To properly sell a product, it takes more than just making the product itself good. You have to send a message that entices consumers to invest in it. You have to give them incentive by creating a positive image. If you fail to do this, then you risk jeopardizing your sales.
This is marketing 101, and it's something that remains true in the video game industry. With so many games coming out day after day, developers and publishers have to work at making sure that they're sending a desirable image that corresponds to the demographic they're trying to appeal to.
However, many marketing campaigns involving video games don't turn out the way that people want them to. As a matter of fact, portraying a particular image has hurt a company and their product numerous times. It's an unfortunate aspect of the industry that won't go away soon, as companies will continue to make these same mistakes.
With that in mind, let's take a look at 15 of the worst video game marketing fails in history.
15 Dead Space 2 Ad
Dead Space sought to reinvent the genre. By introducing new and horrifying enemies on top of giving the genre a new setting, the game was loved across the board and work was immediately started on a sequel. Dead Space 2 sought to bring people back to what they loved about the original, but their marketing campaign didn't reflect that.
Instead of advertising something significant about the game, an ad for Dead Space 2 simply showed a mom being horrified by all of the creepy monsters and gore from the game. In essence, they were trying to appeal to the middle school demographic, as those kids are the only ones who will think a product is cool just because their parents dislike it. Everyone else saw right through the attempt and the ad proved to be a huge mistake.
14 SEGA Saturn
Remember the days when SEGA made game consoles? While everyone tends to recall the Dreamcast as their big failure, SEGA made plenty of mistakes before that, and the big one was their marketing for the Saturn. The console had already been released in Japan by the time they were ready to present it to the U.S., but they were closely followed by Sony's new PlayStation, which looked to be a behemoth for consumers.
SEGA decided that, instead of waiting for a fall release, they would bring the console to the West immediately. In short, they panicked because of the competition, and this caused the console to fail. It was too expensive, there weren't enough games, and the kinks hadn't been ironed out. What's worse is that Sony used this opportunity to get the upper hand by pricing their console at $100 less.
13 God Of War Party
Edgy games were all the rage throughout the 2000s, and this factored into how companies presented them. When God of War was still big, it was decided that there would be a party to celebrate an upcoming release and get people talking about the game.
Unfortunately, the party was extremely similar to the game itself, and anybody who's played knows why that's a bad thing. There were people dressed like different characters (not a bad thing), but the centerpiece of it all is where everything got sketchy. There was a goat sacrifice, and after its head was cut off, guests were encouraged to reach their hand in and pull out one of its insides. Needless to say, just about everyone threw a fit about it, and there was a public apology made later for the event. Thankfully, the games are still good and the marketing didn't cause them to crash and burn.
12 Splinter Cell: Conviction Role Play
The Splinter Cell series was renowned for its take on stealth and action. Being able to hide, climb up walls, get ready for the next kill, and play it with two people were all concepts ahead of their time. Ubisoft was able to hype up the series based on this alone. However, there was one instance where they took it a bit too far.
Splinter Cell: Conviction was getting ready to come out, and they decided that the best way to promote it in New Zealand was by having someone dress up as one of the bad guys from the game (fake gun and all) and travel to a nearby store. You can imagine how it played out. 911 was dialed, police were on the scene, and the unlucky soul masquerading as a terrorist was almost shot on sight.
If you don't even know what an N-Gage is, that's not your fault. Nokia wasn't sure what they were trying to do with this handheld. It seems like they were trying to do to the handheld market what Sony did with the home console market, but they didn't succeed in anything.
The system was a bit more powerful than the Game Boy, but it was priced at $299. Keep in mind the same amount of money could get you a PlayStation. Furthermore, they decided to market it by having scantily clad women with the price tag on their chests. This type of advertising would've caused an outrage in 2017, but even back in the day, people still weren't on board with it. Overall, the console itself burned out and was discontinued before it ever even got its legs in consumers' homes.
10 No Man's Sky Promises
Here's a big question: is the hatred of No Man's Sky based on expectations we had, or promises that we were given by the developers? After much consideration. we strongly feel that it was the result of expectations that the developers gave us. From the start, Hello Games touted how No Man's Sky would be the game to play for those looking for an open-ended adventure full of new things to discover at every turn.
Unfortunately, all of this marketing that made the game seem like it could be the best thing ever quickly turned into worry. The things they said about the title became inconsistent, and after it was delayed many times over, the game we got was far from the game they promised us. It was buggy, unfun, uninviting, and didn't immerse players like we were all told that it would. If you're going to market your game, at least be truthful about it.
9 Xbox One Launch
When the generation of the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii was over, it was time for the big trifecta to come out the gate with new, sleek hardware. Microsoft apparently took a page out of SEGA's book when showcasing the Xbox One. The console itself wasn't a bad machine; it was simply the decisions that the company made regarding it.
