This affiliate program, which ensures Nintendo earns some of the ad profits on Let’s Plays, left many wondering if Nintendo was simply incapable of changing with the times.

#3: Revealing the Xbox One

The early days in a console’s promotion are pivotal, with success requiring a light touch, careful wording and an establishment of goodwill between manufacturer and customers. Microsoft’s decision to host a press conference one month before E3 2013, in order to generate interest in their then-upcoming Xbox One console, most definitely did not achieve such acclaim. Not only did the event focus more on the One’s streaming and social media features than on gaming, it also revealed a myriad of potential problems for the console. Ranging from its always-online status to the questionable price point, nearly every aspect of the Xbox One as advertised had to be walked back and reversed after sufficient criticism.

#2: The PSN Security Breach of 2011

When your customers’ personal information is on the line, it may not be wise to withhold important information. On April 20th, 2011, Sony shut down various services of their PlayStation Network, on the grounds that it was conducting maintenance on the Network. It would be another six days before Sony revealed the truth of the situation: the PlayStation Network had been hacked, with the personal info of 77 million users potentially compromised. Understandably, this lead various government officials and security experts to criticize Sony for waiting as long as they did to explain the true reasons behind the PSN shutdown.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few dishonorable mentions:

Sony at E3 2006

Balloons for Homefront

Dante’s Inferno Fake Protest

#1: Konami

Those present at E3 2010 may have felt Konami’s bizarre, tone-deaf presentation was the pinnacle of misguided public relations efforts. Yet it would be 2015, which presented us with the depths of their self-destructive tendencies, beginning with rumors that the company had driven acclaimed developer Hideo Kojima to leave Konami. This was followed by a conga line of terrible moments, such as leaks pointing to a hostile work culture and the company deciding to turn their beloved franchises into pachinko machines. Add to this their refusal to allow Kojima to appear at the Game Awards and the announcement of “Metal Gear Survive”, and it becomes clear that Konami as a brand is seemingly beyond redemption.
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