Grabbing the fleeting attention of the modern gamer is no easy task, so marketers often go to great lengths to get their games noticed. Sometimes this results in stunts that, in hindsight, probably weren’t great ideas. Other times the results are simply outrageous or bizarre. Anything to get your game talked about, right? Here are five wild marketing stunts for video games you may very well have played.
1. Win an island in Just Cause 3
Who wouldn’t want their own island? Although it’s usually only attainable by the super rich, having a private island is the dream of many. Realizing that dream is exactly the promise Square Enix offered when it released Just Cause 3, a game about liberating an island from a tyrannical ruler. To be the winner, all you had to do was rack up more “Chaos Points” than anyone else in the first three months of its release. The catch? Let’s leave it to Square Enix to lay them out:
All taxes and fees associated with purchasing and obtaining of Island (including but not limited to attorney’s fees, escrow, and closing costs) are the responsibility of the Winner. Sponsor does not guarantee the Island to be inhabitable, developed, or reachable by any means other than a boat.
Sounds like it could end up being a little less than the paradise it initially seems. If, once you have the details, it doesn’t seem like a great deal to you, the winner could alternatively claim a $50,000 cash prize. That’s probably wiser for all parties involved.
2. Free Bethesda games if you named your baby “Dovahkiin”
Naming a child is no easy task, but Bethesda decided to make it easier for any fans lucky enough to have a child born on November 11, 2011, the release date for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. If you had a baby on that day, this marketing stunt offered free Bethesda games for life to anyone who named the child “Dovahkiin,” which translates from a made-up dragon language to the phrase “dragon-born.”
Activision did a similar stunt when it offered $10,000 to the first fan to name their child Turok near the release of Turok: Evolution. The difference is that a couple actually did name their Skyrim release date-born son Dovahkiin. You can read all about it on Bethesda’s blog.
3. God of War II goat sacrifice
To build buzz for God of War II, Sony threw a party for members of European media in Athens, Greece. The theme of the party was debauchery, and to illustrate the full extent of the wild and crazy fun, Sony brought a decapitated goat to the shindig.
While they called it a “goat sacrifice,” the poor farm animal had really come from a local butcher, and it had been killed for meat purposes rather than sacrificial ones. Still, bringing a headless goat even to the most debauched party in town is probably a bad idea. As you can imagine, Sony took lots of flack from animal rights groups for the lapse in judgment.
4. Body parts strewn in London for Resident Evil 5
Who doesn’t enjoy chancing upon a disembodied limb when you go out for a stroll? That’s the situation Capcom created when it hid realistic-looking body parts around Trafalgar Square in London — heads, arms, legs, you name it. The idea was that whichever fan collected the most body parts would win a vacation to Africa, where the game is set.
The only problem was that, when the contest ended, not all of the body parts were accounted for. According to a statement from Capcom:
The body parts are very realistic and we don’t want people to be alarmed by them. They’ve all been taken from their original positions, but we now have no idea where they are. If you have them, please either return them, or dispose of them in a responsible and careful manner. In addition, chicken livers were used for added gore, and, uncooked, they can be dangerous.
In other words, playing with these fake body parts could result in salmonella.
5. Hitman: Absolution Facebook app to kill your friends
When you get down to it, most of us want to murder our friends from time to time, right?
To coincide with the release of Hitman: Absolution, Square Enix released a Facebook app that let you threaten to do just that. The app would send a message to a friend of your choice, telling them they were marked for death. You could even give a reason you wanted them dead and identify them to the bald assassin by things like “her hairy legs” or “her small tits.” The message would come through with the text “I just hired Agent 47 to put a hit on you. Click here to see how you meet your end.”
What could possibly go wrong? Many things, all of which are blindingly obvious. The app was removed just hours after going up, and the news stories about it were widespread. Come to think of it, it probably went exactly as Square Enix’s marketing gurus wanted.