First of all, the console was priced at $499, which was crazy expensive for a gaming console at the time. Then there was the fact that it couldn't play used games, required a Kinect, and always had to be connected online. They touted this as the "future of gaming," but nobody was on board. Once again, Sony came into the scene, priced their console lower and allowed players to have used games.
8 PSP White Model
With all of the flack other console developers are getting, know that Sony isn't free from the failures of marketing. After they came out with their mildly successful PSP, they decided to expand it by introducing newer models and colors for players to toy around with.
Among them was the white model. This was a cool new color for the handheld, but the way they marketed it to the public was simply unacceptable. It showed a caucasian woman scantily dressed in white clothing grabbing at a black person dressed in black clothing. If this isn't racist, I'm not sure what is. This ad got attention, not because of the new color for the PSP, but because of how universally despised it was. Needless to say, it didn't last in the public for very long.
7 Wii U
Now we have to give Nintendo their fair share of flack. Of all of the marketing blunders from the Big N, their biggest one had to be when releasing the Wii U. From the beginning, their marketing was unclear. Who was the Wii U for? What could it do? What was the significance of having two screens? To this day, we still don't know.
Many people still believe that the console is just some type of strange add-on for the Wii. As if that weren't bad enough, when Nintendo finally started putting out ads for the system, they were all about kids saying how much they wanted a console. Because of this, Nintendo gained a "kids' developer" brand and scared away any mature gamer over the age of 12.
6 Mega Man (In The West)
Mega Man is one of the biggest characters in gaming, but his origins are a bit obscure. When Capcom released the game in Japan, it was met with colorful box art featuring adorable characters that communicated what to expect in the title. When it came to the West, however, things weren't quite as streamlined.
Mega Man himself looked like a weird human and the backgrounds were strangely realistic-looking. For some reason, Capcom thought it would be better to market the game as a gritty futuristic shooter rather than a colorful platformer. The problem is that people in the U.S. would have a tarnished image of Mega Man solely due to this box art. The mistake wasn't even corrected until much later in the series.
5 Dante's Inferno Protest
Dante's Inferno was an interesting tale to adapt for a video game. Dealing with some religious themes as well as the concept of Hell, EA felt that they could create an entire marketing campaign based on this. However, instead of doing something fairly normal, they decided that shock value would be the driving force of their advertising.
At E3, they strategically placed some fake protesters around the building. They were holding signs that stated how EA was going to burn in Hell for creating a game about the dark place. One sign even stated that EA stood for "Electronic Anti-Christ." Needless to say, many people were fooled but it wasn't long before they all found out that the protest was just manufactured backlash to gain attention.
4 Bethesda's Skyrim Challenge
Skyrim was one of the biggest games of 2011. Featuring a massive open world and plenty of things to do, it seemed that there would never be an end to the game's many adventures. Unfortunately, Bethesda has still not closed the doors to this game, but I digress.
Before the game released, there was an appropriate amount of hype behind it. They decided that they would use this to create a challenge to further the attention that the game received. This challenge went out to all fans of the series to name their children Dovahkiin (which means "Dragonborn"). But there was a catch. The children had to be born on the day Skyrim released. What was the reward for this act? A lifetime of Bethesda games for free. Is it worth it? Depends on how the child's future goes. One couple actually did it, too.
3 Resident Evil 6 Butcher Shop
The Resident Evil series suffered a massive identity crisis after Resident Evil 4 was the pinnacle of the series. It switched from a survival horror adventure into an action shooter. Perhaps the worst of the bunch in this regard is Resident Evil 6. That being said, there was still a lot of excitement surrounding the game before it launched. Of course, Capcom had to have a strange bit of marketing before it released, though.
They opened butcher shops with the Resident Evil name. It was there that you could buy animal meat that was cut and shaped to look like actual humans. While it may not have been cannibalism, the appearance alone was enough to deter even the most diehard fans and get Capcom a lot of negative press. They ended this campaign shortly after.
2 Hitman Facebook App
The Hitman series is every bit as brutal as its name suggests. You take the role of a hitman who has to go through different levels and take down assigned targets. Square Enix had another hit on their hands with this title, but they decided to use that to garner an interesting bit of promotion.
There was a Facebook app that coincided with the game. In it, you could virtually assign a hitman to target and kill any of your friends on the social media app. As if that weren't disturbing enough, the way you had to crudely describe the people you wanted "hit" was vulgar, to say the least. It was demeaning in every sense of the word, and it wasn't long before Square decided to shut the app down completely.
1 PS3 Launch
Another mistake by Sony. While they fixed a lot of their mistakes with the PS4, people still look to the early days of the PS3 as some of the worst for the company. When they announced the console, it was going to retail for the price of $599. That's more than the upcoming Xbox One X, which is the most powerful gaming console in history.
What made this worse was the fact that Sony was confident in the system. They knew there were scalpers already marking up prices, but that made them excited. One executive even stated that the console would be so hard to find that he would give $1,200 to any person who could actually find it in stores. As you might expect, the console didn't perform as well as Sony had hoped in its early days, and they had to get a lot of things together to fix it.