Controversial advertising campaigns in support of video games /


As you know, sometimes no less effort and money is spent on marketing in the gaming industry than on the development of a particular video game. Another thing is if the series has already earned a solid reputation, and players are ready to run to the store for a new part without being reminded. In such a case, the publisher may try to gain additional attention by putting on a memorable promotion, going very far.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Acclaim Entertainment

Among all publishers in the industry, Acclaim stood out not only for its track record, but also for its boldness in advertising. The company has at least three cases when, in response to their marketing moves, people shrugged their hands in confusion.

Turok Evolution

Shortly before the release of the prequel to the once famous Turok line in 2002, Acclaim decided to play it safe before release and offered a $10,000 prize to anyone who named their newborn Turk. Of course, such a move was primarily aimed at generating noise around the game, and it is not surprising that those who wished did not show up, but, in any case, Turok Evolution turned out to be an order of magnitude weaker than its predecessors.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Shadow Man: 2econd Coming

When Shadow Man: 2econd Coming came out, the players realized that they got a second-rate game, and they didn’t feel much joy about it. To somehow remedy the situation, Acclaim took up the so-called deadvertising, and, adhering to the afterlife theme of the game, they offered to place 2econd Coming ads on the gravestones of recently deceased people. As the icing on the cake, Acclaim said their offer is especially relevant to lower-middle-income families. Needless to say, the public reaction was so strong that Acclaim had to explain that it was all an April prank, which they decided to do in March.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Burnout 2: Point of Impact

When releasing Burnout 2, Acclaim promised that it would pay any speeding ticket in the UK on the day of the game’s release. Here you can see a rare example when the actions of developers really motivate players to commit crimes. So did the UK authorities, forcing Acclaim to roll up advertising almost immediately after the launch of the campaign.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

All three incidents occurred shortly before the bankruptcy of the company, which, in addition to unexpected promotions, gave the industry several worthy titles.

Dante’s Inferno

Electronic Arts has decided to launch one of the longest-running advertising campaigns called “Nine Months of Hell” for their game Dante’s Inferno, which is a slasher game based on Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy”, in which the knight Dante goes through nine circles of hell in search of his beloved.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

The campaign was broken up into many events. One of them was a competition at Comic-Con, in which participants were asked to perform an “act of debauchery” with local female models. Of course, the idea was immediately torn to pieces by numerous complaints from visitors on Twitter.

Then came the trailer for a non-existent title for the Nintendo Wii called Mass: We Pray. The game acted as an alternative to Sunday trips to church, and offered to atone for sins without leaving the gamepad.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

A little later, there was an advertisement for a fictitious website, which promised to teach you how to steal and seduce your friends’ wives and girlfriends.

In addition, several journalists were sent boxes from which Rick Astley’s song “Never Gonna Give You Up” was heard. The only way to stop the music was with the supplied hammer.

The campaign culminated in a fake Christian picket, during which the actors went out of their way to urge people to turn their backs on EA and the upcoming Dante’s Inferno. I must say, the public quickly figured out the idea, and local Christians demanded to stop making fun of their religion.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

God of War 3

Sony’s God of War 3 release party in Greece went a little too far, in the eyes of many, when the company staged a series-inspired goat sacrifice. Further, all visitors were invited to touch the insides of the animal. It probably won’t surprise anyone that animal rights activists were ready to maul Sony, so event organizers quickly returned the goat to the butcher and issued a public apology.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Resident Evil 6

When a butcher shop called Wesker & Son Resident Evil Human Butchery popped up in London, fans of the Japanese zombie series got suspicious. And for good reason, because Capcom thought it was a great idea to advertise Resident Evil 6 by selling meat products in the form of human body parts.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Despite the ubiquitous outcry of the shocked public, it was hard for Capcom to scold the butcher shop idea, given its innocence. Not to mention, all profits from the event went to charity.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Red Faction: Guerrilla

Another idea, implemented on the streets of London, fell on the shooter Red Faction: Guerrilla. The publisher of the game THQ placed 100 copies of the game in a car, attached a sledgehammer nearby, and offered anyone who wanted to get to the cherished game by force. The fact that the car was parked on a busy street only exacerbated an already precarious situation.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

THQ PR manager Simon Watts decided to explain the idea:

“Our game boasts the most realistic destruction engine, and we were wondering how many people would stop in the middle of the street to take the stress out and get a copy of Red Faction: Guerrilla.”

