5 of Gaming’s Wildest Marketing Stunts
In the cosmic wake of the Black Hole that gobbled up Fortnite for a bit and then belched a new one back out, it seems that every gamer on the planet is offering at least a respectful hat tip to the ballsy — and, perhaps more importantly, seemingly ultra-effective marketing ploy — which included shutting down all of Fortnite’s servers and social media channels over the weekend in anticipation of the release of Chapter 2.
And that got us thinking: what are some other awesome viral stunts from the history of gaming? Here’s some that worked, some that didn’t, and one that never should have made it out of the conference room.5 of Gaming’s Craziest Marketing StuntsClick through the gallery above, or scroll down for the full list.
What could be more shocking than your massive hit game going away for a bit and coming back? How about a massive hit game dropping out of f***-ing NOWHERE?
When Respawn Entertainment surprise-launched Apex in February 2019, it was without fanfare, bus ads, previews, or much of a promotional budget. Like so much Beyoncé album, it simply was one day, and we fell instantly in love. While the Black Hole may remind us that absence makes the heart grow fonder, let us never forget the power of a pleasant surprise, like reaching into your pocket and finding $20 you didn’t know was there. And with in-game revenue now in the hundreds of millions of dollars a quarter, EA probably isn’t second-guessing that play.
Virtua Tennis 2
What better place to promote your new tennis game than at Wimbledon, the world’s most famous Tennis competition? That’s what Acclaim was thinking when they cooked up a viral marketing event for Virtua Tennis 2. And what better way to get your logo in front of a captive audience than spray-painting it onto some doves trained to hover and flap alarmingly near spectators?
No one’s quite sure what Acclaim was thinking with that second part, but they went for it anyway, releasing the painted pidgeottos during warm-ups in between official matches. Which is a shame, because it means we never got to see Andre Agassi flip out and spike a dove right into the clay.
Mass Effect 3… in SPAAAACE
Players love Mass Effect’s ability to let them explore a vast universe of sexy aliens, fast ships, and pseudo-magic powers — which totally explains why EA promoted the release of Mass Effect 3 by attaching copies of the game to pairs of high-altitude weather balloons and snapping some pics from orbit.It was a neat idea, but it turns out putting stuff into orbit is pretty hard. The balloons were stuffed with goodies, released over several major cities, and meant to be GPS-trackable, but technical issues forced the company to relay coordinates to fans via Twitter in London, while one landed on private property in San Francisco and was never heard from again. So…if you want to barter for a 7-year-old Mass Effect hoodie that’s been to space, you know where to start looking.The Wizard
Any list of ridiculous gaming marketing ploys would be remiss not to mention The Wizard, the 1989 Fred Savage flick that introduced a whole generation of gamers to eSports, and made the Nintendo Power Glove look like the answer to all of life’s problems.
The Power Glove is to The Wizard as Reese’s Pieces were to E.T. And while one of those movies is clearly superior, the other gave us a video game peripheral that let us imagine we were Tom Cruise in Minority Report 13 years before it even came out. That is, at least until you got the glove home and learned a valuable lesson: cameras do lie, and the Nintendo Power Glove handles like a shopping cart with one wheel missing.
Turok: Evolution (or Anything From Acclaim, Really)
Perhaps no developer was as gung-ho on marketing stuntage as Acclaim (RIP). Along with bringing you “birds with ads on them at the classiest event in the world,” Acclaim is the shop that offered $10,000 to anyone willing to name their baby “Turok.” This is probably what inspired Bethesda to offer free games for life to anyone who named their baby “Dovakhin” nine years later.But riddle me this, Bethesda: did YOU offer to pay peoples’ speeding tickets if they got pulled over rushing to Gamestop to buy Burnout? Or offer to pay people willing to put ads for Shadowman on the actual, literal, occupied graves of their loved ones? Because Acclaim sure did, even going so far as to suggest the deal might, quote, “particularly interest poorer families!”Y i k e s.So congratulations, Fortnite team! You got us all re-hyped for your game and you didn’t even have to defile a grave to do it. What are some of your favorite crazy marketing stunts? Let us know in the comments, or check out some of our favorite (and most hated) licensed games while you’re at it!
Michael Swaim is Manager of Programming, you can follow him on Twitter at @SWAIM_CORP.