Microsoft’s recent dumping of the Kinect and the horrible way in which it was handled sent me on a trip down memory lane, looking at some of gaming’s other high-profile PR disasters.
Turns out, executives and developers alike are prone to saying stupid things and making stupid decisions, and I’ve chosen some of the best to write about for your amusement.
Xbox One Reveal
This one was so bad it prompted me to write an entire column about it (and it seems that Microsoft is yet to learn their lesson after all).
Where to even start? Choosing to do the glorious reveal of their newest console through a press conference/internet livestream rather than at a big event, Microsoft proceeded to spend 90% of the time navigating a Netflix menu with voice controls, managing to squeeze in a casual mention of games somewhere at the end.
For their gaming console.
Which is a shame, really, because the very same Kinect that they tried so hard to shove down our throats all that time is now considered a non-essential feature.
Sony may have come out of the first console duel with Microsoft’s bleeding head and barely a scratch to show for it, but they weren’t always the silver-tongued charmers they are today.
In fact, you may remember that when the PS3 first launched, it was a complete and utter disaster. The console went on to be a major success, but its sluggish start had had Sony executives and shareholders in a state of panic.
It’s impossible to pinpoint the failure to a single problem – because there were many, many problems. The console had no good exclusives, which it balanced by having no games at all, really. It was difficult to rely on third-party developers early on either, since the hulking beast was an absolute whore to develop for which meant that games took a lot longer to make it there from other platforms.
Oh, did I mention it cost 600 dollars? In 2006. Adjusted for inflation, today that would be $689! Okay, that wasn’t quite as dramatic as I had anticipated, but that’s still a buttload of cash. I could buy a Wii U and two hookers to play it with and still have change for the car guard.
Now I’m not sure if I can in good faith exactly call this a failure, because I can’t be certain it hasn’t actually worked. After all, a quick Google tells me the game still exists.
You may recognise Evony as the game that caused your co-workers to think you spend a significant part of your day looking at porn, when really you were participating in much more harmless forms of procrastination. That’s because Evony’s ads look like this:
They even let you know that Evony can be played “unnoticeably” on your browser; a subtle suggestion that it might be something you want to hide. Well, actually, judging by the large-breasted woman (whose clothing seems to have some kind of structural integrity issue) that the publishers have chosen to superimpose onto the sign-up screen of a game that is in no way related to large-breasted women with malfunctioning clothing elastic, subtlety might not have been what they were shooting for.
Jamie Kennedy at E3
Oh boy, who remembers this trainwreck? Back at E3 in 2007, Activision thought it would be a great idea to hire pseudo-star and all-round douche Jamie Kennedy to host their press conference.
Now, the old and tired “haha gamers are VIRGINS” jokes are so worn out that even high school bullies and internet trolls have had to search for new material, but that’s still primo material to Mr. Kennedy.
Which is particularly odd since he’s generally typecast as a huge nerd, and even more odd when considering the audience. Now I’ve never had a failed reality show or been in comedies which leave people feeling sad and empty so I may not be qualified to comment here, but it seems that the first step to making an audience laugh is not insulting the things they love and mocking their entire subculture.
This seems to be an especially poor move if half that audience is made up of journalists.
To his credit though, Kennedy did get completely wasted before getting on stage, so at least he’s probably forgotten most of it.
Sega Saturn Launch
Ah, another failed console launch. I feel like I’m seeing a pattern here. In a move which essentially sunk Sega’s hardware-manufacturing business, the one-time gaming giant was so terrified of the looming shadow of the original PlayStation that they decided to get a headstart by launching the Saturn several months early.
Problem was, they didn’t tell anyone – including their potential buyers and more importantly, the people making their games.
So one day gamers walked into their local Walmart to find a console that was only supposed to be out months later, with no proper games to go with it.
Tempting, huh? Not really, which is why everyone decided their money would be better spend on the PlayStation – and continued to decide that for the next several years.
John Romero Is About To Make You His Bitch
Come on, like you didn’t know this was going to be here – do I ever miss an opportunity to bring this up?
For those who’ve somehow missed the previous seventeen times I’ve mentioned this, back in 2000 Romero was working on a game called Daikatana, which he’d managed to hype to Peter Molyneux levels of excessiveness.
That excessive marketing gave us this gem:
Of course, predictably, the game sucked. Repeatedly delayed, based on an aging Quake 2 engine (when Quake 3 had already been released), with horrible gameplay decisions like limited saves and annoying AI-controlled allies, Daikatana garnered a sexy N64 Metacritic score of 39.
Romero later called the ad one of his biggest regrets, and says it ruined his relationship with gamers and the gaming industry.