Controversial video game ad campaigns


Another company that loves controversial ads is Ubisoft, which forgot to add even a modicum of obviousness in its fake performances.

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Before the release of Splinter Cell: Conviction, Ubisoft hired an actor to simulate an armed robbery in Oakland. I must say that he did it so believably that the police who arrived at the “crime scene” decided to make sure that his weapon was not real.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Watch Dogs

When it came time to release the promising Watch Dogs, Ubisoft decided to ignore past experience and sent a black safe with a note “check your voicemail” to Ninemsn’s Australian office.

As soon as the parcel began to “tick”, the workers were immediately released to go home, the safe was taken to the basement and sappers were called. After a couple of hours, the safe was opened, and they found a copy of Watch Dogs, a hat and a baseball cap.

Both in the first and in the second case, law enforcement agencies were extremely dissatisfied with the actions of Ubisoft.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Dead Space 2

Before the release of the second part of the sensational horror, Electronic Arts selected 200 middle-aged women who did not understand anything about video games. The subjects were then shown the scariest clips from Dead Space 2, and their reactions resulted in a series of “Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2” videos.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Despite issues with the ESRB and allegations of sexism and mocking feminist stereotypes, most of the public liked the idea, and the game itself received more than positive reviews in the industry.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Hitman: Absolution

On the one hand, when, as part of the Hitman: Absolution advertising campaign, Square-Enix launched the Hire Hitman app on Facebook, which allows you to kill your friends on the social network, many people liked the idea, because, after all, we are dealing with a line that tells about the adventures of a mercenary the killers. Another thing is that there were many users who took the possibility of a virtual murder very close to their hearts. At the same time, it should be noted that people were mostly annoyed not by the fact of the “murder”, but by the fact that in Hire Hitman it was necessary to choose on what basis to identify the victim. Possibilities included bad smell, small breasts, hairy legs, etc.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Resident Evil Outbreak

Capcom launched a website where you could prank your friends by sending them a text message on their phone saying they had contracted the T-Virus, which turns people into zombies in the Resident Evil universe. Despite the simplicity of the idea, it got out of control when people who were completely unfamiliar with the series began receiving warnings about the T-Virus. Many victims of the prank perceived the T-virus as a real-life virus on their device.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

Inspired by the example of Acclaim, Bethesda decided to accompany the release of the long-awaited fifth part of The Elder Scrolls with a dubious promotion. According to the rules, all parents whose child is born on the day of the release of the game, namely 11/11/11, will be granted lifetime access to the company’s games if they name their offspring “Dovahkiin” in honor of the protagonist of Skyrim, the last Dragonborn of the Tamriel universe.

The most interesting thing is that one couple of those who wanted it was found, and now it remains to be seen whether the child will become an object of ridicule in the future or, on the contrary, will gain popularity on the playground, because at his home you can always find hits from Bethesda.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

PlayStation Portable

In 2006, a billboard appeared in the Netherlands, in which an imperious white woman humiliatingly holds a black man by the chin, the public first of all saw this as severe racial discrimination, and only then a white PlayStation Portable advertisement.

Sony initially tried to defend its design decision, saying it was focusing on color contrast, but soon pulled the ad and apologized.

Controversial video game ad campaigns

Resident Evil 5

And again Resident Evil, and again London. This time, Capcom decided to organize a treasure hunt in the capital of England, and give the winner a trip to Africa, where the events of the fifth part of the line are developing. It is worth clarifying that the artificial parts of the human body were the treasures in this competition. Of course, as happens in such situations, some parts of the “treasure” were lost, and Capcom hurried to appeal to the inhabitants of London with a request to be more careful and not be afraid if they suddenly stumble upon torn off arms and legs.

Controversial video game ad campaigns


A copy of Mass Effect stuck in a tree, hundreds of red balloons ending up in a river after Homefront’s release celebration – there were plenty of other times when things didn’t quite go the way the publishers intended. However, even such unsuccessful decisions played into the hands of the developers if, after the promotion, the public received the main thing – a decent game.


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