I have been one of the people that followed the intriguing project known as Dante’s Inferno with a raised eyebrow during its lifecycle. Crafting a game based on one of the greatest cultural inheritances of man was a bold move and certainly a direction that no developer had previously considered (that I am aware of, anyway).
Then came more news, and with the 2009 E3 one of the more aggressive and immature marketing campaigns ever devised. To make a note here, I do not discuss the professionalism and ability of the marketing team responsible for it to generate sales or attract attention to their product, nor do I want to take a moral high ground and bash on the various viral points of the campaign. I am just trying to explore what this and other efforts of the sort managed to produce in popular news sources.
Mainly, that in trying to grab the five seconds of attention necessary to disseminate information and generate hype for a product, some marketing campaigns end up in damaging the image of the industry in the long run.
To be brief about what I’m basing this on, the series of ads and events for the afore-mentioned title started with a fake protest by a zealous religious group, with slogans such as ‘just say infer-NO’ and ‘EA = electronic anti-Christ’.
While amusing and praiseworthy in its execution, this made a few headlines on the internet and set the stage for the next step in the campaign. That came with the Comic Con 2009 in the form of the infamous ‘Sin to Win’ contest. EA later issued an apology, blaming it on an unfortunate choice of wording.
It’s worth noting here that the later stages of the campaign were an improvement (as much as cannibalistic-looking food and human remains Christmas tree decorations can be), but the shock-value of its earlier incarnations are what constitutes good value in modern publicity.
Let us return to the present day and take a look at the newest stunt pulled off by the marketing team in charge of ‘Dead Space 2’ this time. It’s called ‘Your mom hates Dead Space 2’, been posted on YouTube on the 15th and it’s targeted at… To be honest this is the most baffling part.
On a first glance, with a tagline like ‘a mom's disapproval has always been an accurate parameter of what is cool’ it looks put together to strike the chords of adolescent males everywhere; but then, it is advertising an M rated game, so this is not the case.
On the other hand, one would guess the adult gamers can only be put off by its message and the serious tone in which it’s delivered - if it is a subtle reference to those early years when the average 25 yrs old-gamer was secretly sneaking to watch horror movies I did not get it.
Second, the light in which it presents the game strikes me as odd. After having finished the first one, teeth gritted and lights on, I can honestly say I got more out of it than a mere gore-fest through recycled corridors and passageways.
It evoked some anxiety, some fight or flight moments as well as a feeling of being thoroughly alone throughout its walkthrough. Taking the most violent moments of the second game out of context and presenting them as some sort of highpoints to a middle aged mother is hardly appealing for me as a customer.
Lastly, and coincidentally the most important point for me is the exquisite timing of it with the ‘Schwarzenegger vs. EMA’ legal battle, on which EA encouraged gamers to show their support at one time (by joining the ESA’s Videogame Voters Network). It will be interesting to see if these clips are mentioned in the case come spring when the debates will resume.
This brings me to the point; I do not doubt that sales are the most important factor when deciding to push a daring marketing campaign and shock your target audience so their hands slip into the wallets.
But can the same (or comparative) amount of sales not be achieved by being mindful of the consequences your ads will create for the entire industry? I may be blowing things a bit out of proportion here, but reinforcing the general opinion that violent games ARE marketed towards underage persons is very bad nowadays. Please avoid it if at all possible.