In its relatively short history, the gaming industry has seen its fair share of marketing campaigns, appearing in everything from the Superbowl to viral internet sensations.
While a majority follow the more traditional route of tv spots and ad placements, there have been some that attempt to be edgy and different, often bordering on the weird to downright embarrassing. Here’s a look at gaming’s marketing campaigns that are considered the most memorable…most of them for the wrong reasons.
Seen only in Japan, Segata Sanshiro was the first (and only) ninja devoted to training on his Sega Saturn. His intense training bred an equally intense air that drove him to travel to towns and punish those who had not yet bought in to the prowess of the Saturn, and it’s hard to deny that a ninja who masquerades as Santa Claus is anything short of awesome…if not a little off-putting.
While they continue to be a powerhouse in the console market, Sony’s PlayStation brand has seen its fair share of strange advertisements in its lifetime. The marketing campaign for the PS3 was no different. Used to announce the arrival of the console, this commercial consisted of an incredibly creepy plastic baby sitting directly across from the PS3 in a white room. It felt more like a trailer for a Chucky reboot than a commercial and left people wondering what exactly the ad was advertising about the console.
Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2
In an attempt to market Dead Space 2 as edgy and violent, marketing pulled in a focus group of middle aged moms and showed them some of the game’s most violent footage. The ad campaign was supposed to appeal to kids with a “your mom hates it, so it must be cool,” message, oddly marketing the game to underage gamers who couldn’t purchase M rated games without an adult. While it was a strange approach, the game ended up receiving great critical praise, and the advertisement itself is pretty funny.
GTA IV Temporary Tattoo
A testament to some of the more cringeworthy PR tactics of Microsoft during the early years of the 360, GTA’s arrival on the new Xbox console was announced not by a teaser trailer or a leaked bit on the internet, but by Microsoft Interactive Entertainment’s Peter Moore rolling up his sleeve to reveal a GTA IV temporary tattoo. Nothing generates hype for a beloved franchise like a cheap tat on the bicep of a middle aged man. Now all we need is Kevin Butler to shave The Last Guardian into his head to announce the game’s arrival at E3 2012.
Created by one of the minds behind DOOM, Daikatana was a long-awaited and highly anticipated game from John Romero. The game underwent a lot of stress during its development, ranging from delays to accusations of developers living lavish lifestyles and not actually working on the title.
In an attempt to quell the anger of eager FPS fans, a massive marketing campaign was launched, featuring ads trash talking gamers by saying “John Romero’s about to make you his bitch.” When the game was released, it was considered sub-par and suffering from multiple design flaws. Romero himself even apologized and expressed his regret for the polarizing campaign.
The PSP white ad campaign was probably one of the most controversial in gaming. Depicting a white woman in a blatant position of dominance over an African American woman, the ad was accused of having a strong racial tone that generated negative feelings amongst consumers. Of course, Sony dismissed the idea that they were suggesting racial bigotry with their ad, but it does leave one to wonder what exactly the marketing department was on when they gave this ad the thumbs-up.
Sega’s Blast Processing
During the early years, Sega’s biggest competitor was the SNES, and the company was lagging behind Nintendo in many ways. In need of a shot of adrenaline to hype the Genesis up again, Sega’s marketing department made a very bold move by declaring their hardware had a feature no other console had: Blast Processing.
The name sounded awesome, and people grew interested in the Genesis’ unique ability. Sega themselves were very careful with the issue, never really explaining or discussing what exactly Blast Processing was, and what it did to make the system so great.
It’s understandable that Blast Processing was a very difficult phenomenon to explain, however. It was completely made up.
Mass Effect 3 Space Edition
Mass Effect 3 had one of the most unique marketing campaigns in recent memory. Touted as the “first console game launched into Earth’s upper atmosphere on a historic voyage,” several copies of the game were launched into the Stratosphere in San Fransisco, Las Vegas, New York, London, and Berlin. With GPS trackers attached, fans were able to try and track down the copies when they landed and get the game a week before its official release. All of the copies were recovered except for the ones in San Fransisco, whose search had to be called off due to safety reasons.
Facing skepticism from fans of the original title, BioShock 2 had a challenge in sparking interest amongst gamers. In an effort to generate hype, the game’s marketing campaign started off as more of a viral one, with mysterious bottles containing posters and messages from Rapture washing on shore around the world. Trying to flesh out Rapture and make it seem like a real place, the marketing ploy did raise a few eyebrows. The game, however, is still considered to linger in the shadow of the original BioShock.
In what is probably the strangest marketing campaign on this list, EA tried to sell Dante’s Inferno through a series of strange guerilla marketing ploys, ranging from staged protests by actors pretending to be outraged Christians at E3 2009 to a contest for “a sinful night with two hot girls” as a reward for getting pictures with “booth babes” at Comic Con (considered an act of lust). It even went as far as sending $200 checks to game editors in a fancy box, saying “by cashing this check, you succumb to avarice by hoarding filthy lucre, but by not cashing it, you waste it, and thereby surrender to prodigality.” The entire campaign was more polarizing than it was interesting, and the game itself was met with mediocre reviews and accused of being a God of War clone.
World of Warcraft Chuck Norris
Attempting to cash in on the Chuck Norris joke craze, World of Warcraft saw a commercial starring the martial arts action star with taglines like, “there are 10 million people in the World of Warcraft because Chuck Norris allows them to live!”. The ad was nothing short of amusing; however, I find it hard to believe Chuck is actually logged in to WOW. Everyone knows he’s too busy working out with the Total Gym.