Fake Viral Sites and Twitter Tantrums: Gaming’s PR Blunders

The gaming world is no stranger to the odd PR mishap, as Nintendo have so ably demonstrated recently. Having declared August Princess Peach month, they asked their Twitter followers to tweet about why they loved Peach, using the hashtag #PeachMonth. It went, well, probably as well as one would expect from Twitter.

Thanks to the internet, the PR plunders of gaming companies are recorded forever and immortalised in gamers’ memories. These incidents can often show just how companies can misunderestimate and misrepresent their audiences, to disastrous effect.

For any PR person looking to connect with their customers on a personal level, social media seems to be the place to go. However, one soon learns that the internet truly is the Wild West of communication. When you’re connecting with such a devoted, and dare we say, rabid, fanbase such as gamers, this is especially true.

Also, gamers can smell a badly executed PR stunt a mile off. The ill advised PSP campaign, alliwantforxmasisapsp.com, is one perfect example of this. The site was purportedly created by a Playstation fan, who wanted, more than anything, to get his hands on the newly released PSP. Fans soon smelt a rat though, as the production values were suspiciously high, and the relaxed, ‘hip’ language of the blogger in question was far too forced. Sony were probably hoping for a viral success to rival ilovebees.com, but the joke fell rather flat with gamers.

Another example of a company misjudging their fans is Acclaim’s PR behaviour leading to the company’s bankruptcy in 2004. Following the death of arcade culture, Acclaim tried to grab the attention of gamers but in a crass and rather tasteless way. Memorable stunts included releasing BMX XXX, an X rated BMX game that flopped when gamers saw just how badly made it was, and the offer of a cash prize to anyone who had an ad for Shadow Man: 2econd Coming engraved on a relative’s tombstone. The closure of the company didn’t really come to anyone’s surprise.

The most notorious disasters though, came about due to the complacency of certain companies. Many gamers remember the launch of the PS3, where head execs at Sony simply expected buyers to shell out the money without question. Social media highlighted this again after the launch of Duke Nukem Forever. After several scathing reviews of the title were posted, Jim Redner, head of the Redner Group, threw somewhat of a temper tantrum on Twitter. He stated that he would be deciding who would be allowed to review future titles and who wouldn’t, based on ‘today’s venom’. Gamers quickly picked up on this public blacklisting threat and made their displeasure known. Eventually, Redner’s comments lost them their biggest client, 2K games.

In hindsight, it seems that #PeachMonth was tame compared to some the biggest blunders committed in the industry. The biggest problems seem to be that the PR companies involved still subscribe to the image of gamers as the basement dwelling, anti social teenagers which we all know now isn’t true. Hopefully though, they have learned from these incidents and slightly off colour comments about Princess Peach will be the worst that will happen from here on out.

Posted in Blog & News.